Thinking of our art as a business can be a challenge for some of us.
While we may be experts in our craft, we are often still learning many of the aspects of running a business – especially customer service.
It is super important to protect ourselves and our businesses. We need to keep our reputation intact. We need to be organised enough to avoid mishaps. And we need to make sure us and our customer are 100% on the same page about their order.
It’s such a compliment when someone wants to buy our work or commission a custom order or supply their retail outlet, but we can’t let emotion lead us to making a poor business decision.
As creatives we often think with our hearts first – but it is important to remember these 5 steps in order to keep your business mind ticking away when it comes to customer communication.
1. Keep and Save
Emails, sales, conversations, whatever has transpired between you and a customer needs to be kept or taken note of. It becomes a resource for fact checking, confirming details or even just contact details. Keep everything on file for a certain amount of time to ensure you have all information available to you if needed.
Action tip: Keep a general folder on your computer/in your email program for all customer communications and individual ones for each commission. That way any conversations will be easy to find.
2. Get it in Writing
So your customer wants you to make 100 of an item? Get them to email or write the figure down so that you have it on paper.
It is so easy to confuse quantities or dollar amounts. We all mumble sometimes or hear wrong. Be sure to avoid any misunderstandings.
Action tip: After you have had a phone or face to face discussion regarding an order, a commission or a sale, send them an email outlining the details. That way they can reply with a yay or a nay and you know you are on the same page.
3. Always Ask
If you are unsure, ask. No one will ever be annoyed that you want to confirm details. This is just you making sure you can deliver on exactly what is wanted.
Keep communication channels open at all times, build the relationship and enjoy the customer relationship.
Action tip: Keep your customer in the know at all times, that way if they have a question they can askwhenever required. Share photos of progress on social media (unless of course it is private), email photos to them, give them a call. This way there will never be any surprises.
4. Don’t Over-Commit
Work out realistic time frames, costs and materials. Over-committing will only cause stress and pressure to both us and ultimately customer. If you over promise you will never get anything done!
Action tip: Have a commissions schedule. Depending on what you make they can take hours, days or weeks so have some rules about how many you do a month, or even year. Customers won’t mind being on a waiting list if they are serious.
5. Avoid Disputes
If you follow all of the above tips you shouldn’t end up in any disputes. If you do – fix it immediately.
You don’t want to have to leave a bad taste with anyone when it comes to your business. There will always be someone unhappy – we can’t go our whole lives avoiding conflict but a quick resolution is best. Prioritise sorting disputes. Letting them drag on is stressful. You want to be always moving forward in your creative business.
Action tip: If you get a complaint, first things first – stop and think. Don’t jump straight back into it without taking a moment to look at it from both points of view. Draft correspondence and check before sending. We all know that non verbal communication can often be taken in the wrong tone.