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Customer Service: Or How to Get the Most out of your Holiday Shopping Season for Buyers and Sellers.

Discussion in 'Customer Service 2004 by PatentLeatherShoes' started by Patentleathershoes, Nov 7, 2004.

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  1. "I habitually ignore those statements saying 'allow at least 2" for comfort' because, lets face it, it's not 1986 and we've been wearing quite a few styles/types of garment pretty tight for a few years now.

    And there are garments that surprisingly will measure LESS than say your actual bust measurement which i personally found disturbing when i first started measuring garments flat. Not for every garment and every body type, but occassionally it is an anomaly that happens. Usually something with a tiny bit of stretch but not always. It blew my mind.

    And just remember as you go up two inches in the bust, unless you are buying something that was custom made for someone at one time, you also go up in the shoulders and the waist as far as the proportions of the garment. (not that you do, but it is like buying the next size up like a regular store. Lets pretend right now we are talking about two identical garments, just one measures 2" bigger in the bust or hip) I read once that you should leave 4" for movement in a shirtwaist dress. Some folks find that if they have a small frame/small shoulders/large bust they can wear something closer to their actual bust measurement versus someone who has an average to large frame/average shoulders/smaller bust. Just because more of the sum of the measurement is your torso, which needs more movement room than someone with the same bust measure and a smaller torso.

    But the *style* of garment is so crucial. It's so much to do with learning through experience what shapes work with your body, rather than the measurements of any garment per se.


    the flat measurements you need in two different garments may vary greatly.

    I still make mistakes, I have to say - but it's interesting making them!

    That is a very good point and one we will explore next!
  2. pastperfect2

    pastperfect2 Alumni +

    One customer thought a dress would swim on her. When I pointed out it was shown on a mannequin her size - she bought it!

    I have considered emphasizing the measurements of the mannequin I use, because that may help someone determine the desired fit.

    I just haven't thought of a smooth way to put it on the description.

  3. Tori (flashbak58 on ebay and the mall for those tuning in and hope she doesn't mind being singled out) does a great job of this. I would read one of her listings.

    She mentions with the measurements that her manni is tiny and sometimes she needs to clip garments on her to fit properly, so go by the measurements. You could say something like that if that is the case, or you could say what the manni's measurements are and state that you did not clip the garment and it is hanging on the manni as is.

    I also think its important to mention if for some reason the item is too small for the manni and you leave the back open etc..

    For people that use the half round hanging manniquins, an issue does arise on some dresses and shirts. The item could be plenty big or very big compared to the form and if there is a collar, such as a mandarin collar or high collar that fastens with hook and eyes, it might need to be left open because of the unusual shape of the "neck"...as the half round manni doesn't have the flexibility of a real live person and the neck part is flat and wide compared to if you had a real person that size. I would just mention so they know if they normally can weat things that visually fit on the half round or the manniquin, that they know it is iunfastened in the back and to go by the measurements.
  4. fuzzylizzie

    fuzzylizzie Alumni

    This workshop is so much food for thought. It's really encouraged me to start developing a newletter for my buyers. Marie, I checked out Constant Contact, and I really liked what I saw there.

    Chris, what are your thoughts on packaging? I'm always looking for new and creative ways to make the presentation of my packages stand out.

  5. Okay...we will up packaging to the top of the queue.

    I was going to talk about non fits and things like that, but I think we logically should talk about packaging first because you have to ship the item out first, right?

    There are several topics we can cover here from storing and controlling packing materials, to little extras. We probably won't go really in depth on sourcing, but we will talk about time savers.

    Firstly, I will admit that I recycle boxes at times. I use the boxes from the US post office that I get for free from shipping priority mail, but if i order something from a company and it comes in a plain box, I will use it.
    It is a great resource saver. However, save the box from your Toaster for when you want to send a care package to a relative. I don't mind if I recieve a box that is plain but the mail to sticker is covering up wording, but if you use boxes with printing all over it that is not your own it cam cause two issues (well three).

    Firstly, for folks reading who live in or ship to Canada, I know there are new regulations (or stricter enforced regulations) about recycled boxes. Some sellers, if the box is "clean" save for a small part or so, wrap their boxes in brown paper which is completely acceptable. I know it seems like a crack down on people trying to save money, but i believe there is a purpose for it. (i am just speculating this) but perhaps one of the reason when a box has a full color picture of a blender on it, and the contents are not a blender, it may pose problems in customs even if the claim forms are marked "dress".

