Gingerbread man relaxing in coffee

If you’ve ever experienced a holiday rush in your shop, you know how hectic it can get.  Packing slips flying.  Ribbon and paper scraps covering the floor.  Boxes all askew in the shipping area.

For a successful creative business, the holiday season is not a joke.  And if you’ve positioned your holiday marketing correctly this season, the chaos will become a reality in the next couple of weeks.

Through it all though, one thing remains the most important.  Offering amazing holiday customer service to your customers.

I recently joined a discussion in one of my Facebook Groups about customer service.  Another seller was commenting on the positive vibes she felt from other Etsy shop sellers’ customer service.  In particular, she liked that the communication that she received from the other Etsy sellers was warm and friendly.  Instead of short and to the point.  

A few other people in the group piped up that they were surprised she could get a response at all.  Lately, many sellers on Etsy have stopped communicating altogether.  Even when you place an order.  (This just happened to me and it was quite frustrating.)

I recently received an order from a customer whose original seller had stopped all communication after she purchased.  She was on a deadline for an event and couldn’t wait any longer.  Sigh.

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Customer service is one the backbones to a successful business. If you do it correctly, your audience will love you and come back again and again.  It’s a great way to organically increase sales and make your shop stand out in a see of look alikes.

Many times customers don’t remember when customer service was done seamlessly.  But, they always recall when it is done badly.  I’m just hoping that all of these negative customer service experiences don’t turn potential buyers away from Etsy.  Especially with the holiday season coming up.

There are lots of things that you can do to make sure your holiday customer service is amazing and make your shop shine.   And your wonderful customer care will most likely make your buyers want to return to your shop during the year to purchase again.

Warm and Friendly

Have you ever gone shopping and dealt with a brusque shop keeper who could care less about making a sale with you?  I know.  Probably happens all of the time.

Don’t let it happen in your shop.  Especially around the holidays.

When working with customers, always be warm and friendly.  Since you are working with online customers, “warm and friendly” comes across in the tone you use in your customer communication.

Take the time to answer their questions completely (or have a series of responses that answers them for you – more on that below).  Make sure you’re in a good mood when responding.  Communication written in anger or annoyance is never a good thing.

If you receive a bad review or poorly stated customer complaint, walk away for a bit before responding to it.  This is one instance when you don’t have to answer right away.

You are more likely to send a calm and friendly response when you’ve had time away from your shop than if you reply when you’re angry.

Don’t Be Afraid to Say No

This one took me a few holiday seasons to learn.  When I started my shop, my main goal was to wow my customers at every turn.  So I accepted a lot of custom design work that took many hours away from my family.

Over time, I’ve learned to only take on custom design projects that I love and know that I can complete quickly.  This was a difficult lesson because it means I let down my customers sometimes.  But it’s important to my overall personal and business well being.

Don’t be afraid to say no to your customers if you can’t complete their requests.  Especially around the holidays.

Another wish you’ll receive a lot this time of year is for a shipping miracle.  I want to be upfront with you.  The postal service doesn’t perform miracles. They don’t even take my phone call when I’m looking for a lost package.

More likely, they will deliver delays.  And lots of them.

Be honest with your customers from the start and say no if you can’t get them their package on time.  It’s better to have a disappointed customer because you told them the truth than an angry one who doesn’t have their gift by a deadline.

When I do say no to my customers, I always come up with an additional solution that they could choose.  For example, if I can’t deliver the favor tags handcrafted in time for their party, I can send a digital design instead that they can make themselves.

Although they might not love the solution that I come up with, at least I’m not leaving them without any options.

Be Consistent

Your shop has policies for a reason.  They are guidelines that you abide to so that your business can run smoothly day to day.  And so you can be consistently fair to all of your customers.

Although you may occasionally waver on a policy or two based on the situation, stick with them as closely as possible.  It will make your holiday customer service so much easier.

Over the last Valentine’s Day season, a customer requested bags with her treat bag toppers.  Although I don’t currently include cello bags with my handcrafted treat bag toppers, I had some left from a past order.  So, I said I would send bags too.

When she received her treat bag toppers, she claimed in her review that her bags didn’t fit the toppers.  She also complained about the quality of the bags.

It turned out that she was holding the bags upside down.  They fit fine.  As to the quality, well, they were a normal thickness of cello bag that you find at the craft store.  And as I said, we don’t usually include cello bags with your order.  I sent them as a courtesy.  To be kind.  If only I’d followed the product description that no bags were included with your order.

Stick with the policies and product details that you have decided on.  You’ve made them for a reason.

Don’t make adjustments in the middle of the holiday season.  It will just cause more headaches and confusion.

Timely

Have you ever waited days or even a week for another Etsy seller to respond?  I know I have.

Life happens.  But if you are trying to increase your sales, make it a goal to respond to customers in a timely manner for your holiday customer service this year is important.

This is even more important since Etsy changed how they do the conversation system.  Now when you click “Contact” underneath your profile picture, a box pops up in the right hand corner for the customer to write their message.

