“Difficult people are the greatest teachers.”
– Pema Chodron
When I first started my shop I was so excited with the possibility of connecting with others and building lasting friendships through the sharing and creating aspect of what I do. Within the last two years of creating keepsakes and crafting lettering goodies for my customers, I’ve learned that running your own Etsy shop isn’t always fun. There are aspects to this that I didn’t really take into consideration and that is: the difficult customer.
Thankfully I’ve only had a couple, but even though working with a tricky customer has it’s fair share of challenges as an Etsy seller, it’s also taught me a great deal about people and how to grow as a small business owner.
So, I thought to share a bit of advice when it comes to working with customers who don’t know what they want, think you have magical post office wizards that can apparate packages, or simply just ghost you.
Just keep in mind, it’s all about your attitude…
This particular customer tends to not read anything you’ve already placed in your listing description. That’s right, although you think that your well-thought out description is being read by every single customer before they contact you just isn’t true. It can definitely be frustrating since simple questions like, “how much for __ of these?”, are sometimes too time consuming to answer considering you put that information in your listing and we’re in the middle of a seasonal rush!
However, it IS important that you think about how you’d like to respond to this potential customer. I found that a lot of my shoppers are actually shopping from their Etsy mobile app or otherwise not on the computer (another great reason to check in on your stats and SEO!). This also indicates that they’re on the move when they’re browsing and, let’s be honest, no one has time to read through the descriptions of every item they look at when commuting.
How to handle:
The simple way to handle this type of customer is pretty easy:
- you either respond with the information they’re requesting OR
- if you find yourself receiving the same question over an over, just have a draft of your pre-written responses handy. Jenni from Fuzzy & Birch (aka the goddess of Etsy) recommends using Etsy’s snippets tool – you can find that handy information here.
We’ve all been there before…A conversation was started requesting a custom order and you’ve spent days going back and forth working out the details, you’ve created the listing…only for it to sit, and sit, and sit. You’ve tried responding every few days just to keep in contact but alas your efforts and time are now gone and your customer is nowhere in sight.
I have found it to be so frustrating whenever I come across a ghoster only because I don’t know if customers truly realize that Etsy seller’s time is very valuable. For my shop, I work hard to meet my customer’s expectations and bring to life a vision or idea they have. It’s one of my favorite aspects of my business, but when customers just don’t respond – grr it just irks me!
How to handle:
Unfortunately there’s no much else you can do. If they don’t get back to you, they don’t. I always try to follow up about once every couple of days initially, then send a last convo that just explains how disappointing it was to not move forward and for them to be courteous to Etsy makers in the future. It’s all one can really do in a situation like this and unfortunately it happens more often than you think.
The Mean Reviewer
Okay, receiving feedback and reviews are one of my favorite things to check as an Etsy seller. I always follow up after I see my customer’s packages have been delivered with a quick note. I’ve found by staying in touch with them, they’re more likely to keep me and my shop in mind for future lettering needs. This could be during the holidays and it equals repeat customers and bonding friendships over time.
However, there are always a few meanies sprinkled in where they weren’t 100% satisfied with their order, shipping times, or practically anything else under the sun. With this kind of customer a little TLC and understanding goes a loooooooooong way.
How to deal:
First, deep breaths and step away for a moment if you need to. Oftentimes when a customer is negatively connecting with you, or has already left a negative review, it’s important to follow up with them but in a way that is pleasing for both sides.
- Always consider the stress your customer is under when placing an order with you.
For my shop, I deal with a lot of brides or members of a bridal party who are ordering bags or other gifts that are intended for a major event. That is a super stressful time and I always make this consideration first.
- Then, it’s all about expressing to them your understanding and willingness to work with them to make things right – the best that you can. Offering to re-ship an item or extending a little discount for their troubles are little ways you can show appreciation towards your customer.
- And finally, customer service will take you far, especially when having to manage someone who’s upset. After you’ve connected with them and worked through what you could, there’s no harm in letting them know how happy you were that you both could come to some resolution. And more often than not, customers are happy to revise their review.
And that’s pretty much it!
You don’t have to be an Etsy seller for long to realize that your small business is in the business of people and the more you learn about people the better you’ll get (over time) at handling things like difficult customers. I personally hate, hate, hate disappointing people – especially if they’re paying good money for a handmade item. However, there are times where there’s a mishap and it’s in my response that has really turned a potential issue into another satisfied customer. Don’t be afraid of the mistakes, see them as ways to adjust your shop and add it to your tool belt of learning experiences.