Posts tagged with "Joseph Heller"

Boutique illustration by Heather Skovlund for 360 Magazine

Boutique Customer Service Tips

Customer Service Tips Every Boutique Retailer Should Try

By: Joseph Heller, small businesses expert and CEO of Supplied!

Supplied makes it easier for small boutique owners around the world to access high-quality, affordable wholesale boutique items, whether to stock their physical store or IG shop.

Do you remember the last time you had a truly fantastic customer service experience?

Maybe a cashier complimented your earrings, or maybe the person at the drive-thru unexpectedly threw an extra taco in for free. Or maybe you were just really vibin’ with the enthusiasm you could hear at the other end of the customer support line. Whatever it was, chances are it made you more excited to return and support that company with your business in the future.

Now… think back to the last time you had an awful customer service experience.

Was someone being unnecessarily difficult while you were trying to return a sweater, you’d bought a week ago? Or did someone leave you on hold for hours and hours? Or maybe someone just would NOT honor your coupon, even though you received it in an email yesterday?

Whatever that bad experience was… I’d be willing to bet it made you a whole lot less likely to go back anytime soon.

As Vince Lombardi famously said, “It takes months to find a customer and seconds to lose one.” One poor customer service experience could cause you to lose all of a valuable customer’s future business.

Offering better customer service skills often doesn’t cost a dime, but it can make a world of a difference for your profits. Studies show that acquiring a new customer can cost five times as much as retaining an existing customer. Plus, the success rate of marketing to a customer you already have is 60-70%, while it’s only 5-20% when marketing to a new customer. 

If you haven’t been making great customer service a major priority in your boutique lately, now is the time to change that. 

Read on to learn 25 powerful (but easy!) customer service tips every retailer should try implementing in their business.

(If you’ve hired someone else as the main customer service rep for your boutique business, send this article along to them as a reminder!)

Top 25 Customer Service Tips

Focus on the customer in front of you

As a boutique owner, you’ve constantly got about a zillion and one thing that need your time and attention. But when it’s a customer you’re dealing with, zero in on them and their needs. Nobody likes feeling unimportant – make sure you give them your undivided attention while they’re talking to you, whether it’s over the phone, in person, or in your site’s live chat.

Be empathetic

Chances are, you’ve been in the exact same situation your customer’s in right now – whether they’re trying to figure out what size shoe to purchase or they’re trying to initiate a return for something that didn’t turn out the way they’d hoped. Do your best to see the situation from their perspective. You’ll be able to provide a better customer experience if you’re in touch with their needs and emotions.

Make an extra effort

Work tirelessly to solve your customer’s problems. If a customer wants a certain size that’s out of stock, double-check your inventory, let them know when they can expect that item to come back, offer them alternatives, or give them a discount code for their trouble. Your customers will appreciate you going the extra mile for them.

Improve systems

Customer service isn’t just about making your customer feel valued while you’re speaking to them – it’s also about providing a great all-around customer experience. Do a quick audit of your website and make sure it’s user-friendly. Is it easy to check out? Browse new arrivals? Search for specific items? Purchase using the payment method they prefer? If not, set aside some time to make some adjustments.

Identify their needs

There might be all sorts of things you could be doing to provide a better customer experience that you don’t even realize yet. Put together a short survey to send out to your customers about the checkout process and their past customer service experiences. It’ll show you what’s going well and what you could improve.

Use their name

Simple, but effective. Whenever a customer reaches out to you, take note of their name and use it. It’ll give your communications a more personal touch. (Don’t forget to introduce yourself by name, too!) Bonus points if you remember other personal details about them for next time.

Smile

Yes, even if you’re not talking to the customer in person! Make an effort to be friendly and positive, even if you’re just sitting at your desk at home – you can totally hear a smile through the phone, and it makes a difference.

Be generous

If you could spend $5 to secure a customer who’s loyal to you for life… would you do it? Sometimes, that’s all it takes. When a customer reaches out to you, your priority is to make them happy – offering free shipping or accepting a late return can do just the trick. And that’s not just common sense – research shows that accepting someone’s generosity makes you feel indebted to them, which can translate to return business.

Don’t say “I don’t know”

Sure, you’re not gonna immediately have the answers to every single one of your customers’ questions… but it’s kinda your job to know. So, when you tell a customer “I don’t know,” what they hear is “I don’t care.” Not exactly the message you’d like to get across when you’re on the phone with a customer! Practice saying “Let me check on that for you” instead.

Celebrate birthdays

Acknowledging your customer’s birthdays is a surefire way to make them feel valued and appreciated. Ask your customers for your birthday as they sign up for your mailing list, then send them an email with a promo code for a free gift or a discount right before their special day.

Be clear about your policies

Your customers aren’t mind-readers – if you don’t let them know, they have no idea about how long shipping should take, where you ship to, or under what circumstances you accept returns. Be sure your shipping and returns policies are clearly stated on your website to avoid confusion. It’ll answer some questions before they’re ever even asked!

