Last week I somehow bumbled into the store of MariaBeatriz Beck, owner of MB Software. While MB is not the biggest script shop, MariaBeatriz's flagship product is a very interesting picture frame that slowly dissolves between images. I've never seen that in Second Life, and clearly she is a talented scripter.
We talked not only of scripts (since particle effects such as I build are also just a kind of script), but of customer service. We both run serious virtual retail operations and have common issues and concerns. Customer service is a critical element for business success in real or virtual life. Perhaps not so strange is that we both had very similar principles of customer service:
- Listening Carefully: Too many shopkeepers talk too much. It's important to listen. Customers often want to tell you things about themselves or what they are doing or what they need. Listen to them, and you will learn how you can help them. At the very least you'll gain some respect from them for taking the time to hear out their tales.
- Asking Questions: The opposite of listening is to ask questions. It's not good for you to tell your tales to the customer; we want them to focus on their own situation, not yours! Take part in their headspace and you may bond with them. A little bit.
- Following Up: Check back with customers to ensure they are good with things they have purchased, especially if they are unusual or custom made. Let them know that you care! (You do, don't you?)
- Being Nice: By default I try to be nice myself, but a few shopkeepers are not. Would you want to shop at store where the owner was abusive or cold? Uncaring? Rude? I wouldn't. Be extra nice: give out some freebies now and then. It costs you very little, especially when you consider the goodwill you generate afterwards. Make sure they leave with a smile, even if they don't buy anything.
- Seeing it from the Customer Point of View. In a way, that's what I've been writing above, but I will say it again; get into their head. If you can deeply understand your customer, you can help them in ways otherwise impossible.
- Being Flexible. You'd be surprised how many customers have special needs. It might be adjustments to the products, the price, the manner of payment or even the delivery of the goods. Give them a break and figure out a way to handle their situation. I really appreciate that when I shop, so why not do it yourself?
- Moderation. There is a point where you can go too far serving customers. Consider the Following Up advice above: how much should you do? MariaBeatriz says:
I always try to IM to see if everything is fine. Of course, not every week... just after the first week, so I do not appear annoying. In my point of view, if you follow up too much, it's like you try to force them to buy more stuff, and I don't like that. It's like going to a car dealer in US, and the *******guy bugs you until you buy something :) You go there and they ask 'Can I help you?' One time, nice. Two or three times? I run away, annoyed!
You really have to know the balance between helpful and annoying.
Probably there are other tips, but we believe these to be the key to successful customer service. Will these make or break your store? They'll certainly help, but only if you do all the other things right too! Bottom Line: Look after their smiles, and your smiles will take care of themselves.