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Posts Tagged ‘customer service’

Our Beloved Calvin

Our Beloved Calvin

My family and I are still reeling from the sudden death of our beloved cat on Monday. He was 15 and an integral member of our family. He was always playful, affectionate and cute as a button. And we miss him terribly.

It was unexpected. Even though Calvin was “old,” he was active and vibrant and seemingly healthy. I come home for lunch every day (I work nearby) to feed him and on Monday, Calvin was fine at lunchtime. However, when my daughter and husband got home from work a couple of hours later, he had passed away. I went to my vet to find out what to do next (I was so distraught I couldn’t even find the phone number). We wanted to cremate him and keep his ashes and we didn’t know where to start.

The vet put me in touch with Regency Forest, a pet crematory and funeral home. I was incredibly impressed with the compassion of these people. I called at 4:45 on Monday (they were closing at 5:00) and they told me very gently how to keep Calvin while waiting to bring him to them the next morning. They even have a service where they would have come right then to pick him up. We didn’t do this because they are pretty close by and this service, while convenient and thoughtful, was more than I could afford. They suggested I ask my vet to take Calvin overnight instead. My vet was more than happy to hold him for free.

When we got to Regency Forest in the morning–my 22-year-old daughter Kate came with me–I was greeted with sympathy, a beautiful environment, tissues, and a woman who made the process quick and easy. Kate wanted to take Calvin to the crematory herself to make sure we knew he would be cremated alone and we would get his ashes back (we’d heard horror stories). Even the gentleman who ran the crematory offered his sympathies and offered to walk us through the process if we wanted more information. Or we could have stayed. We graciously declined.

When I went back to pick up Calvin’s ashes, they were thoughtfully returned to me in a lovely tin placed in a gift bag with tissue and a heartfelt card that made us cry on the way home. They took such care with our baby that I would recommend this company to anyone who found themselves in the unfortunate situation we were in. Regency Forest offered us comfort at a very painful moment.

I realize this might be an odd post for a crafter’s business blog, but there is a point. Exceptional customer service–kindness and thoughtful touches–can make such a huge difference to your customers. Consider the companies you’ve dealt with that left an impression with you and how, and then keep those in mind when you are dealing with customers.

I will be forever grateful for the kindness of the Regency Forest people. They made a difference.

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On Friday at work, one of my coworkers and I were passing in the kitchen and we exchanged the usual “Hi, how are you?” Of course the answer we always expect is “Fine” or “Good, and you?” and we move on. This coworker jokingly asked me if I was going to wait around for the answer. We were crazy-busy and I was walking as I was asking.

It’s become a joke between us and that’s fine but it did get me to thinking. Are we really listening? Are we really doing the things that our customers would like to see? Or are we doing what’s easy and what we love. I get that as artisans, the whole point of creating is that we love what WE are doing. I’m not suggesting that if one of my customers (I’m a bookbinder) wants jewelry, that I’ll switch gears and start making jewelry. But if a customer asks for a slightly different style book or a fabric I don’t normally showcase, I see if I can do what they are asking or find that fabric. I’m not always successful, but I do listen to suggestion and I always try. I’m fortunate. I create custom products a lot of the time and I have to listen to my customers. But, I get really great ideas from them.

What I’m proposing for this holiday season is that maybe we should ask our customers what they’d like to see…what will get them to click on the “BUY NOW” button…..what they will be willing to spend their disappearing dollars on?

Have a mailing list? Send out a survey to see what people are looking for? Figure out the trends. Pay attention in convos. You may just find the “next big thing” that way.

And when you have a consensus about a color, a pattern, a style….try it. Someone out there will notice you listened and be happy to spend their money with you.

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I’m so angry at my son right now. He took my car last night to go to work (his is not running) on the terms that he’d be home by 7:00 am, so I can get my daughter to work and myself to work on time. It’s 8:05 and he won’t be home for at least another half hour, making us both very late. 😦

I’m not angry with him for being late. I get that stuff happens and we can’t always keep our promises. But he could have called. I had to call him 5 times before he picked up his phone….probably because he knew there would be yelling on the other end. But he could have avoided that by calling me first.

When you are in a family and something you are doing will affect another family member, the right thing to do is communicate. We all know this. By not communicating, it causes all kinds of friction. You’re all shaking your heads in agreement, I can feel it.

Well, it’s the same with your customers. If someone buys something from you, they expect at least to know what they need to do to complete the sale and when their package will arrive. And in this day and age, it’s really easy to get in touch, via email, phone, text message or even twitter! (Sidebar: What’s a twitter you ask? A really fun way to stay in touch! More about that in a future post.)

So guide your customers along the way. Talk to them. Email them when you receive payment, when you expect the product to ship, and when it has shipped so they know to watch for it. If you have a problem or are waiting on a back order of beads, email your customer and explain the hold up. Most people are very understanding, if you just give them the opportunity to be. If you don’t communicate though, and a package takes longer than expected to arrive or the product is not exactly what was pictured (and with handmade that is often the case), you might find you have an unhappy customer at the other end. And we all know we don’t want that.

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I just came home from food shopping. Sam’s Club, the supermarket, and finally, the neighborhood butcher, where we have been buying all of our meat and cold cuts for the past 11 years. And I’m always amazed at this little neighborhood store. It’s not a pretty shop; it’s in a strip mall that could definitely benefit from a facelift, and yet, the place is always packed, and I mean always. And I’ll tell you why.

Everyone who works in this store is incredibly accommodating, courteous and friendly. I have never in 11 years had poor service. It is chaotic because it’s always so crowded, but you never wait more than 5 minutes. Everyone smiles and appears happy to help, even the newest generation of young ones learning the ropes. And they still figure out your tab on a little piece of paper, sometimes with a calculator, even though they have high-end registers.

It’s a family business, but the training must be rigorous. It’s got to be tough to smile at every customer when there are at least 15 people crowding the store. However, I bet it’s easy to smile at the end of the day when cashing out the register.

So here’s the thing. The owner of this store probably lives in the lap of luxury because he creates the ultimate customer experience in his little neighborhood shop. Customers buy “the experience.” Sure, they are buying a product too, but I can get cold cuts in at least 5 different places by my house, and I will only go to the butcher, even though he’s not the least expensive. I’ll wait until Monday because they are closed on Sunday if I have to. I know when I go into this shop, someone will always smile at me and brighten my day.

I try to live by those same principles in my own business, even though it’s online. I’m courteous and happy to serve. I’m accommodating and I always try to be cheery, even in the face of chaos. Because I want my customers to come back and have that same experience again. My albums are unique and they aren’t the least expensive. I know if I don’t treat my customers like the gold they are, while they may like my product, they’ll find something else and a better experience somewhere else. To have any thriving business, repeat customers are a huge part of the equation.

Treat your customers like gold. And you’ll go home from your little “neighborhood” shop much richer for the experience.

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