Friday, 16 August 2013

The Business of Being in Business

This is not a rant nor will I be naming names for the sake of keeping any sort of on going drama tightly lidded, however I want to address something that I’ve experienced and how I perceive to impact the overall wellspring of online retail.

I purchased an item from an online seller, some one who I thought I knew well enough to purchase from. I read their blog, watched their YT vids and corresponded through email with them. I felt comfortable enough to buy something I had wanted for awhile; unfortunately I learned a hard lesson. The item I purchased never came, subsequent messages promised the posting of said item, followed by an email explaining to me there was personal upheaval in the seller’s life and therefore may take a little extra time (of this I was perfectly understanding, life happens and there’s not much to be done), followed by other messages promising all sorts of ridiculous extras that were ‘apologies’ for the lateness of the purchase. I knew it was crap, who adds extras exceeding the value of what you bought? No-one.

Cut to nearly 9 months later and my purchase has not appeared, messages were never answered and I soon discovered that I was not the only person who had suffered at the hands of this seller. As it turns out, this seller had scammed quite a few people out of their money and in some cases, purchases over two hundred dollars. Measures were taken to try and get our purchases, promises recently made are yet to manifest as truth but we shall see. Personally I’m not holding my breath, I don’t think I’ll see my purchase and honestly, I don’t think it will be the last time people will suffer at the hands of this particular online retailer.

I’ve been in business in one form or another for several years and I would never dream of scamming anyone. Truth be told, I’ve never had any issues, one could argue I’ve been lucky, but that is simply not it. I’ve understood that my business is based on customer service and word of mouth; online you can’t afford a bad review because it’ll be the end of you. It only takes one person to have a bad experience and it becomes what you’re known for, whether it is the truth or not. Do it to more than one person and you can kiss your online career goodbye. There are several key points I’ve come to understand, through experience, as important – one must live up to them if they want success.

Reputation is Key

Reputation is everything. Simple as that. Without it you’re done. It takes awhile to build one up, as it does with anyone, if you keep yours good, you’ll do well but if you screw over your customers and treat them badly, you’ll soon learn that it is very hard, if not impossible, to recover. When customers buy from me, I always send a message with tracking informing the customer of when their item is shipped. If they make multiple purchases from me, I always add in an appropriate bonus to say thank you. This makes customers think positively of you and return. Once you lose your reputation, you may as well walk away because it is, as mentioned, nigh on impossible to get it back.

Honesty

Be honest with your customers and about the products you are supplying. No one wants to get something and find out it is far removed from what was promised nor do people want to end up hearing empty lies and ridiculous stories. The seller I have written about did this, the thing is, the story was never kept straight so several of us ended up with very different accounts of why our purchases never materialized.

Integrity

A rare commodity these days, integrity is key. It’s not hard to develop it and use it within your business. If you don’t have integrity, you’ll soon be found out. You’ll be known as a shady person.

Timeliness

Always ship your orders in a timely fashion. I have a 2 day handling on my parcels, simply because I live quite rural and the nearest post office to post things is well over 20km away. However, even if it is going to be 48 hours, and this is clearly stated in my policies, I still contact the customer and inform them of whether or not I will be posting within 24hrs of payment. It’s just polite and it makes the customer feel as though you are making an effort – which you should be.

The thing about being in business is that it really requires very little effort to be an effective, honest online retailer. Thinking ahead you can build a loyal and friendly customer base that enjoys your service, product or whatever it is you sell. This is why I have no patience toward sellers who take their time or treat you as the aforementioned experience did. I was quite angry at the seller for a long time because I felt, as an online retailer myself, that it is not that difficult to do your job – especially if it is one you chose for yourself. As a seller I was offended that another would be so callous and disingenuous and quite frankly, fraudulent. Even if I get my purchase, this far down the line it will not change my opinion of this retailer and should anyone ever ask me if I’d heard of them, I would be honest about my experience, because no one should be taken advantage of and ripped off. No one should be scammed, lied to or treated as a fool.

As a business owner, it is important that your customer have a positive experience, it’s essential to your livelihood. It never pays to be a horrible online retailer, and it doesn’t actually take much effort to be a fantastic one.

3 comments:

  1. Great post! When I had my Etsy shop I always tried to ship things as quickly as possible because I know what it's like to wait impatiently by the mailbox for a package of goodies. I always tried to treat customers as I would want to be treated if I was buying.

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  2. Fantastic Post CW...
    I must admit, these are all things I look for in my online seller...sometimes they are very lacking and we have had to fight to get our purchases as well, it's nasty stuff and really sours you on wanting to buy online...
    I must admit I follow all your rules when I am selling online...I always think of how I would like to be treated and do the same to my customer...
    I hope you didn't lose too much money in this adventure!!

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