    It also poses potential embarrassment to a customer if you send them a box from the grocery store marked "depends" all over it. Many people who receive packages at their place of business want to do so as discreetly as possible. Some do so because of safety or convenience (no one is home during the day so a box could be left out in the rain, or even if the postman never leaves it unless someone is home, they could have a schedule which doesn't allow them to get to the post office to claim it)
    Others do it for privacy (doesn't want the kid having a birthday to see a box arrive or may buy things that they don't otherwise brought attention to).

    And lastly, it is not so professional in some cases. If the box is an unusual size or strength for a specialty item, and the only way to find it is to recycle, than by all means do, but use brown paper and wrap it nice or turn the box "inside out".

    If you are selling an item that has its original box, it would be totally aprorpiate to use, but i would put vintage shoes with its original box or a vintage toy in its box, and then in another box because the perfect box might add to its value and I wouldn't want it crushed. If you are selling a larger item like a more recent electronic and its original box is sturdy for shipping, I would wrap it in brown paper......it might be a gift or the person might not otherwise want to item "announced" to family members or coworkers. Especially if the package is left inside a common entrance to a building,etc.

    Tyvek envelopes are completely apropriate as well for some items. Scarves, t-shirts, some blouses, etc...

    I always send the more substantial dresses, blazers, suits, older or more delicate blouses boxed even if would fit in an envelope. I just think it is a little nicer for the customer.

    As far as inner wrapping, make sure that things are protected.

    There is doing what you need to make it safe and there are a few things that you do to go above and beyond....
  6. Firstly, the main priority is to protect the item. I have been impressed and less than impressed with some of my purchases over the years.

    So we will discuss the basics and then talk about if you really want to be fancy...all within budget of course!

    Even though padded envelopes are "padded" it could use a few extra touches.

    Padded envelopes:

    You COULD just toss it in there, but a little extra care goes along way.

    Never put a piece of jewelry in without properly bubble wrapping it. If you want to go an extra step, ship it in a box instead. The weight may increase slightly, but usually only a matter of 2-5 oz. When people buy tons a jewelry, they DO remember the people who packed well. I remember a jewel discussion elsewhere where folks were saying some people sold lots of jewelry and just dumped em in and some put bubblewrap around each of them to prevent them all from tangling..all it took was a tiny corner of bubble wrap or tissue paper around each one and a whole discussion group of jewelry collectors were raving about this person!!

    As far as books, add a piece of bubble wrap around the book, If it is a collector they would really appreciated that you cared. Or wrap it in tissue paper for a paperback. But i find that if you wrap in bubble as well, and tape it good, it could add an extra layer if your envelope gets damaged in a hurricane. :)

    ANother thing I do that is more of an extra little thing...is wrap the book with tissue paper, but do it a little differently, set the book on the tissue paper about an inch or so from the top or even more, and fold the edges of the tissue paper around the back cover, and the same for the front so it forms a protective "book cover" for the book. Then the person doesn't haev to "rip to get to the book" and if the person is giving as a gift, they can check out the book but keep the cover safe until the recipient opens it or they wrap it for the recipient.

    For clothing that is in a padded envelope, I always wrap tissue paper around it no matter what. At the very least, of it keeps it in place a bit more. Like i say, i mostly just do scarves that way, I have been boxing for the longest time. If you want to up the anti, go for decorated tissue paper or put a ribbon on it more like a present...BUT WARNING...watch some of the deep red tissue papers, etc...they could bleed onto a garment if wetted. The newer papers are better, but when in doubt, use white or light colors. It may sound silly, but when i have gottent things wrapped up i thought" a PRESENT!!! YIPPEE!" Even if it was from me to me.

    As far as boxing, the same things apply.

    You just need to make sure that things don't "shift around and damage"

    For shoes, I have found those green foam sleeves that you buy to put plates in when you move are great! I put one shoe in one, one in another and surround it with packing popcorn. that way they don't scuff against eachother. Or you can wrap them in bubble or tissue paper.

    For anything with a "hard edge" a little packing popcorn or bubble wrap goes a long long way.

    To go above and beyond in shoes, you can also stuff the toes in paper if they are the type not to hold their shape...like a slipper...and it will get discarded but they will look real nice when pulled out of the box.

    The same goes for purses and other "hard" objects...always make sure that is not rolling around in a box. You want to avoid damage and most importantly want to uphold your professional image.

