Customer Service can make or break a small, online business. I have been running my own online business selling handmade antler jewelry for almost three years now and this is something I have seen time and time again. Being part of many different forums for small business owners, I see questions daily concerning how someone should handle an upset customer, a messed up order, delayed shipping issues, poor quality in the consumers’ eyes, etc. Knowing how to deal with these issues is not easy, and typically need to be determined on a case by case basis. Below are some tips and lessons I have learned over the last three years.
The customer is ALWAYS the customer.
I used to think that “the customer is always right.” Then in one of my college classes I learned that the customer is NOT always right, but the customer is ALWAYS the customer. This is something that must be taken into account when deciding on how to deal with an issue you face with an unsatisfied customer. Even if you feel the customer is not right about the issue, they are still your customer and without your customers, you cannot have a successful business. If you handle a situation poorly, you could lose that customer (and their friends) forever. If you handle it correctly, you will hopefully have a repeat customer for life.
Losing Money vs. Losing Customers
This is something I have had a lot of experience with, but in a positive way. I have realized that if whatever you need to do to satisfy your customer will cause you to lose a little bit of money, 9 times out of 10, it is worth the loss. Now I am not saying you should do this often, but if you are providing quality products, you should not face this issue often. EVERY TIME I have taken a small loss ($20.00 or less) to make my customer happy or fix a mistake, they leave me great reviews, refer their friends, and the majority of the time they become repeat customers. This is a sensitive subject for many small business owners. I suggest you take this in to consideration with each issue that might surface, evaluate if you can afford a small loss to increase the possibility of creating a repeat customer.
I know that in running a business, you must run it in a way that will make you money. If you are always taking losses, your business will not succeed. Despite this I have found that when I run in to issues with customers and I show that I care more about my customers than I do about the money, they feel like they matter. Which is exactly how I want my customers to feel because they DO matter to me. My approach at customer service will not work for every business or every individual. I do think that it is something more businesses should take in to consideration when they are deciding what type of customer service they want to be known for.