The most important thing you can do for your customers in business is to communicate…Galore!
One of the worst things after you purchase something, is to never hear from the seller. You have no idea if your credit card was charged, if they got your order, and if it is even coming. I have a fabric supplier who does this to me. I keep them as back up and my last resort, and if they would only communicate with me more, I would use them all of the time, because their fabric quality and prices are excellent.
The other thing that communication does for you is build trust, and when something goes wrong outside of your control, because you have established your credibility though communication, these obstacles can be overcome.
There was a time when the Canadian Postal Service went on strike, and my customer’s package was lost for good. I had worked with this customer to get her custom order just right, and to make sure that it arrived in time for a Wedding she had to attend. I also asked her to contact me, or let me know when it arrived, and sure enough, it didn’t.
Because I had established a good rapport, and covered all of the details in my communications, she trusted me to solve the problem, and worked with me through the mess. I ended up sewing another order last minute, and shipping overnight express, as we checked each other’s e-mails hourly, to see if she finally got it, or if it finally bounced back to me. I was able to keep her happy and satisfied through that giant fumble, but I know it was because I laid the groundwork first.
I’ve had a few other events like this, and I am always able to keep everyone happy, because they know I’m accessible and upfront. If anything goes wrong, always thank your customers for pointing it out, and never get defensive. Always apologize, and offer a way to fix something, or ask them what they think you should do. Let them know that you are on their side.
Here are the points of communication that I think are vital to establishing a good reputation with excellent customer service. Yes, it does take more of your time, but when customers have the ability to leave good or bad feedback for the public to see, you only get one shot…
After receiving an order, contact your customer by name ASAP to let them know you received their payment and confirm their order. Recite back the dollar amount of the transaction and the details of the order, so that they know you got the right information.
If the payment is still processing, let them know that it is in progress, and you will contact them again when the payment clears.
During this initial contact, if anything is unclear, you can address it, like the customer’s color choice, if the item is a gift, and do they need a gift note, or if the shipping address isn’t clear or confirmed. If you need to hear back from them, let them know that you are looking forward to it.
I keep templates of my e-mail responses for all of these situations, so that I can just copy and paste the basic information, and change any details necessary to save time.
Once you have all of the details you need to complete their order, it is always good to tell them when their item will be ready, and that you will write to them again to confirm that their order was shipped.
Let your customer know that you shipped their item, and give the shipping address to show it is correct.
Always thank them for their purchases and business in every communication, and if they have given you any personal details, address those as well. Also, let them know that you appreciate hearing back from them about their packages arriving and for their feedback.
I think if you establish that you are a person, and not just some business(thing) in your communications, it makes the whole process much more human, and yes, forgiving for any arising and unforeseen mishaps.
*Just a few very important tips…
Use their first names in your communications. Like I mentioned, the two of you are people. Keep it professional, but personable. I use “Dear” and “Sincerely” in my letters. Always thank them, and always include your business links and information they would need to contact you. I generate a lot of traffic back to my shop based on my e-mail signature links alone.
Ultimately, treat your customers like guests in your home. They are special, and they should know it from you, because you have communicated it so…Galore!