Friday, August 12, 2011

Creative Business Tips - #1 - Looking after your customers.

Today we have a guest post written the lovely, and very clever Julie of Tractorgirl

A little info about Julie (aka 'Tractorgirl'~ she lives on a farm (hence the monniker!), in Wagga Wagga, NSW. She has a BA in Jewellery & Silversmithing and a phD in Fine Arts, and since graduating, has had a busy life  being a practicing artist, part-time high-school teacher and mother of three small children. With the arrival of her children, Julie found textiles to be more compatible than the sharp implements etc required for silversmithing!!. 

Julie uses recycled fabrics for all the outers of her textile pieces, (which include cushions and handmade bags), from an eco point of view, but also she is intrigued by the histories of the pieces of fabric - what paths have they traversed before they reached her, and where they going on to. 

tutorial for sale
Reverse applique cushion (sold)
one of Julie's handmade recycled fabric bags
Now... let's hear from Julie:

"Small biz – Looking after your customers"
 by Julie Gibbons.

Ah yes, we’ve all felt that niggle at some stage - a little cheesed off after a purchase that didn’t really live up to our expectations. 
broken brooch image by Sally

I have found this is especially true of online purchases. I think this is because it is so easy for anyone at all to put their stuff out there. And it seems quite a few of those anyones make some very basic mistakes from lack of experience. I know, I’ve had ALL of these things happen to me.

Get a business card! 
This is so obvious, and these days so cheap, you are silly not to. Nothing looks cheaper than a piece of paper with your biz details printed on it, shoved in the package with the product. And believe me, it gets chucked in the bin.
You can get great cards you design yourself through Saltprint – a wholly Australian owned company, based in Brisbane. I am really happy with the quality of mine. Or you can go to Vistaprint (they’re multinational) – even cheaper, and they have a range of standard, pre-designed cards that you can customise to suit yourself. (note from Sally : this is where I get mine from - and have been happy with them). The quality is OK, though in my opinion, not nearly as good as Saltprint

Package things properly, so that the goods arrive to the customer in excellent condition – e.g. I roll my fabric cushion covers, so there is no major creasing, which can be difficult to remove on a finished item. And I do like receiving a well-presented parcel! Lots of crafters I know like to package their products to look like a small gift – easy, and cheap to do with some gold tissue paper and a piece of ribbon. I always tuck my biz card and the invoice inside with the product, so a ‘gift’ is what they see upon opening the postal bag/outer wrapping. (Oh, and only ONE biz card please, unless of course it is your special aunty/fave cousin/best friend – your casual customer won’t be into carrying those spare biz cards around with the intent of building your empire – again, they end up in the bin.)

Describe your product properly. Of course tell us about its great points, but do not hide flaws, you will not be forgiven. e.g. the vintage fabric you are selling shows a stain mark, or has a corner cut off it (give the size, and show a close up of it) or the bracelet you’ve made has a chip on one side (again, a close up, and give an approximate size & shape)
If your customer has a problem with your product, offer a refund or replacement (depending on circumstances of course). You should be able to stand by the quality of your product, its construction and finish. If you can’t, you’re in the wrong game.
If you promise something, KEEP YOUR PROMISE.  I know in the past I have been guilty of this, because we all get caught up in other things and forget… keep a list of stuff you have to do! And tick it off.

Be generous. If your customer has queried something, offer a little bit extra. Of course this entirely depends on the situation, and how much the transaction is worth, but certainly I have given, and received small handmade gift tags, bonus product, etc, on occasion. 
And being generous does not just apply to product. Be generous in your attitude – if your customer has a problem, be patient and gracious. If you’re writing a message to them, try and think about how YOU would feel if you received that message! Be generous with your time and efforts to assist others – colleagues as well as customers. What goes around comes around.

If you wish to be taken seriously, act professionally. And it really comes down to the old golden rule – treat others how you would like to be treated yourself. 


You can find more about Julie, her life & her products on Etsy,  Facebook & her blog.
Sally x0x

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