Honor your promises

Your customers need to know that they can trust your boutique to deliver the value it promises. Stick to the shipping and return policies you have listed on your website (unless you choose to go above and beyond them, of course!) Honor coupons and discount codes for as long as you said you would. Post any giveaway winners publicly in your stories. Trust is key!

Acknowledge frequent customers…

Let your return customers know how much you appreciate them! Whether you throw a quick handwritten thank-you note into their next order or you offer a discount code that’s good for their next purchase, it’ll definitely make them want to keep coming back.

But make sure new customers feel the love, too!

It’s a big leap to order from a company you’ve never purchased anything from before – make sure new customers feel super welcome. Acknowledge new customers by offering free shipping on their first order, sending a promo code when they sign up for your mailing list, or even sending a quick thank-you email for taking a chance on your shop.

Be transparent

Running a business is tough, and sometimes extenuating circumstances make it even tougher. Be open with your customers about the hurdles you’re currently going through, especially if it will affect shipping times or restock dates.

Sincerely apologize

We all make mistakes – especially when we’re doing huge, crazy difficult things like running a business. If you’ve made a mistake on a customer’s order, own your error, sincerely apologize, and do whatever it takes to make things right. It’s much more professional than shrugging off responsibility or blaming someone else. (Bonus points if you reach out and own up to it before the customer even notices!)

Make it easy to get in touch

Have you ever sent an email to a company’s customer service team… and then never heard anything back? Yeah, that’s the worst. Don’t be that company. Let your customers know the best way to reach you, whether it’s through Instagram DMs, email, or over the phone. If you want to go the extra mile, include a live chat feature on your website that’s available 24/7. (Also, word of advice: if you have a contact form on your website, make sure to check it every so often!)

Offer self-help customer service

If your customers can find their own answers to their questions, it makes their lives easier AND your life easier. Include a comprehensive FAQ page on your website that answers common questions about shipping, sales, returns, and more. For more complicated questions, you might want to write up an entire blog post to give your customers more information. Just be sure your customers still know that they can reach out to you with any questions they can’t find the answers to.

Plan for the holidays

Here’s a hot tip: over the holidays, things get BUSY. Even if you usually don’t have very many people blowing up your inbox about shipping questions, there’s a very good chance you will during the holidays. Make sure you’re prepared with multiple customer service reps helping respond to questions (if need be) and detailed holiday shipping info displayed on your website and social media pages.

Respond quickly

Make it a goal to respond to all customer emails within 48 hours whenever possible. No matter how busy you are, customers want to feel like their concerns and questions are a top priority. As for Instagram DMs, Facebook messages, and comments, try and get in a habit of responding to those right when you see them. (Your customers will like that and so will the algorithm!)

Hire the right people

If you’ve only recently opened your boutique business, you might be the only person your customers ever interact with. But as you grow and add more people to your team, make sure they’re people who are kind, friendly, and pleasant to interact with. Nobody’s perfect, but a positive attitude can make all the difference.

Be polite

Pretend you’re at the dinner table with your strict aunt – say lots of pleases and thank yous. Not only is it common courtesy, but it’s also good business. It’ll also help you still sound friendly and polite even when you’re communicating via messenger or text.

Set clear expectations

Sorry, but you’re not superwoman. When your customers approach you asking when they can buy an item you aren’t planning on restocking, or when they ask if you can make sure the package, they just ordered gets to them by tomorrow, sometimes you just can’t give them the answer they were hoping for. Be realistic in your responses and don’t make promises you can’t keep. Setting clear expectations is also helpful in responding to emails – sending an automated email letting a customer know when they can expect a response is also helpful, even if they were initially hoping for a reply right away.

Be human

There isn’t a robot at the other end of all of those incoming customer emails – it’s bright, bubbly, sparkly you! Don’t be afraid to infuse your communications with your genuine personality. Strike up a conversation with a customer on the phone, ask about their day, say “top of the morning to ya” instead of “hello” when you feel like it. It’ll help forge a relationship with your customers!

Offer suggestions

Have you ever asked a waiter what you should order, only for them to respond, “I love everything on the menu equally!” Yeah, that’s not helpful – don’t be like that guy. When your customers ask for your opinion, politely give it. You’re the real expert on the products you carry – use your insider knowledge to guide your customers to the right decision for them.

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Joseph Heller
Joseph Heller, small businesses expert and CEO of Supplied!
Valentine Image by Kaelen Felix for 360 Magazine

15 Valentine’s Day Marketing Ideas for Your Boutique

By Joseph Heller

Love is in the air, gals… Valentine’s Day is almost here! If you’re new to owning an online boutique and this is the first Valentine’s Day you’ll be celebrating as a small business owner, the approach of February 14th might have you mainly thinking about what you’ll get for your significant other and (maybe even more so) what he or she will get for you. Or maybe you typically spend Valentine’s Day with your best single gal pals, eating chocolate and exchanging gifts.

