Features and Upgrades
Everything in this next section is optional. You can run a successful SA business without adding a single feature above a basic selling service, but what will really define your service and set it apart are the features you offer and the ways you upgrade your service above the bare minimum. While you’ll likely come up with your own ways to make your service your own, this section will get you started with proven selling points to draw customers to your service.
Good Customer (and Client) Service
I know, I can’t believe I have to list it either, but, believe it or not, customer service is one of the last things many sellers think of as part of their service, and it’s one of the biggest things that can hold any business back. Is it really a feature or upgrade? Well, since most of us can probably think of several businesses off the top of our head that continue to thrive despite terrible customer service, treating your customers right isn’t technically required to run a business. If you’re the only SA in the area, you might be able to get away with being a total jerk and still have a steady stream of customers. But being good to your customers and clients can make a big difference to the success of your business, winning you more loyalty, leading to repeat customers and word-of-mouth marketing.
The best customer service starts as a philosophy you have in mind from the moment you start your business rather than one that you try to shoehorn in after the fact as damage control. It also doesn’t need to be as complicated as you might think. After all, most of your customers, especially in the beginning, will be your friends, family and people from your own community, and these are all people you’d want to do right by anyway.
There are also two types of customers you’ll be dealing with while running a Selling Assistance service: clients and customers. While both are technically customers, I tend think of “customers” as the buyers who purchase items from your store, whether those items are yours or your clients’, while “clients” are the item owners who contract you to do the selling. Is there a different recipe for keeping each group happy?
No matter which kind of customer you’re dealing with, you’ll want to be sure that you…
- Have prompt and professional communication. Always return phone calls and emails promptly. Arrive on time for your client pick-up or call ahead if you’re unavoidably running late. Use correct grammar and spelling in all your spoken and writing interactions, and this goes for quick emails and text messages as well as more obvious things like your item description or contracts. Communicate any delays and be upfront about issues. Never resort to personal attacks or other heated dialog.
- Handle any issues quickly and fairly. If problems arise, and they will despite your best efforts, deal with them immediately and do your best to resolve them in a way that’s fair to your customer. If a buyer’s item arrived damaged and they email you about it, every minute that you don’t reply they’ll get more worried that you’re cheating them and more angry. A quick answer, even if it’s just to acknowledge that you got the message and are following up, shows the buyer that you care and that you’re working on their problem. Using the same example, it wouldn’t be fair to tell them that the damaged item is their problem if you’re the one who could have packed the item better or insured it. No one ever wants to give a customer their money back, but sometimes it’s the right thing to do. In the same way, if your client is angry about how you handled a sale, address it immediately and compensate if needed.
For your store customers, you’ll also want to ship your items promptly, package everything well, write clear descriptions, offer a good return policy, and take great item photos. For clients, you’ll need to fulfill your contracted promises, sell their items to the best of your abilities, honor their requests and address their fears and concerns with confidence. In a way, it involves wearing two different hats because what’s good for your business isn’t necessarily good for your customers, and you’ll need to decide when to prioritize the needs of one over the other.
That said, never underestimate the power of an apology and, failing that, a partial refund. Sometimes just a genuine “I’m sorry,” even if you’re certain that you weren’t the one in the wrong, can smooth over a situation to where there’s no need for any additional compensation. And while you’ll often need to issue full refunds or give extras as the only way to fix a bad situation, you’ll be amazed at how often people are satisfied with just a partial refund, even if it’s only a few dollars. With many angry customers, it’s the principle of the thing more than the money itself, and a little humility and a few dollars on your part can make it all go away with surprising ease.
Good customer service doesn’t need to be complicated. Just use the good old Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. In any dealing with a customer or client, just put yourself in their position and treat them as you would want to be treated in that situation. In some cases, you may need to tweak this since something that wouldn’t bother you may bother your customers, and you’ll need to adjust accordingly, but it’ll still give you a great foundation to work from. And while it may drive you crazy to have to give a refund or go the extra mile for that pain-in-the-butt customer that’s being a thorn in your side, remember, an unhappy customer can do serious damage to your business through bad word of mouth. An unhappy customer that you win back around, however, can turn into not only one of your best customers but also give back a hundredfold through good word of mouth.