    You may think it costly, but by using post office boxes, buying certain supplies in bulk and a little bit of conserving and recycling, you can get the job done. And people will remember that and buy again.

    I know that is attractive to want to keep costs down, but if you can't afford to do it, than find a way to not run so "lean" Whether it is your time or money.

    If you can't ship items in a quality way every day, then state you ship twice a week. or once. Life happens and your customers deserve your full attention. Not every waking moment. But some of the time. If you don't have the "money to do all that" on what you sell...then consider getting your name out there- there is no glory in being a "best kept secret in vintage", re-evaluating your inventory, creating more of a bottom line by repeat business, or re-evaluating the way you present or price your items (and this doesn't necessarily mean raising or lowering )
  7. Other things you can do.

    _always put your name in there.
    At the very minimum sign your invoices personally

    Enjoy! or thank you or your business is appreciated,
    Your Name

    Other little ideas....print your invoices on colored or a slightly heavier paper.
    "brand them" by putting your logo on them. It makes a difference over just printing them on white. It looks more polished.

    All of this is making you your own company versus a seller on ebay or on a site.

    If you do print them on white, up the anti and cut off the part at the bottom that says the name of the url of paypal or whatever you use at the bottom (most things printed from the internet have this). Use a paper cutter or a steady hand and scissors.

    I will tell you though, i have a paper cutter and it is such a time saver!

    Some people write individual thank you notes. If this is not feasable in some way whether you have trouble due to a physical hand problem, only use typed word because of dyslexia, etc..or your handwriting looks like a pen fight occurred and someone died (in that case prewrite and then copy it because i know i cannot write neatly and comppse all at once)..then forego it but at the very least just handwrite something on the invoice and a personal note like that is completely acceptable//

    TO BE CONTINUED.........after a brief intermission...
  8. schoolsgirl

    schoolsgirl Registered Guest

    Excellent Chris, Please & Thank You are highly underrated. :)

    And for packaging, you are so right, items, specially glass should be packaged tight enough to not move around in the box, nor should fragile items of similar composition be packaged next to each other without a proper tight cushion in between. :)
  9. Definitely, we all make mistakes through trial and error...but hopefully we can bring up plenty of ideas and different solutions so someone new to it does not have to make all those mistakes.

    Which brings me to combined shipping. We all say something to the effect about combined shipping...we can save hassle and have the items ship together and some may offer discounts on combined shipping, etc. Sometimes it makes a difference to not have the weight of two boxes, but sometimes it is close or doesn't make a big difference...all depending on what the items are.

    However, I have considered revising that to "like items" or "at discretion". If someone buys a dress and a blouse...then absolutely. But if someone buys a very delicate hat with tons of crushable tulle, feathers, special millinary effects...and a mannequin..or a bronze figurine...no. Absolutely not.
  10. Two more subjects I am going to cover next. The first is going above and beyond and the other has to do with once the item is received by the buyer...

    Another thing that comes up around the holidays, we tend to be on self imposed time crunches and see something perfect for our sister or brother but time has slipped away and its 4 days before their birthday. I know when i call 1-800- my favorite department store they can get it to me overnight, but i am out shopping elsewhere on the internet. Or i want it shipped to my hotel or friend's house right near Times Square because i am going to the Big New Year's Eve celebration and want it there so i can wear it.

    What do i do?

    Okay, to explain the reasoning behind things, many sellers, unless you are a regular customer of theirs is not going to ship an item to an address not connected to you for their safety and even more so yours. There is identify theft that goes on, but also because most items are one of a kind, if it ends up not connecting with you or the recipient or the surpisee doesn't know to be expecting a package, they could refuse it and foil your plans.
    And there are no replacements for the items in 99.99% of the case because the items are unique.

    So rather than open things up to to many potential misconnections, why not pay for expedited shipping if the seller offers it and get the item to you early that you can proudly present with a personalized card from you.

    Another hint for sellers, is if you are interest or someone asks for giftwrapping, or wants you to ship it to the recipient, offer gift packaging service to cut out a step for them and you. (and to make sure an invoice is not left in there by accident! I did not say gift wrapping but gift packaging. Get a sturdy gift box, or a nice shirt box - the kind you get from department stores..but you can get them in bulk online. Sturdy boxes like show boxes that only have the printing on the lid work great too. Wrap the lid of the box up with lovely paper, and then take a ribbon and run it around two of the corners of the box. Now the buyer can open the box, put in any extra goodies, tuck their card in the side of the ribbon and they just saved a day of running around looking for all that stuff.

