Really You What?
The other day my wife received an email from a lady in Michigan. She had received earrings from my wifes store as a gift for Christmas. She mentioned that her sister in law had bought the earrings for her as a Christmas gift. She said she didn’t really love them. She said she had worn them twice but they weren’t her style.
She then asked if she could exchange them for something else on the site. She mentioned that her sister in law had spent $75 on the earrings. She said it was a terrible waste that she didn’t like them or didn’t want to wear them any more.
Yes. In my neck of the woods we call this Chutzpah.
Note we are in April and she has worn them a couple of times.
Yes April. It was far outside of my wifes return and exchange policy. She couldn’t sell theses earrings again after they had been worn. They were of no value any more.
But the customer was.
My wife emailed back the lady and explained that she was long out of the exchange period. Despite this she wanted her to be happy. As an exception she told her to mail back the earrings and she would give her store credit.
The lady was ecstatic. Now whether the lady was entitled to return them or not is one argument. The true discussion is about building a following one customer at a time.
In this case, both the girl who received the gift and her sister in law will remember this. You don’t know for sure whether they will buy again from my wife but they left with a good taste in their mouth. They went away happy and this is how you build an online brand.
Building a customer base is a slow painstaking process. You need to win over customers one at a time. This often means providing customer service that is exceptional and sometimes painful. My wife has been reading Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh. He is the founder and CEO of Zappos.
Zappos built an entire brand on customer service. She is trying to instill a lot of his beliefs in her own company. She wants to build by delivering exceptional service.
Customers Can Be Nasty
When starting out, you need to worry about your customers more than yourself. You have policies but you need to make exceptions. Let customers know you are making the exception for them. Make each customer feel important. Without them you have no business.
They say for every happy customer they tell 1 friend and for every unhappy customer, they tell 6.
The internet is a big place but everybody has a platform. Your name and brand can be tarnished quickly. You have to treat every customer like they are your only customer. This may mean that you lose some money on their first sale.
Hopefully they will come back and spend more or tell friends who will. Its not worth upsetting people when you are trying to build a brand.
Bad reviews online can hurt your reputation and spread like wildfire.
Negativity aside, you are trying to build exceptional experiences.
Our Exceptional Experience With A Simple Thank You Note
About two years ago we bought my mother flowers online. You can see my mom in my post about offline marketing ideas.
We bought the flowers from a new company online at the time. They had just opened here in Miami but all orders were through their website. I’m not sure how we found them but they had beautiful arrangements and vases.
The whole presentation was over the top and it showed. They nailed the whole experience including the packaging and exceeded our expectations. That’s tough to do with flowers.
Usually your order flowers and get a pathetic, small, embarrassing bouquet. These were different and it showed. Judge for yourself.
They were serious. So serious they got bought out. As I looked for the site now to include in this post I found they had been acquired by FTD. In less than two years they had made enough disruption that the big boy came to buy them. There goes that good thing.
But the reason I bring Kalla up is because they had incredible execution. After delivering an exceptional product with exceptional presentation, they ended with further perfection. Two weeks after my wife had placed the order, she received a hand written card in the mail. The address was handwritten and inside was a handwritten simple Thank You note.
They nailed it. The card said blah, blah, we nailed it and you love us now.
No it didn’t say that.
But it could have.
It said something like I’m Elsie and I’m here for any other flower needs you have. Thank you for your business.
Regardless, it was perfect. It made such an impression on both of us that here I am two years later talking about this simple thank you note.
It was impressionable because it took time and effort. We receive so many emails these days. Nobody wants to talk on the phone. But old school snail mail is still cool. This was a way to show they cared. It separated them from the pack.
People Are Funny Creatures
People like to get mail. Its a funny thing but apart from bills, it feels like you are getting something fun. Invitations, gifts, a simple thank you note, it doesn’t matter. Who knows why but its just something people like. When you end an experience with a personalized, handwritten, simple thank you note, you stand out.
So when my wife started her online store, she knew she wanted to do this. Its labor intensive and not systematic. Its time consuming and expensive.
But it works and it makes a difference.
This is the easiest way to stick out from the others. She has an online fashion jewelry store. There are tons of sites for people to buy from.
Why are they going to buy from her?
Because she offers a curated collection with exceptional service. That’s why.
And she’s my wife. 🙂
But It’s Not Scalable?
So as the business continues to grow in her first year, she has started to get swamped. She is being eaten alive by thank you notes. She has handwritten all them herself up to this point. Its getting a little overwhelming and its probably not the best use of her time.
What to do?
As I read more about successful people and successful businesses i see repeated themes. To grow and to scale you must create processes. Tasks that are teachable or repeatable should be taught and delegated to someone else.
