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Interacting with customers has always felt like something that should come naturally. The longer I’ve run Freddie and Co., however, I’m starting to realize it’s a skill you can work on.
In most of life, my motto is to ignore the haters. For rude replies to this newsletter, for example, I don’t reply.
But when you’re running a store, you can’t ignore anyone, and the replies and comments come from all angles: Facebook messages and comments, Twitter, emails, even LinkedIn (why?!). One issue we’ve had is questions related to shipping. We have a contact form on our website to send questions straight to Amplifier, our fulfillment center. They’re much better equipped to answer inquiries related to shipping and handling. But we also have our contact email (firstname.lastname@example.org) on our homepage, so inevitably, people reach out to us directly on shipping issues, despite the disclaimer. I answer these as best I can, but sometimes I need Amplifier to step in, so I redirect people to the form.
I don’t want to make a customer ask their same question again, to someone else, but I know they’ll get the best answer that way. Sometimes I ask Amplifier myself and then get back to the customer when I have the answer. For now, this is my best solution. Another issue is timing. When it comes to their money, consumers rightfully want information quickly. I have help getting replies out — Brooke is diligent about checking the buzz on our social media channels, and we used to have an intern, America, who read the Freddie and Co. inbox. (AMERICA, I MISS YOU!) But even with the help, it can be challenging to reply as quickly as I’d like.
I’ve never worked in retail, but that doesn’t mean I don’t know the customer service mantra: The customer is always right. Freddie and Co. doesn’t have any rude customers, but I do try to go above and beyond when there’s an issue. For example, our international shipping takes a long time, and tracking stops once the package arrives in the destination country. That’s frustrating when you’re anxiously awaiting a purchase. So I usually tell folks who write in asking about international packages to wait 1 additional week and then let me know if it hasn’t arrived and I’ll ship them a new one. I don’t know if this is necessary, but I’d rather the customer actually get and love the item and become a repeat purchaser than refund them for their trouble and leave them with negative feelings about our brand.Personality is part of tone, and in high school, I was voted Most Sarcastic.
Sometimes it’s difficult to suppress that part of me, but consumers don’t want to interact with awkward and sarcastic business owners. I try to tap into the positive and kind part of myself when replying. I want to be the friendly shopkeeper that makes the purchase experience that much more pleasant. For the most part, I really enjoy responding to customers. Making a human connection with people I’ve never met from all over the world has been truly wonderful. Even if it’s just for a second, to confirm that their Freddie will be in their order or that yes, free shipping does apply to international orders. It’s nice to interact with the people who engage with your brand. I hope the feeling goes both ways.