A brand is a set of values. Some of these values will influence how you treat your customers. These customers can be individuals you sell directly to or wholesale partners or distributors who you work with seasonally. Early on, you’ll have to figure out how you want to treat your customers. Customer service is crucial, especially in an online business where you own the relationship with the customer. If something works well you get the credit and if something goes wrong you’ll take the blame.
I’ve always opted for a strategy built on being proactive and outwardly transparent, for two reasons: it’s the right thing to do and, more selfishly, happier customers spend more money. Some fashion brands considering being rude part of their aesthetic, but in my eyes, as both a customer and owner, this approach is far from interesting. In an industry that it all to familiar with undelivered product, bad refund policies, and delayed responses, nailing your customer service is an easy way to get ahead.
Here are some lessons and best practices when it comes to working with customers:
- Communication is everything. Proactive communication is even better. If you have orders but your product is delayed, tell your customers. They will be a lot more understanding if you tell them instead of them having to track you down because of long periods of silence.
- Respond quickly. Instant gratification is real, especially when something might need to be sorted out. The quicker a problem is resolved the happier the customer.
- If you announced a promotion but someone ordered the day before, give them the benefit. They won’t be expecting it and it’s an easy way to build customer loyalty. This investment always trumps the little bit of lost revenue. These little gestures will add up and go a long way.
- Setup automated order confirmation and shipping emails. This is a simple one. The more info and updates the customer has the less they will reach out asking for basic information.
- Setup a chat service like Olark so make it easier for your customers to get in touch. Sending an email is fine but takes more time. The easier the better.
- Not everything has to be a secret. If someone is asking about a upcoming product, give them as much info as you're comfortable with without publishing your plans. If someone took the time to reach out there’s a good chance they would buy it if it was going to be released soon. Again, some information is better than no information.
- Build relationships with your loyal customers. The brands that win are able to build long lasting relationships with customers who keep coming back. And having a few thousand loyal customers who shop often can build an incredibly powerful business. Identify these people and treat them well. They are always worth it.
- Don’t make promises you can’t keep.
- Never lie to anyone, especially buyers. Ever.
- Don’t be rude.