Congratulations! You made it through the holiday season alive. Now comes the dark side of a busy holiday season for handmade business owners: difficult, upset, angry, and/or cranky customers. There is no doubt that you will have more happy customers than unhappy, but the more sales you make, the more likely you are to have customers who need you to answer questions or fix a problem.
Imagine what the day after a major holiday looks like for a big retailer. Mile long lines for returns and exchanges. As an online small business owner, your job also includes customer service. And because there’s no buffer between you and a potentially cranky customer, you can go from happy to tears in a matter of seconds.
We already know you are going to do your best and go the extra mile to help your customer and make them feel special. But what about you? Are you approaching customer service with your own health and happiness in mind? Here are some tips to keep you sane.
1) Read the whole email. If it makes you angry, defensive, or want to cry, mark it as unread and walk away.
Customer service is an essential part of running your business. And you don’t want to write a response that is fueled by negative emotions. Writing an email or Etsy message gives customers the protection of being faceless and anonymous and there is a chance that, depending on what the problem is, they may get heated. Especially if you’re dealing with something that was meant to be a present for a loved one.
Before answering that upsetting email, write a reminder note and just step away. This doesn’t mean don’t respond. You will respond soon. But take advantage of the email/messaging system and walk away for a little bit to distance yourself from the negative energy.
2) Talk to someone.
Before answering an upsetting email or message, vent your frustrations and talk about your concerns with someone you know.
Talking to someone, sharing in the frustrations, and yelling can be therapeutic. You’ll get everything off your chest that you want to say to your customer but probably shouldn’t. And you don’t have to go to another business owner, but it can be helpful sometimes. There are discussion boards for handmade business owners and they usually have a few threads going on about difficult customers. If you ever need someone to relate to, seek out some of these forums.
3) Absolutely no excuses.
Life happens. Unhappiness may strike. Or maybe you were just so busy, one order slipped through the cracks. Whatever the reason, don’t respond to a customer with excuses.
Unless you’re emailing the customer BEFORE shipping out their order and letting them know why it will be late or that you need to cancel it, you should not respond with an excuse.
Why? They don’t want or need to know. All they want to know is if, how, and when you are going to fix their problem. And the less they know about your personal life, the less they can direct any negative energy toward it.
4) Be real. Be authentic. Be you.
You are not a big, faceless corporation. A lot of handmade customers come to you because you are a small business owner and not only do they love your gorgeous work, but they want to support you.
So, if you’re not a big, faceless corporation, why are you trying to talk like one? Stop stressing and don’t attempt to wrap your mind around what kind of jargon a “professional” business would use in this situation. If you think of yourself as a professional, then you are already a “professional.” And as long as you remember to apologize, thank them for allowing you to remedy the situation, and use spell check, the way you speak is probably just fine.
Do you have any customer service tips to share with other handmade business owners?