Tuesday, June 24, 2008

customer service

I've been trying to write a post about customer service for about a week now, and my writing is going all over the place. There is a lot to cover. People who know me well and know my snappy and smart alecky self are probably choking on their coffee as they read that WHITNEY is writing about customer service. She's kidding-- right? I'm a bit battle hardened from years of retail shows, and I love entertaining my friends with stories about the most annoying people on earth who wander into my booth, and the way I keep them in line.

But the truth is, I love my customers, and I love wooing potential customers. My customers are intelligent people with exquisite taste, and they are the ones who assist me in my quest to avoid working for the man. That's not to say they can't be a total pain in my ass sometimes, but I love them even as they cause me pain. I'm all Buddah-nature about it. I really believe in the handmade credo of connecting with the customer; that is what the customer is looking for when they buy something handmade from an artist, and I'm all about giving it to them.

I'm going to try and keep this post in line by simply outlining a few ways that I give excellent customer service, and how any artist can give their customer great service too:
  • Every customer gets a handwritten note from me, thanking them for their purchase. I love getting these notes from other artists, and very disappointed when I don't. If you don't value your customer enough to even thank them, they will never come back.
  • I always tell customers the truth, even when it would be more convenient to lie, and I never make excuses. I'm an adult, and the customer is not my mommy. No matter how I screw things up, I stay honest about it, and I take responsibility, even if it is someone else's fault.
  • I always try to figure out a way to say "yes" to a customer's request, even if I have to re-formulate their outrageous request into something I can actually say "yes" too.
  • A certain amount of loss is a part of doing business. If something is broken during shipping, I replace it immediately. I've also replaced items stolen during shipping, and I don't worry for a second that the customer is trying to rip me off.
  • I always assume that the customer has good intentions and will behave with honor. In my 12 years of business, I've never had a bounced check or a declined credit card not be made good on by a customer. For years, before I did business online, I would send out pieces to customers along with a bill, and they would send me a check. People thought I was crazy, but I always got paid.
  • I'm not a big stickler about policies. I think having a bunch of stubborn policies indicates an adversarial approach to the customer, which in turn attracts those troublesome customers who love to push the limit on policies.
  • I always speak -- or write-- to the customer respectfully, even if they are really pissing me off. No matter how important it seems to answer the customer immediately, if I'm upset, I sleep on it, 'cause I'm kind of a hothead. I can't tell you how many situations I've saved with this tactic.
And that's it!