Friday, August 21, 2015

Customer Service: Providing Service before, during, and after a Purchase

What is Customer Service? Customer service is the provision of service to customers before, during and after a purchase. 

 When you run an Etsy shop, every dealing you have with a customer reflects back on your business. Having a bad day? You might be tempted to snap off a reply to a customer, but what will that do? In the short term, you'll lose a return or future customer. In the long run, you can wind up with poor shop reviews, and a loss of future income.

In the field of customer service, your words reflect on you, your business, and your products. The way you respond sets the tone for your shop- both good, and bad. In the long run, you want people to think about the quality of the product you sell when they see your shop. You don't want them to recall the hassle it was to get you to reply, or the problems they had when shipping was delayed, or the rude reply you sent when they asked how long it would take to be made.

Your customers are your life line. They pay the bills to keep your shop up and running, and even when they are may not be polite, they do deserve to be treated respectfully. Below are some examples of good ways to reply to situations you may encounter as an Etsy store owner.

A good salesperson can sell anyone something one time. Your customer service will determine if that customer comes back, and if they bring friends.

Example 1:  The I want a Discount Customer

"Hi, I was just looking through your store, and I was wondering if you had any discount codes available right now? Thanks!"

Bad reply:

"no, I don't, and it's rude to even ask me. If you can't afford it, shop elsewhere."

Good reply:

"Hi- I am glad you like my shop! At this time, I currently do not have a coupon code available for my shop. I do plan to offer one in the next few weeks, though. Would you like me to contact you when it becomes available?"

Alternate Good Reply:

"Hi- I am glad you like my shop! I am currently running a sale, and all of my prices are already discounted XX%. I am not able to offer further discounts at this time. The sale ends on X date, at which time, my prices will return to full price. If you have any further questions, please don't hesitate to ask! Thank you!"

There are countless ways to reply, but your replies should always be made while keeping your business in mind. Customers ask for a discount for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, they simply can not afford your prices. Sometimes, they just want to make sure they didn't over look a published coupon code. Sometimes they just want to see if you will go lower.

My thoughts on coupon codes are this. If you have put time and thought into your product pricing, then you should account for: Supplies, Time, and Fees. That means your price should 100% cover the time it took to make (you ARE paying yourself an hourly wage, right???), the amount it cost to purchase the supplies, and the fees that Etsy, Direct Pay, and Paypal take out of the sale. If you are covering all of that, and have the appropriate mark up in place on top of that, then you WILL make a profit even with a 10% discount.

However, if 10% means you won't even break even on the supply costs, then you are not priced appropriately anyway, and should sit down and figure out how to price your items, so that you are making money.

Example 2: The Why Isn't It Done Yet Customer

"I ordered this last week, and it hasn't even shipped yet? I need it this weekend, when is it going to ship?"

Bad Reply:

"My production time was listed in the listing. Didn't you read it? It won't be there by this weekend, I haven't even started it yet."

Good reply:

"Hi- this item is in line for completion, but I still have X orders ahead of your item. I am sorry, but at this time, I am unable to complete and mail it to arrive before this weekend. My current production time is listed in my shipping time, and this particular order is on track to ship out next Tuesday. However, I see that you need it sooner. I can try to work with you on that. I do offer a rush production option on my main page- the link can be found here. In addition, I can do a custom listing to upgrade your shipping to priority over night for $X, or 2 day shipping for X to ensure that the item arrives on time. If neither of these options work for you, I can offer a full refund. Please let me know what you would prefer as quickly as possible, so I can get started on your purchase as needed. Thank you!"

When a customer orders from Etsy, unless they are a crafter, or an Etsy shop owner themselves, they are stuck in the "Amazon" mentality.  They often presume that we have our items already made, set aside, and just waiting to be shipped the moment an order comes in- even on customized items made just for them. 

The way you respond will be the difference in a refund, or keeping the order, and the difference between a bad review, and a good one.

Example 3: The Where is My Purchase customer

"Where is my purchase?!?!? I ordered it, it says it shipped over a week ago, but no item arrived! I ordered this for a special event, and now I don't even need it! I want a refund, this is dumb!!"

