Selling Successfully (Your One-Stop Resource for Setting Up, Managing and Marketing)

Excellent Customer Service:An Affordable Marketing Tool

We know your marketing budget is tight. That's why offering excellent customer service is worth its weight in gold for small businesses (and large ones too)!

If you place an ad that costs you $1,000 to run and you get 5 inquiries from it (not unusual), and two turn into a sale, that's expensive for most small businesses. Now, if you offer a current or new customer an excellent experience, they'll likely tell several others about it over time. And those who contact you will be somewhat pre-sold by the time they reach you because the person who told them about you raved about you and your service. How much did that cost you? Not much, in comparison.

We've heard people say, "Guarantees cost money, and good service costs money. If I stand behind my product - everyone will return what they buy and I'll go out of business!" The truth is, this will only happen if your product is sub-par-and will happen with or without a guarantee.

Here's an example I witnessed first hand from my corporate days:

I worked for a company that produced outdoor clothing. Their annual sales were about $100 million at the time. They produced an excellent product, and decided to issue an "Ironclad Guarantee". If a customer was not satisfied with a product FOR ANY REASON at the time they received it, or if it did not perform to their satisfaction, they could return it for a repair, replacement or refund.

One day a couple of years after the guarantee was well up and running, one of the customer service representatives went to the CEO of the company, and said, "Boy, it sure seems like a lot of people are taking unfair advantage of the guarantee. I know one guy who has returned three items that were perfectly good!" The CEO said, "OK, if you think it's that bad, why don't you sit down and add up all the returns your department appears to be getting from people who are `pushing the system,' and let me know how much that is in wholesale dollars." So the representative went back to his department and did just that. He emerged several days later with the results. Do you know how much it was? $2,200 in one year! Out of $100 million in sales. Case closed.

A few years later when I was moderating a focus group, a woman in the group said something that summed it up for me. She said, "I always buy Xxxxxxxx's product because I know they stand behind it 100% and if I'm not happy with something, I can always return it - but I never do because the product is so good."

OK, so what can you as a Ruby Lane shop owner do to provide excellent customer service? Here are a few tips:

1. Offer a prompt response to all inquiries. In this day of Internet speed, people are busy and impatient, and will move on to other options unless they receive a timely response.

2. Take the lion's share of responsibility for return issues. It's part of doing business. Err on the side of the customer. To not do so is short-sighted. This doesn't mean accepting abuses. If someone is a repeat return customer without any reason, you don't have to continue to do business with them. You may want to use the Block Buyer feature in such a case.

3. Stand behind your product. Respect your business and what you sell, and your customer will do so as well.

4. Be sure to fully describe your items, including all flaws, no matter how small, and dates whenever possible. Don't make your buyers' fill in the blanks or give them any reason to question your listing. A benefit to you, besides increased sales, is that you will not receive as many unfruitful inquiries about your item, therefore lowering your overhead.

5. Do the legwork. This is where good service really pays off. Take care of the little details for the customer. Once a customer knows you have everything under control, they'll really appreciate it.

6. Offer an add-on that the customer didn't expect. Send a "Thank You" note, or a follow-up email to be sure that they received everything in good order. Or, once they've made a purchase, send an order acknowledgment outlining all of the details of the item's arrival. These are things you don't have to do - but they make
all the difference.

Lastly, you've probably heard the statistics that if a person has a good buying experience, they'll tell three people about it. But if they have a BAD buying experience, they will tell up to 16 people all about it! This is no myth. Yes, you can offer great service and a run a healthy business at the same time.