    My greatgrandmother, grandmother,and sometimes my aunts did that for every birthday or holiday. The funny thing is that they were so nice that
    they used to just pass them around from occassion to occassion. All the decorated boxes were plain except for one that was embossed with a Crowley's logo (a since defunct detroit area store) that someone got every year. There was one particular box that was around for a few years, until finally one year my mom got the box again with a little note in pen from my greatgrandmother written in the corner of the inside of the lid decorated with holly paper. It said in huge letters"Keep Your Box! enough already!"

    So, when you are considering buying something close to a deadline, if you absolutely cannot shop early, help make things a win-win situation.
    Sellers want you to be satisfied instead of a moment ruined because of a time crunch.

    The first thing to remember is that a vintage item in some cases - well in most cases - is a one of a kind. You may find another like it someday, but unless you want to hunt the ends of the earth and just hope that it wasn't an obscure manufacturer but a label that people "saved" , with more than a little chance you might find another one someday...if you are lucky...and most people aren't. They are unique because over time other twins of that pristine item was used heavily, eventually fell apart, or were forgotten about in a closet never to be heard from again.

    In addition, every piece has had a different experience or "life" as well which adds to the fact of their uniqueness.

    Now, that being said, buying a surprise gift for someone might not be the best route especially if you have no idea how it will be received. It is hard to pick for another person. If you are unsure, buy a gift certificate from your internet retailer of choice. On the other hand, if you get a "hint" list from someone with the exact items from particular sellers highlighted, than that is a different case. If you know someone loves everything vintage, even if you made an error in favorite color, etc... than that is a different story. Just do you research first.
  11. Oh, Liz, I forgot to say, Yes, Please and thank you are WAAAYYY under rated.

    Thanks for your points!
  12. Hattysattic

    Hattysattic VFG Member

    i send a little thankyou note as it goes with my printed tissue and ribbon approach! i don't think its strictly necessary to go that far but more often that not it gets a mention in the feedback!:P funny that customers seem almost surprised that you went to the trouble - tells you something about how they have got stuff sent in the past...

    great workshop chris, thank you!! am following intently!

  13. Thanks Harriet.

    I recently received a package from an online merchant. It included a hand written note, and the items were very simply wrapped in a plain colored tissue paper. I am not saying to write a novel, but it gave me a very good impression! Its not about the amount you write, its a "personal touch".
    It could be your business card with a simple

    "thank you!"
    - Harriet

    That makes a big difference because its a sign of the human being on the other side of the computer and not just an "order fulfiller".

    If you had a particular lengthy exchange with a customer...they asked you about a particular garment and you got to chitchatting about it or you checked other merchandise for them, make a note of it.

    "Dear Margie,
    Thank you for your business! The New Year's Ball sounds exciting. Have a great time and I am sure you will turn heads with this dress!"


    "Dear Dr. Fisher
    Thank you! Per our conversation, I will let you know when I get more men's shoes in. Enjoy your shoelaces"

    Always use the name as printed on the invoice unless they say otherwise.
    Just like you would say "Mr. Buyer..." and they say "Oh, no call me George, Mr. Buyer is my father..." If the invoice says "Earnestine"and they send you an email saying "Great! I can't wait to get it, Ernie Jo" then address your note or use Ernie Jo on your card.

    Sometimes you never have a "connection" with a buyer. They buy, they pay immediately. If their name is Esmerelda Tiffany Gunderspout. I wouldn't go shead and say "Hey Esme!" who knows if they go by Esme, Merley, or Tiffany or known of the above. Or they have a unisex first name, or an ambiguous one...something from a language/culture that is unfamiliar to you or in some languages, you are not sure which is the informal and which is the surname.

    I met someone named Azra. By the romance languages, you would think ending in "a", the feminine letter, it would be a woman, but no, he was a man.

    When in doubt, just say "enjoy"

    I know this may sound remedial, but with the challenges of the internet, there are some things that are even more important...
  14. Now, a few random tidbits.

    More organization tips. Keep all your shippings supplies in one location if you can.

    tape gun (if you use one) already loaded
    extra rolls of tape
    tissue paper
    bubble wrap
    Your business cards or note
    any special paper you might want to use
    (i can't tell you how many times i go to print out something and i forgot i had business card forms still in the printer from last time)
    All your small boxes
    Boxes folded up (if you have boxes made, just know where they are)

    If you use it, any ribbon, and any special packing supplies for odd ball items.