Bad reply:

"I shipped it. It's out of my hands. Check your post office." Or, another bad reply; "Sorry, you didn't tell me when it was due. I don't accept returns at all. The post office has it right now, I can't do anything about that." Or worse- escalating the issue. "It's not my fault! I shipped it. You yelling at me is what's "dumb". Stop contacting me, or I'll report you for harassment!" (By the way, I have seen people actually post that they have either SENT or RECEIVED each of those replies. BAD Business move!)

Good reply:

"I apologize that the item has not arrived yet. I did send it out on X day, with X type of mailing. The current tracking shows that your item is out for delivery today, and should arrive by the end of the business day. If it does not, please let me know, and I can contact the post office to see why there is a delay.

For future orders, if you have a deadline, it is helpful to contact me, so I can ensure that the proper postage us purchased for faster delivery. Unfortunately, the post office has been sluggish lately, and it is effecting how quickly items arrive. Here is a 5/10% coupon good on a future purchase. If you have any more concerns, please let me know, and I will try to help to the best of my ability.

If, after it arrives, you are still interested in a refund, please let me know. My policy is to allow refunds within X days of receiving the product. I do request that the item be shipped back to me in the shape it arrives. Once I have it in hand, I am happy to refund the full purchase amount."

Crabby customers are not any fun to deal with. However, your reply can help manage the situation, and even defuse the situation. When someone spends hard earned money on an item, and it doesn't arrive as quickly as they want, they can get upset about it. You never want to escalate an issue by stooping to the level of an angry internet typer, because it reflects on you, your business, and your product.

Example 4: The Refund Demanding customer

"I ordered this in X color, and it looks nothing like it did in the photo! This doesn't match what I need at all. I need a refund!"

Bad Reply:

"I don't accept returns. Sorry!"

Good Reply:

"Hi- thank you for contacting me. Unfortunately, due to screen settings, colors may occasionally differ from what you see on screen. In my listing, I do have it noted, but I will try to make sure it's more prominent in the future.

With the type of item this is, I normally do not allow returns. However, if you can get it mailed back to me quickly, I can offer either an exchange for another color/style, or I can offer store credit. If this won't work, we can work out something on a refund.

Please let me know your choice as quickly as possible.

Thanks you!"

The old adage is "The customer is always right." Except they are not always right in what they think, say, or demand. That said, what this quote means, is the customer is easier to deal with if you give into what they want.

Offering options before the refund gives them an alternative, while allowing you to keep the sale. It won't always work- some people are going to be difficult no matter what you offer. In those instances, there are lines you can draw, while still remaining polite.

Example 5: The never pleased, very angry customer

"I don't care why it hasn't arrived, this is unacceptable! I feel like you've ripped me off! I'm going to talk to Etsy, this is unacceptable!! If I don't get a refund immediately, I will RUIN you!"

Bad Reply:

"I'm done dealing with you! Don't like it? Tough! It's my shop, what I say goes!!"

Good Reply:

"I am sorry you feel that I am unable to help you with this matter. As I have said, your product is en route. I am unable to ensure that it arrives any faster at this point. If you still feel that a refund is in order after the product arrives, I will be happy to discuss it with you at that time. My shop policies are in place to protect my business. I simply am unable to refund the product without it being returned to me first. At this point, I have said all I can to help, and have done what I could to locate the package. I am unable to help any further until the package arrives. If you continue to act abusive towards me, I will have no choice but to let Etsy step in and help.

If you would prefer to begin an Etsy case against me, that is your prerogative, but at this point, I will not be replying to any more abusive messages, and will be forwarding them on to Etsy. I am sorry we were unable to work this problem out.

Thank you for your time"

No one, and I mean NO ONE, likes to deal with the never pleased, very angry customer. However, it happens all the time.  When a customer is angry, they tend to drift into the realm of abusive in their replies. This could be calling you names (I avoided vulgarity, but it happens often with customers like this!), it could be threats, it could be blackmail. Once a customer crosses that line, my best advice is to reply politely (gritting your teeth the entire time if you must!), and let them know your options once more, and follow it up letting them know that you have helped to the best of your ability, and that any future abusive replies will be left for Etsy to sort out.

