Thursday, February 17, 2011

Customer Service - Do You Know What Your Customers Experience?

In my third follow up to “Are You Ready To Market Yourself?” I want to talk about customer experience. In the original piece I listed things to think about that pertain directly to your website, but in looking back on it now I should have mentioned customer service in general. I realize very few of us are in the position to have a store front where we’re dealing with customers directly, but there are so many facets of what we do that are still customer service. Every time you respond to an email, answer the phone or mail out a purchase you are providing customer service. How does it measure up to the image that you want to create?

So going back to the original question of whether or not you’re ready to market yourself, I’ll take it one step further and ask, What would happen if your business doubled overnight? Will the systems you’ve created hold up? Do you need to worry about your website crashing or running slowly? Will you be able to handle all the sales and inquires in a timely manner?

While a doubling of sales overnight is an unlikely scenario, looking at your business from an outside perspective will help you see where holes and soft spots are. My fiancé is in the mobile game business and when they get close to launching a new product, they hire people to play the games with the intention of breaking it. They are looking for a link that doesn’t work or that crazy series of actions that shuts things down. What would these testers find on your site or in your customer experience?


I will go here first because it’s often our first point of contact with our customers. Last week’s article gave you a lot to think about regarding the look and design of your site. So let’s take it a step further and really look at how the customer engages with your website. Is it primarily set up as an online store? If so, is the checkout process easy and secure? Are descriptions of the items easy to find, up to date, and useful?

Maybe your website is more personal and focuses on your blog and you process. Is that clear from the start? Is there an easy link for people to find what your selling whether it be products or services? Do they have to fill out a form to ask you a question or can they just click a button and type away?

It should be as easy as possible to find the information that you want them to find. Actively direct customers to your store or to sign up for your email list, whatever your main objective is. Assume two-thirds of your visitors will never get to the bottom of your first page and most will only scroll down an inch or two.


What happens before and after the purchase is just as important as the checkout process. Maybe someone is interested in custom work and they send an email inquiring. Do you have a standard reply that answers all of the basic questions? Does it set you up to continue the conversation? Do you check email often enough to respond with 24 hours or less?

This last one is probably the most important. People are generally impulse shoppers and if they don’t get the information they need to decide to purchase within a day they usually move on.

If you are clear in all of your communications and give as much information as you can up front you will make the experience easy and pleasant for your customer and they will be more likely to part with their hard earned money.


If you give them the option you will undoubtedly get people who will just pick up the phone instead of emailing. You do not need to feel tied to your phone, but you should have an outgoing message that makes it clear they’ve reached the right person, that sounds professional, and even gives them an idea of when you will get back to them. It is perfectly ok to say something like, “I am unable to return phone calls until after 6 so please leave me a number where you can be reached in the evening and the best time to call.”

I won’t harp on phone skills, but will say be professional, make sure there are no obvious distractions when you call back, and be prepared to get all the information you need to go to the next step.


A friend of mine ordered her wedding dress from a major retailer online. It was already stressful to her that she wasn’t able to try it on first, but she loved the photos and was pretty sure this was the right dress. However when it arrived it was crumpled in a bag and poorly folded into the cardboard box. She almost didn’t try it on because she was so disappointed in how it arrived.

I tell you this because it matters.The packaging is part of the experience and it’s more than just ensuring that what’s inside is protected. Does your customer feel like they’re unwrapping something very special when their order arrives? Is the packaging distinct enough that they know exactly what it is before they even look at the label? Think of the Tiffany’s blue box, it almost doesn’t matter what’s inside. You don’t need to spend a ton of money on the packaging, but make sure there is some obvious care and the personality of your brand shines through.


I hate that I have to bring it up, but it’s the ugly part of doing business. Someone is always going to be unsatisfied and complain. They may do this by phone, scathing email, or vicious comments on your website. However, if it is a public complaint your other customers will notice how you handle it more than they’ll notice what was said.

You do not necessarily need to buy into the adage, “The customer is always right,” but it will serve you well to find out what they want and do your best to give it to them. Often all a customer needs is for you to notice that they didn’t get what they wanted, sometimes an apology is in order, sometimes a replacement, and sometimes just kind words. Be as gracious and humble as you can and you may even convert them into a loyal customer because they know you will take care of them.

Boy Scout’s Motto

I have my own addition to it, but it serves me well, “Always be prepared for the worst case scenario.” If you take the time to imagine the worst and know how you’ll respond, you will come out of any situation looking gracious and professional not harried and overwhelmed. Go through the buying experience from a customer’s point of view, ask your friends to test certain features or read through your prepared responses. If you find yourself getting the same questions over and over again, set up a Frequently Asked Questions page. It will make you and your customer’s happier.

What systems have you implemented to make your customers feel special?

Here are links to the other articles in this series:

Are You Ready To Market Yourself?

Branding: It's All About Experience and Benefit

What Does Your Website Say About You?

Is Your Website Marketing For You?

I encourage comments directly to this post, but also feel free to email me directly with questions, reactions, struggles, etc.

If you're an Etsy seller in the San Francisco Bay Area, contact Jen from Mama's Magic Studio about joining SFEtsy!


fern said...

Customer service isn't about being perfect. Customer service is about making things right, not just the immediate problem, but the root cause.
And it is totally about listening and care to the customer.

Outsource Call Center

Jen (Mama's Magic Studio) said...

very wise advice (as usual!) this is kind of obvious, but when i was starting on Etsy, I found it very helpful to actually Buy Something from another Etsian. It helped me understand the process first hand (plus supporting another artist! always cool!) and over the years as Etsy has changed and upgraded, it's always been helpful to take a moment to do a little shopping -- understanding it all first hand from the customer's point of view is just irreplaceable when it comes to answering their questions, anticipating any issues, or dealing with any problems.

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