At the top of the box is the wording “Typically Responds within…”.

To have stellar customer service, you want this number to be low.  Customers who are interested in making a purchase don’t want to wait a day to hear from you.  They don’t even want to wait an hour.

By responding in a timely manner, not only does your response time increase, but so do your sales.  Many of my sales result because I was able to quickly get customers that information that they needed.

So, focus on answering questions quickly and keep your response time down.

But how do I speed up my responses when I’m so busy with the holiday rush?

When you’re busy, writing a kind response to customers can be hard.  This is when I use one of my favorite tools in Etsy conversations.  Snippets.  

A snippet is a pre-written response that you can store in Etsy Conversations.  When replying to a customer, instead of writing an original response, you can click on the snippet that best answers that customer’s question.  Using snippets saves lots of time. 

(According to Morgan Nield, it could save over 4 million hours… just kidding.  But if you aren’t convinced yet that snippets are the answer, check out some other reasons here.)

You can write a snippet for any question or conversation you might have.  They can be complete emails (such as the ones I send to customers to let them know that their files have been sent) or just little blurbs to answer a common question.

Before the holiday season gets into full swing, write a couple of snippets to answer questions that you expect to receive.

When using a snippet, I usually take a couple of minutes to tailor it to completely answer the customer.  This makes my response feel more personal and not something that I cut and paste.  Remember, communication needs to be warm and friendly.

If you don’t own an Etsy shop, you can still create a snippets system for your holiday customer service strategy.

Pre-write your most frequent customer responses and store them in a Word document.  Then, cut and paste the snippet into your email for a faster reply.  This also makes it easier to hire a VA to help with responding to customer emails if there are too many of them.

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Always Respond

In addition to being timely with your customer responses, it’s important that you remember to respond in the first place.

Although sometimes difficult, good holiday customer service is based on the idea that no question is too small to answer.

I know.  We’ve all gotten crazy questions from customers over the years.

But even though a question might not seem quite in line with your shop’s niche or products, it’s important to respond to the customer.  Even with a gentle no.

Customers really just want an answer.  When we don’t take the time to respond, it makes our shop look bad.  Customers will remember the shop who didn’t reply.  And they might avoid you the next time they want to buy something in your niche.

Build customer relationships by responding to all of the questions that you’re asked.

I used to ignore questions for projects that I couldn’t do (like adding a monster to our golf birthday invitation).  But, I realized quickly that not responding left customers disliking our shop.  They were less likely to return for another project or event need.

Keep customers coming back again and again (remember, the importance of repeat customers) by always communicating with them.  You never know what they might be interested in purchasing next.

Admit to Mistakes

We’re all human.  And sometimes even as the shop owner and chief maker, we make mistakes.

If you make a mistake with an order, own up to it with your customer.  Let them know as soon as possible that something didn’t work with their order. And provide a refund if necessary.

Most importantly, be truthful with your customers.  It helps build the relationship.

I’ve noticed lately that a lot of customers have been leery of their Etsy experience with our shop.  They’ve asked a lot of questions and have been checking in on details they don’t normally check in on.

It turns out that many of them have had bad experiences with other Etsy shops.

Don’t be that shop.  Build a positive relationship with your customers from day one and your creative business will soar.

Create an Experience

Providing stellar holiday customer service is all about creating an experience for your customers that they can’t get anywhere else.

Keep in mind that there is a reason your customers shop small.  They want to know the business owner and shop.

So use your shop’s customer service as an opportunity to make the Etsy and small business experience amazing.  Include a perk or two for shopping. Add some awesome branding to your packaging.  Communicate honestly and warmly with your customers.  Even make the conversation more personal at moments.

All of these little touches help make purchasing from your shop an experience your customer will want to repeat.  Again and again.

Final Thoughts…

One of the areas creative shops sometimes forget in the midst of the holiday bustle is their holiday customer service.  It’s hard to remember to put your best face forward when you’re juggling extra orders and making sure everything is running smoothly.

But the holiday season is when customers need more special care.  Delivering amazing customer service during the holiday means that they will be happy to return to shop during the rest of the year.

So put on your warmest smile (yes, they can feel your warmth through the cyber cables) and deliver the best customer service you’ve got. 

Most importantly, make sure it’s timely.  No one likes to wait forever for a response.  Plus, the faster you reply, the more likely someone is to purchase from your shop.

Interested in boosting your sales this holiday season?  Check out the rest of our holiday themed blog posts to help your business shine (and grow).

Getting your Shop Ready for the Holiday Rush

Adding Holiday Branding to your Shop

Creative Holiday Marketing Ideas

Holiday Blog Post Ideas for your Business

How to Make Small Business Saturday Successful

The Why and How of the 12 Days of Christmas Sale

And as always, plan your holiday marketing strategy early this year.  Add new holiday products to your shop now.  Create your content so it’s ready to be posted (and this could mean putting up a tree and decorations for photo shoots now).

Most importantly – have fun.  The holidays are still the most wonderful time of the year.  Especially if you own a creative business.

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