At that point, if they continue to reply, or send messages, keep them, but don't reply. You can contact Etsy to step in as needed, but it may take them several days to reply to you. However, if an angry customer does open a case against you, the messages are proof towards how that customer acted, and why they are demanding a refund. It will also help to remove a negative review if they leave one.

Please note, the "Never pleased, always angry" customer will not leave a positive review at this point. If they have reached the point of being abusive, the most you can hope for, is that they do not leave any review. If they do leave a bad review, do not reply publicly to it. Just report it to Etsy, and give them as much information as you can about it, and hope that they remove it.

Final Tips on Customer Service.

While the above examples are some of the more popular types of issues you may run into, there are many more. Here's a list of quick tips to keep in mind when replying to a customer.

1. Reply to messages and emails promptly. No one expects to receive a reply within minutes, but you should make sure that you reply at your earliest convenience. No one likes to wait for days for a response, and that delay will lose you that customer.

2. Be honest and upfront. If a customer messages you asking if you can make X product and have it shipped and at their door by X date, be honest. If you can't do it, let them know. It will save you the headache of dealing with an upset customer later one, when you have not delivered on the promise. If you feel you can deliver on it, but at some point fall behind (kids are sick, work called me in for extra shifts, I fell and broke my arm!), make sure to message them immediately, prepared to offer a full refund. If a customer needs an item by X date, they need it by X date, period.

3. Listen to what they need. When customers message you, or add a note to an order, listen to it, and reply. If it's something you can do, let them know your options. If it's something you can't do, let them know. Your customer's needs will dictate the sale. If you are selling a yellow sundress, and they want it in hot pink chevron, but did not ask before purchasing, message them, let them know if you can not provide it, and be prepared to offer a refund. This goes hand in hand with number 2.

4. Reply to complaints. This is the biggest place where shops tend to fail. If someone messages you and has a complaint about the time frame, the shipping time, the cost, or even the product itself, take the time to reply (politely!), and address their concerns. Offer to fix what you can fix. Some things are out of our hands, such as shipping time. But if they have an issue with a button that fell off, offer to fix it. If the size is too small, offer to fix it. If it arrived past the date when they needed it, offer to fix it. Fixing it may mean losing the sale by offering a refund. It may mean exchanging the product for another. If you can fix it, offer to do so every time. Be honest (number 2!) about your ability to change the outcome- if they wanted a different shade of blue, and you don't offer that color, be honest. If they ordered a completely personalized item you will never be able to resell, let them know that you can't offer a refund on custom items. 

5. Offer your help. Not all messages are going to result in a customer, but if the person has an issue you can help with, offer to do so. If they have questions about your products, offer to help by answering those questions. If they are trying to locate something you don't sell, but you know someone who does, offer them the link. If they need something faster than your current wait time allows, offer options, such as expedited shipping, or a rush fee for putting the item ahead of the line.

6. Go the extra mile. If someone comes to you and says "I'm looking for this, can you do something similar?", let them know if you can, and if you can, let them know where to find it, and other similar items in your shop. If someone wants a blue hair bow, and you offer 3 different blue hair bows, give them each option. Additionally, you can let them know the price of the item, and how quickly it can be mailed out. When you send a package, adding a small item for free on high priced items is never a bad idea. If you sell hand beaded necklaces, adding a small wire wrapped ring to the order will cost you little in supplies, but will keep you memorable. You can add a business card sized "Thank you for your purchase! Please enjoy this gift from me to you!" with the purchase. Include your shop information on it, so they can easily reference it in the future.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Promoting on Facebook: Etsy Groups

Etsy groups on Facebook are a great place to ask questions, and get answers. These are the source of some great help for me over the past few months, and have taken my shop to selling very little, to averaging 50 sales a month these past few months.

You can also promote your own products in most of these groups, however, I will say that for the most part, these groups are not your target audience.

For me, they are- I sell graphics sold to Etsy shop owners. Below is a list of some great places to start out, especially for new shops who are struggling to figure out their way on Etsy.

