Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Business Chat - shop policies

No matter how big or small your business is, online or at a craft show, it is a shop. And shops need shop policies. One of the best things you can do for yourself is to prethink any problems a customer can present you with so that you always have a ready answer. What if your customer is buying your work as a gift and the recipient doesn’t like the colour? Can she exchange it? How does she do that? Humming and squirming and not having a ready answer doesn’t put you in a good light; look professional and state clearly what your return policy is. Of course you know your return policy because you’ve already thought about this and written it down. In turn having specific information about shipping, returns and other things makes a customer feel more confident in you and your work. The more professional and business like you appear the more the customer will treat you as such.

Here’s some tips and advice about creating your own shop policies.

Make your policies fair and treat your customers as you would like to be treated. If you feel that a 7 day return policy is too short then create one that is longer. Do you feel that you should be able to return items after 2 months? Then make that your policy. Your policy is your standard however you can always bend the rules in certain cases (it’s your shop).

Keep your policies positive. Phrases such as “I don’t take responsibility if you break it” can be worded in a better way.

KISS. Keep it simple seller. No need for wordy legalese, make sure people can understand. This is especially important for an online shop where some of your customers are non-English speaking.
Refunds and exchanges. What is fair? What would you want? Make sure to include under what conditions you will accept an exchange or return and within what time frame. Think about the whole process, including who is responsible for the cost of shipping the item back. If you don’t have a storefront or a website, how is the buyer going to exchange this?

What payment methods do you accept? Post this on your sales table at a craft show, post this on your website/online storefront.

Your shipping policies for online stores. How often do you ship and within what timeframe after an order is placed? Do you offer shipping upgrades for those you’ve left their gift purchases until the last minute? Do you offer special touches like gift cards? Spell it all out for your customer. Leave them with no questions to ask.

Packaging. Online it’s really important to describe your packaging as they can’t see it. At a show it’s also important, having an item nicely gift packaged can be a deciding factor for some buyers (especially men).

Miscellaneous policies. If you have any special things you offer tell your customers. I offer gift cards that customers can send me the text for. They’re nice cards by a fellow artist, I write birthday greetings or whatever and include them. This way someone can have me send a present and it looks that much more personalized. What can you do to make a customer happy? What would make you happy?

This is what is boils down to. What would make you want to buy? Find those magic buttons and make them yours. Now tell your customers all about them.

· Other policies and additional information —
Do you offer gift wrapping? Do you have policies that do not fit into any of the listed categories?
For most sellers, developing shop policies is an ongoing process that goes hand in hand with learning what works and what doesn't work for your shop and the types of products you sell. Shop policies are as unique as the handmade items in your shop, so take some time to develop policies that will work for you.

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