Saturday, December 17, 2011

Word-of-Keyboard: Ways to Keep Your Online Customers Happy

As online sellers we have certain responsibilities to abide, and making our online buyers happy is numero uno!  Whether you are a new shop just starting out, or an existing shop with a well-known reputation, we always have to make the customer happy.  Making them want to be a recurring customer and tell all their friends, family, and co-workers about this wonderful experience that they had at your shop is what drives our sales.  It's all about word-of-mouth, or as online sellers, word-of-keyboard.  So how do we do this?  Let's discuss some fundamental solutions.  

First off, customer service.  I've worked in customer service in one facet or another for the past 11 years.  I have worked at several restaurants and at galleries/artists studios and customer service was and still is the key to success.  Studies have shown that people will return to a restaurant with so-so food just because the service is excellent, and vice versa.  No matter if it's a restaurant or a store you are going to, it comes down to the experience you had there.  As Etsy sellers we don't have the ability to be face to face with our customers like other shops or stores, therefore, the communications we have with our customers have to be prompt, genuine, informative, and comforting.  Etsy is a global marketplace so we literally have to be "on call" 24/7.  Customers in Europe, Asia, Australia are looking at items and shops in the U.S. or Canada (for example) when it's 3:00 a.m. our time!  I'm not saying to stop sleeping and to stay up all night watching your inbox, but checking our email and messages should be the first thing we do to start our work day.  Weekends count, as well.  People don't stop buying on the weekends.  This is a full time gig, ladies and gentleman!  

When answering messages from a potential or a recurring buyer, we must always be honest and answer all of their questions.  Nothing is more frustrating than sending a shop questions in a message that comes back leaving you with those questions unanswered!  It is even more important now during the holiday season to make sure all their shipping, sizing, and other questions are answered efficiently and correctly.  Giving them more info about the product in which they are inquiring is never a bad idea either.  Don't go overboard!  You don't have to write them a book, but a couple extra sentences highlighting the items features, describing the color and texture, or breaking down the shipping details is appreciated by the customer and will make them feel more comfortable buying from you.  It shows you took just that little bit of extra time, unlike that other seller...

Ok, we all know customer service is important, but what else is there?  Photography comes into play here in a big way!  Since they can't physically pick up the product, touch it, smell it, get a good grasp of it's shape and personality we have to make sure all of that comes through in our photos.  Using natural light and backgrounds or props that will enhance the photo rather then distracting the customer from the actual product being sold is important.  A plain white background is always good, but depending on your product, shop, and personality you may not want to have that stark white background.  Using old books, fabric, or furniture work well.  Avoid shadows that drown out your product.  If you have an art piece, furniture piece, or home decor item showing how that item would look in a room setting really helps the buyer picture it in their home or a specific room of their house making them more apt to buy your product over someone else's.  You can purchase royalty free stock photos of rooms at or other stock photo sites.  

Receiving a purchased item that looks exactly like what the photos that made them purchase it in the first place will make your customer happy, so watch out when you are tweaking any colors in Photoshop, iPhoto, or any other image editing software.  If you have dramatic colors in your piece, including a disclaimer in your listing about computer screen resolution may help you in the long run.  Most people don't take that into consideration or even know that everyone's computer screen resolutions and colors are and will be different.  

There are always going to be those customers who will want to return or exchange the item because "it isn't exactly what I wanted" once they receive it in person, in which case we need to make sure we make that customer happy in one form or another.  After working in customer service, especially when I was working at restaurants, I learned that that old saying "the customer is always right" is completely wrong!  People will lie just to get something for free.  When dealing with a difficult customer, however, it may be harder for you as a seller to want to make them happy, but that's our job!  You don't have to give away your soul to make a customer happy.  Find out what they want, and try and make it work as best as possible for both of you.  And hopefully you'll have way more nice customers than nasty ones!

Etsy and eBay already allow buyers to leave a shop or seller feedback, which makes the customer feel more in control of the situation, but going one step further and allowing them access to give your item, shop, or customer service praise on Twitter or Facebook is wonderful, too!  Ask them to send you a picture of your art piece once it's displayed, or have them post a reaction photo of them giving your item as a gift on Facebook or Twitter creates a more personal buying experience and will connect them more to your shop and product.  

I think I've given you enough to think about for now, but during this busy holiday shopping season remember these important tips and make your customers happy!  Follow-up with them, include a special coupon code with their purchase, or send them an extra little goodie!  I recently purchased three art pieces from a shop on Etsy and the artist included an extra ACEO card of another art piece!  I was stoked to see that (it's the little things...) So go on, and give them something to talk about!

Thanks for reading!
Havok Designs


  1. Wow! Great information Kristen! Thanks so much for sharing this post! :-)

  2. What a great post!!! All such important info for all sellers on any ecommerce site!!!! Thank you for sharing this with us! :)

  3. Awesome post with many useful information. Thank you, Mojca

  4. Great post Kristen! Your advice is fantastic! How do you get a customer to make it public? (ie: the reaction to the gift item).
    I've had many a customer write "you should've seen her face" or something similar. I feel like I would be imposing somehow if I said "great! why don't you put a pic up on fb..."

  5. Great read that's full of great advice! Thank you for sharing!


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