There are HUNDREDS of pages, but here are the ones I belong to. If you have time, making a daily post to each of your groups with items you have available is a good idea. It keeps you in their notice, and gives you an audience.

Etsians Unite - Brand new page, run by me! This page is for asking questions, and promoting your listings. (opened 5/26/15)

Etsy - Share Your Listings - Under 1,000 members, which means more personal replies, but also means less replies over all.

Promote & Post All Etsy - Nearly 4,000 members

Etsy Sellers United - over 9,000 members

ETSY Sellers - over 4,300 members

The Sellers Group - just over 1,400 members

Promoting All Good Things Handmade - over 4,700 members

Etsy Sharing Shops - over 2,700 members

Etsy/Artfire United - nearly 9,000 members

Daily Etsy Sales - nearly 8,500 members

My Etsy Shop Group - nearly 2,000 members

Etsy Promotion Group - over 7,000 members

Handmade Items/Etsy - over 1,500 members

Amazing Etsians - over 1,000 members

Etsy... Everything Wonderful in Life - over 7,500 members

ETSY - over 22,000 members

Etsy! Etsy! Etsy! - over 6,500 members

Etsy Sales - nearly 14,000 members

Helping Etsians Promote - over 16,000 members

Aside from these groups, it's a wise idea to locate groups that you can advertise in that cater to what you make. For instance, parenting groups are a great location if you make anything at all for kids- baby clothing, toys, bedding, diapers, etc. Bride groups are great if you make items for weddings, such as invitations, wedding albums, dresses, flower bouquets, etc.

Find the people who want your items, and show it to them. Word of caution, though- you need to know the rules before posting in ANY group. Many groups frown heavily on people advertising outright, but some will allow you to answer questions while promoting (IE: if someone asks "Does anyone know where I can find this?", answer with "I make items like that, and sell them in my Etsy shop, located here.")

Know your audience, know your groups, and use them to your advantage.

Need more Etsy advice? Check out the menu on the top right corner on my blog!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Etsy: Utilizing Pinterest

Unless you have lived under a rock, you have heard about Pinterest. Basically, it's girl porn. You can design your dream house, plan your dream wardrobe, imagine all the pre-school snacks you can make and be the envy of all the other moms, and you can do it all in your PJ's.

You can also advertise your items on Pinterest. If you have a pin board, and you are not advertising on it, you are losing out on so many potential customers.

So how do you advertise on Pinterest?

The easy way to pin something from your Etsy page is to go straight to the listing. As long as you already have a pin board, and are logged in, it takes about 10 seconds to pin an item from your shop.

Go to your shop page, and choose an item- any item, and open the item. Once it's open, the page will look something like this:

You'll note that under the green ADD TO CART button, you have your social media buttons- favorite, add to, Tweet, Pin, Tumblr+, and Facebook. The button highlighted in green on my image shows the PIN IT button.

Just click, select a board, and hit enter. It's quick, painless, easy, and FREE.

Another popular way to advertise on Pinterest, is to find group boards. These are large boards with large followings (I recommend finding boards with at least 1,000 followers on the specific board), and become a member of the board.

So here's a quick run down on getting onto a group board. First and foremost, you have to click FOLLOW on the board. It will be spammy, so if you hate your Pinterest feed being cluttered with all sorts of stuff, then you may want to create a second account, or not join group boards.

To follow a specific board, click the red button that says FOLLOW.

It will look like the image above, and be off on the right side of the screen. Once you are following the board, someone has to invite you to be able to pin to the board. A good board will be on top of this, and you'll receive an invite within 24 hours. 

The invite will come across through your board notifications, so make sure if you have a lot of notices, that you go through them to accept the invite.

Once you are invited, you are free to post - but please make sure you are aware of the board's rules. Some require that you repin other member's pins. Some request you only pin a few a day. Others limit what type of pins they'll accept.

The rules will be at the top of the page, like this:

This shows the board rules, the number of followers, and number of pins- the pin count is low, because it's a brand new board.

Once you are a member, feel free to pin all sorts of goodies from your shop to these boards! They will help gain exposure from a whole new group of people, which helps your shop with views and (hopefully) sales!

