Saturday, February 11, 2012

Designing Crochet: Customer Service

Last year I did a series of posts on designing crochet. I covered several subjects, from writing patterns to using testers. But one very important thing that I haven't covered yet is customer service. If you are going to publish your designs, you have to keep your customers happy. My customers make it possible for me to do what I love; design and publish my own  crochet patterns. I am so grateful to them, and I want them to know how much I appreciate them. So, I give them the best service that I possibly can.
This means first of all, making sure that they receive what they paid for. I send out follow up emails and convos on every pattern that I send out from my Etsy shop, to let the customer know that the patterns have been sent, and thanking them for their purchase. That way, if the email with their patterns attached goes to their spam or junk mail folders, they will know to look for it. Some shops handle this differently, and ask the customer to notify them if they don't receive their pattern within 24 hours, but I think that once the customer has paid for a pattern, it is up to me to make sure they receive it.
Secondly, you must make sure that the customer can actually make the item from the pattern you have written. This means answering any questions they may have. I have all of my patterns tested for accuracy and clarity, but sometimes someone will have a question. When they do, I get back to them as soon as possible. Most questions can be answered with an email and a close up photo of the item in question, if I have one available. From time to time I get questions from beginners, or someone trying something for the first time. My friend Shirley Brown, who did Customer Service for Annie's Attic, used to say that she often felt like she was teaching folks to crochet over the phone. There have been times when I felt like I was teaching someone to crochet through email, but I always keep at it until the customer understands what to do.
Customer service also means building a relationship with your customers. I maintain this blog, a Facebook page and a Ravelry account (although I am not on Ravelry everyday) in order to stay in touch with my customers. Sometimes I feel a bit stretched thin. I get emails from two different email accounts, questions and messages from, convos from Etsy, messages and comments on Facebook, messages on Ravelry and comments here on the blog that I read everyday. From time to time Annie's Attic forwards me messages that have been sent to them.
I try to answer every message I get in a timely manner, but sometimes I fall behind. But if a customer takes the time to write me, I feel it is important for me to write them back.
The secret to good customer service is really no secret at all; just make your customers happy, and let them know that they are important to you and that you care about them. If they are happy with the patterns and the service they have received from you, they will come back to purchase  more of your patterns in the future. If not, they will buy someone else's patterns. It is as simple as that.

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