But Valentine’s Day isn’t all about love, romance, and cheesy cards. No matter how big or small your eCommerce business is, it can be a day that drives sales like no other – especially if you sell clothing, jewelry, or other gifts. In fact, it rivals only Christmas in consumer spending. If you play your cards right, the days surrounding Valentine’s Day could make up one of your best sales weeks of all time.

Of course, competing with major retailers isn’t easy, least of all on Valentine’s Day. Stores all over the country are spending thousands of dollars on Valentine’s marketing, trying to get people to buy their gifts from them. Sure, you could have an incredible selection of Valentine’s gifts and accessories, available for great prices – but if nobody knows about your shop, it won’t do you any good in the end.

If you’re going to drive both new and existing customers to your shop for their Valentine’s shopping, you’ve got to get creative about your Valentine’s Day marketing. Read on to learn 15 affordable Valentine’s Day marketing ideas for your boutique – and why you really should care to do something special for this holiday in the first place.

Valentine’s Day and eCommerce

The numbers are clear – Americans spend a whole lot of dough on Valentine’s Day. The average American celebrating Valentine’s Day spent $196.31 on Valentine’s Day in 2020, adding up to a total of $27.4 billion spent on the holiday in 2020. Trends show that number only heading upwards – 2020 spending was up 32% from 2019.

Of course, that’s just the big picture – and not all of that money is being spent in boutiques like yours. Here are a few other stats you should be aware of that paint the picture of consumer spending on Valentine’s Day, based on 2020 numbers:

  • 32% buy Valentine’s Day gifts from discount stores.
  • Men spend nearly three times as much as women on Valentine’s Day.
  • $5.8B was spent on Valentine’s Day jewelry
  • $4.3B was spent on a Valentine’s Day night out
  • $2.4B was spent on Valentine’s Day chocolate
  • $2.3B was spent on flowers
  • $2B was spent on Valentine’s Day gift cards
  • $1.3B was spent on Valentine’s Day greeting cards
  • 45% of adults didn’t celebrate Valentine’s Day
  • 15% of Americans buy themselves a present on Valentine’s Day
  • Americans spend an average of $12.21 on Valentine’s Day gifts for their pets

With all of that shopping and spending going on during the Valentine’s Day season, you’ll want to make sure your business ends up with even a small sliver of that massive pie. Running holiday-themed campaigns and upping your marketing efforts leading up to Valentine’s Day will help you keep your boutique fresh in people’s minds and increase the chances that they go straight to you once it’s time to shop for their Valentine’s Day gifts.

15 Valentine’s Day Marketing Ideas for Small Businesses

Don’t have a huge marketing budget? No problem – with time, effort, and the right direction, you can still get your boutique’s awesome Valentine’s Day gifts and products in front of the right people. Here are 15 Valentine’s Day marketing ideas for small businesses that you can implement for little or no money.

  1. Send a themed email marketing campaign

Instead of generic email newsletters or sale messages, send a themed Valentine’s Day email that’s all about love, friendship, and gift-giving. Drive your audience to your website with gift suggestions and fun Valentine’s-themed wordplay. (You know… “love is in the air,” “we will always love you,” “gifts with heart,” etc!) For more tips on how to use email marketing to grow your boutique, click here.

  1. Host a contest

Embrace the holiday and host a fun couples contest or giveaway on your boutique’s social media page. Don’t be afraid to get creative! Have participants recreate a photo, do a challenge, coordinate an outfit together using a piece from your shop – whatever sounds like a good time. Then, have your audience vote for their favorite entrant on Valentine’s Day. (No need to exclude single people from this one – you could welcome entries from couples, BFFs, family members, etc.)

  1. Run “couples” deals

How do you make a BOGO deal more festive? Call it a couples deal, or a two for one deal! Choose a selection of Valentine’s Day items that you’ll put on sale, whether it’s chocolates, earrings, or pink scrunchies. Encourage them to gift the extra item to their significant other, give one to their BFF for Galentine’s Day, or just keep it for themselves as a token of your love for them!

  1. Partner with another small business

Community over competition, right ladies? Partner with a local business and share the love. It could be another online boutique or a local business that doesn’t directly compete with yours but has a similar clientele, like a florist or a nail salon. Offer a combined Valentine’s Day gift package of your products/services and theirs. This is an especially great idea if you have a strong local presence (or if you’re interested in making it stronger!)

  1. Celebrate Galentine’s Day

Don’t sleep on Galentine’s Day! Coined by Leslie Knope from the TV show Parks and Recreation, Galentine’s Day is a day reserved for celebrating female friendships. It takes place the day before Valentine’s Day, February 13th. To celebrate, bundle a few of your most popular items offer curated gift packages that’d be perfect to gift to a best friend. You could also offer a discount when they multiple of the same item to gift to their friends.