On average, I get about 100-200 views in my shop from Pinterest each month. I know some very active shop owners that get more like 200 a week. Unfortunately, Etsy does not track where sales come from, so whether or not it's profitable? Who knows. But it's free, so in my opinion, it's worth it.

And here's my group board- just started tonight. I have over 1200 people who will see anything posted to it in their Pinterest feed. It's a good place to start!
Click me to go to the board!

Overall, for a free form of advertising, it's a good one. I highly recommend it. And it's easier to do than Instagramming... which we'll cover in my next post.

Need more Etsy tips? Check out the side bar on my blog page- I have lots of posts about Etsy!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Tools for Etsy

Etsy is hard. But, there are Etsy tools to help make your job easier. Here are some of my favorites.

  1. Etsy Calculator - Do you know how much your items cost to make? Are you factoring in the listing fees, the commission, and payment fees of your sale? If not, you should be!  Check out the calculator- it tells you how much you should be charging in order to cover 100% of your costs, and still make a wage off the sale.
  2. Etsy Relevancy - This tool will give you a run down of the most popular listings, tags, sellers, and will tell you whether or not any of your items show up in the first 20 pages of results for the keyword search you used. This is a great way just see how relevant your listings are, and determine the changes you need to make to get listed better.
  3. Etsy on Sale - Have you noticed Etsy listings with the price listed in red, crossed out, and a new price listed? This is something that Etsy itself does not offer. To run a bonafide sale with as little grunt work as possible, you need to use this tool. It runs on a credit system- you will start off with 10 credits when using the link above. Each time you run a sale, it costs 4 credits- the page allows you to choose the start/end date of the sale, the discount, and even what categories you want to list on sale (or the full shop). With 10 credits, you can run 2 full sales. After that, you can either provide a referral link to earn more credits, or pay a small amount to purchase more. 
There are more great tools available online for Etsy shop owners, but these 3 are my absolutely favorite, and the ones I refer to most often.

Check out more Etsy tips in these posts:
 And don't forget to take some time to check out my Etsy shop! I just hit my 5th year anniversary on Etsy!

Friday, April 17, 2015

Etsy: Boosting Shop Views

The one question (in various forms) that I see the most often is a variation of "No one is buying from me, what am I doing wrong?"

Variations include:
"I have a ton of views and favorites, but not a single sale, why not?"
"I get no views, why not?"
"People love my shop, but aren't shopping, are my prices too high?"

There are almost as many answers to those questions, as there are variations of those questions. First up, let me give you a quick description of one answer you will probably hear, "How many of those views are organic?"
Organic Views are views that originate on their own. They are the views you get when someone searches for a product, and finds your shop. They are the views you get when someone opens a non-game link.

But the biggest thing Organic Views are? They are SHOPPERS. Someone who is taking the time to look for a specific product on Etsy is doing it because they want it (or, to a much lesser degree, they could also be competition looking at prices, descriptions, etc).

If organic views come from shoppers, then it stands to reason that organic views are king in our world.

Now that you know what Organic Views are, let's talk briefly about non-organic views.

For those of you who belong to Facebook groups, and Etsy Teams, you have probably at some point in time, participated in a game, or a ladder.
  • Favorite 5 items from each shop on the list
  • Tweet 2 items from each shop
  • Favorite the 3 shops above you in the list
  • Follow the shop owners in the list
These are all examples of games, or ladders. A game is designed to bring you views. Say you are in a FB group, and you comment on a post that says "Fav-A-Thon - Favorite every item listed below, and post 3 of your own!"

It sounds like a great idea- you get page views, which means potential customers, and of course, you'll get better search results from all the awesome favorites, right? And what's it take, like 20 minutes of time?