    **Special note on tape. Do not let your tape gun lay on the floor. I know when wrapping something big i tend to have the box on the floor, and carpet fuzz or lint, etc, can easily be transferred to the tape. i have wasted much tape that way by having to cut the messy part off.

    Now I use a table in my office for measuring, shipping, etc...so i don't lose my tape gun as much.

    Having the above list well stocked can save a late night run to the store because you have run out!
  15. Never assume anything.

    As a manager once told me, "Assume" makes an *ss out of you and me.

    Know that the buyer doesn't know everything you know. It doesn't make them stupid. They just have no idea of the inner workings of the business. Don't assume they know the technical nuances about how you ship, what your turn around time is, and don't assume that everyone has the same idea of what the perfect shade of red is.

    Sometimes a little explaining or education is involved to unite on the same wavelength. Explain why or how things are done when needed. Sometimes buyers need to be reminded of time zone differences. so do sellers. if someone purchases during business hours and expects an immediate response, you may be overlooking the fact that it might be the middle of the night where your seller is. Or if you say payment due within 24 hours of invoice (which is too quick i feel unless it is an immediate purchase)... it could take longer for email exchanges because you might be each responding at odd hours regular to the other.

    And on the other hand, give your seller a fair shake. Just because you had a bad experience with someone else doesn't mean this person is the same.
    Expect the best unless they give you reason to believe so otherwise after the transaction.

    There are things that happen from time to time. There are postal holidays that in the stream of working that they might not remember. So when they say your item is going out on monday, but monday is a holiday, adn it really goes out later because of it, be fair to them.

    There are things that may occur. For example, we had a natural disaster and the roof of my tiny little local post office was partly ripped off. They closed it temporarily. There is nothing I could do about that. Most people were very understanding. But there was a customer that wasn't. But then later realized and apologized when she saw the post mark. Granted, we weren't the hardest hit with some of the hurricanes in the area i am in, but it still stopped commerce and created someinconvenience.

    So, the best thing to do is to communicate. if the seller contacts you when the forsee a like delay, treat them like you would want to be treated.

    And when a buyer purchases something, know that just like you don't have a checkbook with you at all times, if you "know they are there" because you are emailing them back and forth but didn't pay immediately, as long as it is within the timeframe they could be waiting to pay when they left the office. You would do that, so be resonable when they do.
  16. Remember, this workshop ends Saturday, so remember to ask whatever questions or clarifications, or ideas you have very soon. (or topics you would like discussion on).
  17. ourbabyroo

    ourbabyroo Registered Guest

    Chris ~

    You have done a fabulous job here!! Literally, a wealth of information and my head is now spinning with thoughts of mailing lists, newsletters and offering gift wrapping!

    I am so glad I came across this thread tonight :)

    The ONLY thing I would add is that when packing any clothing item, I put the item in clear plastic bags. I am lucky to be able to get them through work - the industrial roll - available in many sizes (small for lingerie - large for coats!) But you can usually find something acceptable in your local Walmart or Home Depot.

    I had one occasion where an item was ruined because the box got wet during a major storm in their area. That's all it took - now everything gets a plastic wrap! :)

    Again, FANTASTIC JOB! :cool:

  18. Thanks Christine.

    Thank you even more for the tip :)

    I am sure...but I have yet to investigate it...that they would be available in bulk online as well. In a pinch, I use bubble wrap and tape and seal it at all ends, but i think that the plastic would be much more economical.

    Some styles of Tyvek bags are more water resistance than others (and I say water resistant...not waterproof)...and they can handle water droplets but they are not submersable.

    Insuring items is helpful, but with vintage, just likeold family photos, many times it can not really be "replaced".
  19. I got, now I don\'t want it!

    ...or how to handle the unhappy customer.

    I would like to hear your thoughts on returns, refunds and insuring costumer satisfaction.

  20. I was meandering that way a few times...but never quite got there.

    We have laid the groundwork for effective communication, for making sure that you ship carefully, and your descriptions and particulars are very clear to prevent misunderstandings down the road...

    but sometimes...no matter what you do....something goes wrong.

    There are three things that i look at when a customer is unhappy.

    1) Firstly, try your best to find out what the customer is saying, rather than get caught up in how they say it.
    2) Secondly, is "whats wrong" in or out of your or their control?
    3) Thirdly, staying in control of the situation and seeing it to resolution...

    We will discuss this all in depth....
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