Holidays are an exciting and busy time for buyers and sellers alike. Your customers are searching out the perfect, unique gift to arrive in time for their gift exchange, and you are managing your inventory, filling orders, handling customer service, and attending your own family’s events. No doubt stress can sometimes run high on both sides as each of you try to check everything off your list. I have asked Hayley Frome of Squeeze Coaching to share some of her best customer service tips for managing a busy shop during the holidays.
Establish Firm Shipping Deadlines
Cha-ching is such a magical sound, isn’t it? We as shop owners want to do everything possible to get the additional holiday sales and to make our customers happy. It’s important to be realistic with your shipping deadlines.
Major shippers such as USPS, UPS, FedEx post their holiday shipping deadlines well in advance, sometimes by mid- to late-September or early-October so you can plan your timeline and share it with your customers. Know that it may take one to two weeks for shipping during the holidays as everyone else is rushing to mail their gifts and cards too.
What should you do if a customer leaves a negative review based on shipping? If you are selling primarily on Etsy, know that Etsy will remove a negative review if it’s the responsibility of the third-party shipper; however, if you have shipped the item late beyond the shipping window allowed, this review will remain in your shop’s history. Amazon Handmade may remove negative feedback based upon a third-party shipper’s responsibility if you contact SellerCentral and have appropriate documentation of your claim.
Utilize Your Shop Announcement Feature
Keeping your customers informed can answer many of their questions and also set clear expectations for them about their experience. Your shop announcement should be short and simple, but it is an ideal opportunity for you to share information about your order deadlines, shipping dates, promotions, and so on. Bonus: each time you update your shop announcement, any customer who has favorited your shop, purchased from you, or has one of your items in their cart will be notified so it’s a great way to keep in touch with your audience! Win-win!!
If you are selling on Shopify or another independent website, look for a plug-in option that allows you to post an announcement bar to your site. These are typically limited in character numbers and won’t be sent to past and potential customers. However, these are eye-catching and will serve as an alert to site visitors sharing alerts about your shop.
Apply Item Variations
Remember not everyone shopping this time of year needs their gift prior to December 24th. Some buyers may be seeing friends or family for exchanges that take place after the holiday, and may not need an expedited shipping date. Similarly, some buyers who do need to have their item rushed, may be in a hurry to purchase and overlook the additional information about rushed processing or shipping fees, especially as holiday deadlines draw near.
Etsy allows the option for two variations in their drop-down menu for each item. If you are able to utilize one of these spaces for a shipping option, you can actively engage your customer in reading, and choosing, a needed by date as well as acknowledging any additional fees that may be incurred with that selection. This can save a lot of confusion if the customer does not carefully read posted information in your shop regarding dates or priority shipping rates.
Amazon Handmade allows for up to ten customizations, so there is more freedom here to include product variation AND shipping date/fee options right within your listings. Websites such as Shopify allow for the installation of plug-ins like Infitate Options to accomplish this goal.
Diffuse Difficult Situations
Sometimes, despite your best efforts, customers are disappointed or frustrated with how a transaction has been completed. As handmade sellers, it’s often hard to remain objective in these cases because we see our art and our business as an extension of ourselves. A criticism about something we made or did is taken personally. We also know a shopper who could potentially leave a negative review about a product or shipping experience could have an undesirable impact on our shops (and our livelihood!).
First things first: take a step back from the situation and remain calm and objective when hearing your customer’s concern(s). Often, the shopper has made a purchase on impulse and is possibly reacting in much the same way, maybe being very hasty with their word choice and passionate about what they feel the outcome should be.
When responding remember the customer wants foremost to be heard. Take steps to acknowledge and assure you have heard their feeling and then work to seek a resolution that is solution-based.
Hayley says after years in business as a six-figure shop owner of Citra Lily, one of her best tips for success has been being proactive in reaching out to customers. She is diligent in following package tracking herself and sending a message after their order has been delivered. In this way, she can alert her buyers on when they may be expecting their package (no more emails asking where the order is and why hasn’t it been delivered yet). This personal touch of following up also allows her to remain in contact should there be any issues with the order and, hopefully, diffuse any negative review by seeking to address concerns the customer has.
Hayley also takes advantage of the snippet feature in Etsy. This stores ten short responses for typically asked questions your customers may reach out with. Taking the time to prepare these in advance can save you time as a business owner and can make your customers feel heard. Consider preparing responses to concerns around finding their shipment date, their tracking number, changing their address, your anticipated turnaround time, your ability to fill custom orders, and so on.
Some email accounts allow you to set up canned email responses in much the same way.
You can read some of our additional holiday shop tips in these articles.
If you would like personalized e-commerce coaching from Hayley Frome of Squeeze Coaching who has over five years experience, $100k in sales, an extensive customer service background, and mentoring experience you can reach her through her website at www.squeezecoaching.com She is currently running a promotion for 25% off all her private 1:1 coaching sessions.
I also offer both personalized and group coaching through my services at Artisan Indie, including shop critiques, weekly live coachings, workshops, and conferences. We would love to have you join our community!