Well, here's the lowdown on games & ladders.
  • Do you get views? Yes, but they are not organic. They are views from people doing the same thing you are- trying to boost their numbers.
  • Do you get favorites? Yes, but they are not organic, either. The other shop owners are clicking favorites without really caring what the item is, so it skews the numbers. Genuine favorites come from people who actually like the item, and are considering purchasing it from you.
  • Does this boost my SEO? Yes, but it's very minimal. The SEO algorithm is constantly changing, and it does recognize the difference between a "drive by" click, and someone who sticks around to actually browse your shop and spend time in it. So, while it may give a minimal boost to your shop numbers, it is not enough to really see a difference.
  • Do you get sales? This varies from store to store. My shop is marketed at Etsy shop owners. I have gotten a few sales as a direct result of games. I have also discovered a few shops I really liked, and have either purchased from or plan to. That said, the majority of shop owners who participate in games do not do so with the intention of purchasing from your shop.
Bottom line on games & ladders for views & favorites? If you have time to blow, there are worse ways to blow it, but it really is not doing your shop nearly as much good as many people will tell you.

Now that we've talked both Organic and Non-Organic Views, let's get down to some nitty gritty.

Why does your shop get 400 views a day, and 175 favorites, but no sales? 

My answer? Because you need to work on your SEO, Titles, Descriptions, and Keywords. When I see people saying they get 175 favorites a day, I automatically know that both their views and their favorites are almost entirely from games.

On paper, those numbers look great. But they are doing you a disservice of making you think your shop has people shopping in it, vs people who are glancing at your sales ad, and tossing it in the trash bin.

My best advice to shops who get almost no sales, but that participate in games to boost their numbers? Stop playing the games for 2 weeks. Cold turkey.

2 Week Challenge

This will give you an honest idea of how your shop is actually doing in terms of organic views and shoppers. That doesn't mean you can't promote your shop. Just don't do it with games. Games mask your organic reach. If you don't know how well your shop is doing without games, then you don't know how your shop is doing, period.

So here's the things I want you to take the time to do during those 2 weeks.
  • Make sure your Titles, Descriptions, and Tags all match each other for each post, but NOT for every item that is the same. IE: Item 1 and Item 2 should not have identical tags, titles, and descriptions. That will skew your search results, and SEO hates identical posts. Make sure at least 5 tags are unique to each item, and the first paragraph on every item should be unique.
  • Go to your shop's STATS page, and set the time frame to "All Time". Scroll down until you reach the words "Top Keywords". Listed there, you will see every single keyword (single, or multiple words) that anyone has ever used that resulted in them finding your shop on Etsy. These are the phrases that carry the most weight in your shop, so use them. Make sure that they are sprinkled through out your descriptions, and if they fit, in the tags and titles of the items they match. This will help boost your search results, and will push your items closer to the front page (if they are not there yet!)
  • Ask for a shop critique on both Facebook Etsy pages, and in Etsy team pages. Shop critiques can be hard to hear, but the people who give them are doing it to help you, and they are doing it with fresh eyes. It can be very hard for a shop owner to see the flaws in their shop. From missing words, to descriptions that are not descriptive, to bad photos- our fault as shop owners is that we think what we have done with our shop is exactly right, when it may be way off base. Take the advice, and try to make the changes people recommend. 
  • Add a few new items. It does not have to be a lot. It could be 2 new items. But adding new items gives your shop a fresh chance at views, and it livens up the shop. Would you want to walk into Target, and see the exact same 10 items for sale every time, with no new items, no changes? You would stop shopping there. When you add new items, it helps a lot. 
  • Keep track of your daily views- use a note pad, or a calender, or whatever, but write down how many total views you have for each of the 2 weeks. See if they are going up (if you have worked on everything above, they should start going up slowly). 
You won't see results the next day. Anytime I change up a listing with a fresh title, description, and keywords, it takes me about 4-5 days to see a difference. But, I do see it. By the end of 2 weeks, you should be seeing an increase in organic views (and hopefully some sales!).

I don't guarantee sales. My articles are all things I have done in the past, or still actively do. I'm not the best shop out there- I know I have a lot of changes that I could be making. But, over the past 4 months, my views, sales, and profits just keep going up each month.

It's worth the time to invest in making your shop the best you can make it. Your shop is what you make of it.

Want more tips for Etsy? Check out these articles I have written:
Looking for new Etsy shop graphics? Check out my Etsy shop!