I highly recommend the book E-Myth if you haven’t read it already. Its the basis for the idea of systematizing as your business grows.
Got a Spare Writing Hand?
My wife doesn’t have an army of employees and she can’t afford to hire someone. At least not now. It doesn’t make sense to write a simple thank you note.
We must outsource.
Simple Thank You Note Writing – Strike #1
I knew there had to be a way to get Thank You notes written by someone else. We can’t be the first person to of thought of this. I Googled “thank you card writing” and sure enough, there it was.
I found a small company out of Baltimore that looked perfect. They weren’t too big and their site looked just basic enough that I thought they would be affordable.
Unfortunately they did not have their pricing online so I had to submit an inquiry. I filled out the information and waited the weekend.
And a week…
And another week…
And finally we received an email from them. Bad news, it was too expensive. They offered exactly what we wanted. They would hand write all the thank yous. When they were done they would send them back to us so that my wife could postmark them from Miami Beach.
The problem was that it was going to cost $3.24 per thank you.
This was too much.
As it stands, my wife spends 60 cents on the card and envelope and 34 cents to mail it. Thats about $1 plus her time. With another $3.24 on top of that, this was approaching $5 per order.
It didn’t make sense at this point.
Simple Thank You Note Writing – Strike #2
I had to get creative. Surely there was someone who was sitting at home doing nothing. Why wouldn’t they want to entertain themselves and make a little extra money?
This is as much about entertaining themselves as it is about making the money.
We are not talking serious cash.
We had decided that $1 to write the thanks yous was about as much as she could justify spending.
I took to Google again in search of other options. I did find some other services and surprisingly they were more expensive. These were larger more legitimate companies. They appeared to be doing this for some large brands. They were close to $5 per thank you.
I was headed in the wrong direction. I just needed a hand and a pen. This is not rocket science.
Simple Thank You Note Writing – Strike #3
Then I remembered a lady who actually writes blog posts for one of Bob and My sites. She writes for us once a week but had expressed interest in writing more if we needed it. She has been doing this for almost a year and is reliable and competent.
Maybe should would be interested.
I sent off an email and waited the weekend to hear back from her.
On Monday morning she politely declined. She just said that she would pass. I suppose the money wasn’t great or maybe she didn’t like writing. Either way, I couldn’t blame her.
The Hail Mary
(Yes from 3 Strikes in Baseball to Football We go. I was already out in Baseball and I need a last chance. There’s no 4th Strike..)
Two weeks passed and the thank you notes were piling up. I had to find a way to get someone to write them for her. When in doubt head to Craigs List.
I can’t tell you how much stuff I have sold over the years on Craigs List. This site still amazes me. A simple site, with no design, is so incredibly powerful.
So last night I typed up a job description and posted it on Craigs List. I used one of my favorite little tips.
The Secret Weeding Machine
Over the years Bob and I have posted a lot of job postings on Craigs List. Unfortunately with the good comes the bad. There are tons of people on Craigs List that just apply for any and all jobs without reading.
I talked about this technique in my post about ecommerce marketing with YouTube on FameBit. People are their own worst enemies. To weed out the people who aren’t serious, I ask them to follow directions.
I clearly state that when applying for the job they need to include the name of their favorite Disney character.
It seems silly but this does two things.
1. It shows that you can follow directions
2. It shows that we are real people.
I like the lightheartedness of the question and you would be surprised how many people this weeds out. I even put that your inquiry will be ignored if you don’t include this.
People aren’t reading.
I’m not considering their request.
Its been really effective for us over the years. You want people that are thorough, organized and can follow directions. This helps find them.
Below is my Craigs List posting.
As of this morning, we have already received a response.
I am interested in this opportunity. I’m great with spelling and I have print or cursive handwriting skills. Please contact me with more details about writing your simple thank you note.
Sorry Charlie. No Disney Character, No interest.
The next email came in around 3 o’clock with the email subject PLUTO
My name is XXXXXX…I live in Ft Lauderdale and am retired. I have owned and operated 3 small businesses in my life…also a seamstress for 45 years designing outfits for my womens sportswear and swimwear lines. I am left handed but write like a right hander. I have very nice handwriting. I believe in the personal touch
Looks like we may have a winner. I have a fondness for left handers.
Systematize It All
While my Thank You card experiment isn’t over, it’s clear an alternative is needed. We will find someone to write them as it’s too important to leave behind.
As her company grows, you can’t forget the little things that differentiate you from the others.
Find other ways to continue to differentiate your brand while keeping that personal feel.
The Simple Thank You Note works for her. Maybe they would work for you.
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