Providing Good Customer Service in Your Online Store

[First, let me just stay that the photo above has nothing to do with this post. I just really love this bedroom (featured on finaldecors.com)!]

While I only work part time in my vintage business, I take it seriously and always endeavor to provide a good experience for a buyer. Here are a few things I do. While they are just basic, commonplace ideas, you’d be surprised how many online sellers don’t do them, some who have lost my business.

  • Promptly answer product questions. Even if the listing has the information he or she is asking about, I’ll send it along. I’ll also take additional photos as requested and respond to queries for “best price” or offers.
  • Allow returns. For any reason or no reason. For me, it’s the best policy. Bottom line, I want customers to be happy with their purchases. Even if you provide measurements, show lots of photos and list any defects, the item might not be as the buyer expected. And that’s not good. Thankfully in six years I’ve had less than 10 returns, so it’s no big deal. (I do not charge a restocking fee.)
  • Include a copy of the invoice in the package with a little handwritten thank you. Honestly I am thankful for every order. Plus if a shipping label should get damaged, the invoice inside has the address.
  • Wrap things with care. I send extra time and $ on shipping supplies to ensure that items arrive safely. Most things get layers of tissue paper wrapping before the bubble wrap. (I once received a very expensive turquoise bracelet in the mail that had just been thrown in the box with no cushioning or packing material. I was appalled. I will never buy from them again.)

Thankfully these guidelines seem to be working for me. Most of my customer interactions have gone seamlessly. Folks buy an item, I ship it and we’re done. About a third of the folks are thoughtful enough to leave me a review. (Thank you, thank you.) And a few even email me a lovely personal note that makes my day!

But yesterday, after six years, I got my first one-star review and it jangled me! Turns out the customer didn’t receive the item she ordered two weeks ago, but instead of contacting me first, she left a negative review. The real rub here is that the USPS tracking number shows the item was delivered to her address days ago!

Alas it’s getting more tangled. We’ve been in contact and she wants to know, “What do we do about this?” and “Whose fault is it that I didn’t get it?” (Oddly she mentioned in that same email that her front door is not a safe place for leaving packages, which begs the question why you would have things delivered to your home then.)

Oh boy.

Now as a seller (and in general!), I always try to remain calm and professional…just like you do! I did not answer her pointed questions (honestly in this situation I think I’m at zero on the fault-o-meter) but suggested her best bet was to contact her local post office and have them help her. And of course I will help her in any way I can with info the post office may need.

This is not resolved yet and I will hear from her again, though it is a bit tough knowing that she is apportioning some blame to me. And angling for a refund. And of course she has already zapped me with a terrible review. A sad situation all around.

All this to say if you are just dipping your toe in the online reselling world, there will be a few frustrating customer moments down the road, but if you set up good practices from the get-go, those moments will be fewer.

All the best, and happy hunting in this season of yard sales,

Karen

P.S. Do tell if you have a “great” customer story. Would love to commiserate with you!

P.S.S. Or if you have other customer service practices that have served you well as a seller or buyer.

8 Comments

  1. Sorry to hear about the bad experience!
    I had two bad cases in a long time, both luckily somehow tesolved (negative feedback changed) after some communication and one full refund (at my own expense). it’s hard to please everyone, and be fault-less (like in your case). Selling is not easy (neither is buying). I imagine it’s just part of the online business?

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    1. Thanks for sharing. It is just part of the biz. :\ Realize I’ve been fortunate to have had so few difficult situations so far!! – Karen

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  2. Laura Werley

    I worked as an account manager/supervisor in advertising for my whole career. While it’s different than online sales, it is still the business of managing expectations, delivering a good quality service and making sure at the end of the transaction all is well. The stories I could tell you about those experiences would take a book, so I won’t go there! Bottom line, when things get screwed up, even if it’s no fault of yours, you still somehow go through a whole set of emotions wondering how to make it better. I had to train myself that most people are kind and understanding and some are just not. Sorry this happened to you. And I have been meaning to tell you that I really enjoy your blog, you have great instincts on vintage and antique goods and I really admire that you are so selective on what you purchase and sell. It’s a joy to learn from you and see your purchases.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you for this Laura. It’s so true I have been going through a whole set of emotions! Hoping she is able to sort this soon with the post office.

    And thank you for your kind words about my blog. They mean a lot to me. I do so enjoy finding these things. Best job I ever had! 🙂 All the best, Karen

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    1. T. Kim

      What ?

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      1. Hi T. Kim. Not sure what your “what?” is referring to! – Karen

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  4. Shari Harniss

    I, too, prefer to think that most people are decent, good, honest and kind. And the ones that prove me wrong, I feel so sorry for them. I can’t imagine carrying all that negativity around. Dark and overwhelming, I’m sure.
    I appreciate your expertise in trying to handle/diffuse the situation. Remember what our grandma’s said- Cream always rises to the top!
    Thanks again for sharing these ‘teachable’ moments. I continue to benefit from your years of experience!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Shari. Like you I think most folks are “decent, good, honest and kind.” (Some of my favorite adjectives!) And most of my customers have been the best.

      I hope this won’t dissuade you from launching your vintage business when the dust settles. 🙂

      All the best, Karen

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