  1. Have a V-Day themed photoshoot

Create some fun Valentine’s Day photos to post on your social media accounts leading up to the big day. You could take photos of couples wearing your clothing, flat lays of all of the red and pink items you carry, or outfit inspo photos against a red or a pink backdrop.

  1. Create a Valentine’s Day gift guide

You and I both know how hard it can be to shop for people – especially your significant other. Make the whole V-day shopping experience a little less stressful by putting together a list of gift ideas and sharing it on your company blog.

No need to have every single item come from just your shop – in fact, it might be more helpful and comprehensive if you scour other local or small boutiques as well and feature their products in your guide. (It’s a great way to open the door to new networking relationships, too!) If you’re feeling up to it, you could create multiple gift guides with different people in mind – for her, for him, for mom, for Galentine’s Day, for your pet, etc.

  1. Send a card

Everyone loves getting mail! Send your past and present customers a real-life Valentine via snail mail. No need to be salesy – the point of this is to show your customers how much you appreciate them and that you’re even thinking about them on the day dedicated to love. Include a coupon to be used in-store or a unique promo code to thank them for showing you and your store love throughout the years.

  1. Share the love

Turn your social media into even more of a community. Invite your audience to share their love stories with you, whether through DMs or by using a certain hashtag in their posts. You can make this as sappy or spicy as you want to – feel free to mix things up a bit by also asking people to send you their worst or funniest dating stories as well! Once you’ve compiled submissions, feature your favorites in your stories. It’ll keep the rest of your audience engaged and help participants feel even more involved in your brand.

  1. Show the love locally

Valentine’s Day is all about sharing the love. What better way to do that than by giving back to the people who need it most? Celebrate Valentine’s Day by hosting a service project, donating products from your store to a local organization, or pledging to donate a certain percentage of your profits in the weeks surrounding Valentine’s Day.

Make sure to advertise this throughout your social channels and your website so your customers know how much good their purchases are doing. Not only will you be able to make a real difference in your community, but you’ll also be able to involve your customers in your charity work.

  1. Highlight date night outfits

People don’t just spend money on gifts during the Valentine’s Day season. They also spend money on themselves, buying clothing, lingerie, date night jewelry, and more. Put together a few fabulous Valentine’s Day outfits using products from your boutique and share a few outfit inspo photos on social media. Be sure to group those products together on your website so your customers can easily purchase everything they need to recreate the outfit.

  1. Don’t alienate single people

For people who aren’t currently in a relationship, Valentine’s Day feels a whole lot more like Singles Awareness Day. Why not go out of your way to show them a little love, too? Don’t leave single people out of all the Valentine’s Day fun – consider running some sort of promo just for them. Run a sale on self-care items that make treat yo’ self gifts, like bath bombs, jade rollers, and (of course) chocolate. You could do this in conjunction with your regular Valentine’s Day promotions or the week before.

  1. Be clear about shipping deadlines

Some people plan ahead of every holiday and finish their gift-shopping weeks in advance – but most people tend to be last-minute Valentine’s Day shoppers. Of course, placing a last-minute order from your online boutique on February 13th probably isn’t going to work out for them. Add a banner to your site reminding shoppers of the Valentine’s Day delivery deadline. Be clear and realistic about shipping cutoffs to receive items by Valentine’s Day. Encourage people to buy early, especially with COVID-related shipping delays making package deliveries even more unreliable than usual.

  1. Make a Valentine’s Day video

When it comes to commanding your audience’s attention, video is one of the very most effective marketing tools out there. Rather than just snapping a few photos of your new Valentine’s Day products, create a video showcasing your favorite Valentine’s Day outfits or gift ideas. You could create a short-form vertical video using IG reels or TikTok, or share a longer informative video on YouTube, Facebook, or IGTV.

  1. Host a Giveaway

Spread the love with an exciting giveaway. Partner with other small businesses in your community or your niche to give something away. It could be a romantic couple’s getaway with flowers, a hotel stay, and a new outfit, a date-night-in package with a dress, a romantic candle, chocolates, and a voucher for fancy takeout, or an epic Valentine’s Day shopping spree. Just make sure it’s somewhat Valentine’s Day related, whether with what you’re giving away, how you enter, or even just with the images and language you use to introduce it.

While implementing these Valentine’s Day marketing ideas might take some serious thought and strategizing, with a little effort they can pay off in a big way.

Now that you have a few great ideas on how you can encourage your customers to shop with you this Valentine’s Day, make sure you’ll have enough Valentine’s Day gifts and outfit ideas in stock ahead of time. Click here for 15 wholesale boutique items you’ll want to stock up on for Valentine’s Day.