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Inspiring Customer Loyalty

“In this economy” is perhaps one of my least favorite catch phrases. It’s used as an excuse for anything and everything these days. So today I want to discuss something that is always important, regardless of the state of the economy, and that is – inspiring customer loyalty.

As a lifelong crafter, and as someone who has been scrapbooking since the time before rub-ons and Jolee’s Boutique (and when stamps and inks weren’t even a part of my local store), I am something of an old-timer when it comes to scrapbooking. I’ve had a lot of opportunity to use products, and have contact with manufacturers. I have come to be a loyal customer to some companies, and I will tell you that I also boycott some companies. Today I’d like to share what inspires my loyalty, what doesn’t, and what I hope to see in the future for customer relations in our industry.

Being good at customer service and inspiring loyalty isn’t hard – but it does take commitment. About two years ago I had an incident where I contacted a company (which will remain unnamed to protect the guilty) about some defective product that I wanted replaced. I received an email reply that said I wasn’t their customer because they sell only to retailers and not end consumers, so my issue was with the retailer that sold me the product. Outraged, I continued to contact the company until I reached a supervisor who promised to replace the product. They eventually sent me a box of product (that looked like it had been swept off the warehouse floor), but I never did get a replacement for my defective product.

Needless to say, I am no longer a consumer of that brand. Conventional wisdom is that unhappy customers are something like ten times more likely to talk about a brand than happy customers are – so doesn’t it make sense to inspire such bliss in your customers?

Is it truly hard to put a smile on and reply as if you care? Certainly not! As a former brand ambassador for a scrapbook company as well as a customer service representative for a bank, I’ve been through a lot of training and seminars, and read a lot on the subject. It’s simple: treat the customer as you’d like to be treated if the situation were reversed, and always do your best to make them happy and get the situation solved as simply as possible.

So what would inspire a consumer like me to repeatedly buy your products, talk about you, and support your company?

  • If I have a problem, fix it and do so quickly.
  • Never excuse a defective product or place blame elsewhere, just apologize and replace it.
  • Answer your email in a reasonable (within 2 business days) time frame.
  • Produce quality products that are useful to me as a crafter.
  • Have a website that is easy to navigate and up-to-date.

The bottom line, of course, is that you have to make products I want to buy. How do I find out about you, as someone without a local store to shop in? Years ago local stores were everywhere and blogs were something most people knew nothing about. These days the opposite is true – and more than ever having an online presence is vital to a company’s success in the craft industry. The key is that it needs to be well done. The company’s website, even if it is simple, must be up-to-date and useful.  A blog should have someone in charge of scheduling and content should be posted at a regular interval (whether that is daily, three times a week, etc) that is fairly predictable so that I know how often to check in. Giveaways and exclusive first peeks at new products are always nice, but really I’m after content that is inspiring me to use your products. Tutorials, projects, and bringing in guest designers are all great ways to both show off your product and get me to come back and see you again.

If you do not have a large design team, or if you are hoping to get more of a presence online consider reaching out to crafters who are active and influential as appropriate – feel free to ask them test your products, blog about them, etc – but make sure it’s someone who would be truly interested and that the offer would be beneficial to both of you. For example, do not contact a card maker and ask them to try your new layout building system. Do your homework, and keep your initial email both to the point and friendly.

If a company is going to have a Facebook page and Twitter account (and they should), I expect that I can contact them in that way. If you do not want me connecting to you, don’t join social media. Here are some suggestions I have:

  • Do not try to make me help you get followers. Let your following grow organically and stop the “we must hit ___ number and then we will___” insanity please. Appreciate the fans you do have instead of making me feel less important because I’m already a fan and you’re searching for new ones instead.
  • If you’re using Twitter, post original content  - not just links to your facebook page.
  • Reply when appropriate and join in conversations.
  • Share peeks, behind the scenes glimpses, and other relevant info we couldn’t get elsewhere.
  • Keep your consumers in mind, and share appropriate material. Political, religious, and other sensitive topics are bad choices to post about unless of course you’re a political or religious craft supply company!
  • Keep it honest, interesting, and updated on a regular basis.

As I list out what I like (and dislike) in the online presence of a company (as well as customer service and quality of products in general) three companies stand out in my mind as excelling at all of the above. American Crafts, Pink Paislee, and Studio Calico have great blog content, enthusiastic and influential design teams that are active on-line, amazing service if you ever have need to call or email them, nice websites, and are truly all-around role models for how loyalty can be inspired in consumers like me.

There are a lot of other wonderful companies that I’ve had great experience with as well, and that I see getting into a more active role online, and that continue to put out products I love. I frequently email them to let them know I love what they’re doing and that I’m a fan. As a consumer, I find that it’s just as important to praise and support those who are doing great things as it is to complain about and boycott those companies who are doing badly. In fact – it’s more important! To use that dreaded catch phrase – in this economy, where we spend our dollars and who we support count for everything.

I encourage you to drop a note to your favorite craft company, and if you’re so inclined, please feel free to leave comments sharing your positive experiences with a company and/or who you are really loving these days.

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31 Responses to Inspiring Customer Loyalty

  1. Duckienz August 17, 2011 at 11:47 pm #

    Hear, hear May! I was a staff trainer in a previous job and I was constantly shocked by the excuses my staff gave for poor customer service. Once they learnt that it is actually EASIER to give good customer service (less follow up etc) they became avid supporters of my training. We then won best store in New Zealand (of 86! branches).

    One thing that I really love in the craft industry are companies that continue their product for a while. Living in New Zealand stores are quite behind the trends in a lot of cases unless I import things myself. I will find a product that I love and want to order more of it but it can be next to impossible to get. Companies such as Bazzill which keep cardstock colours around or We R Memory Keepers who maintain album colours get my consumer dollar.

    I hope that industry leaders are reading this and continue to give and improve on great service.

  2. Ruth August 18, 2011 at 12:13 am #

    I think this is such an important issue and I definitely shop to the companies that I am happy with my customer relationship with. I agree wholeheartedly about the AC, SC and PP being great, I have had great customer service from 2Ps and SimonSaysStamp and my 2 local online shops Blue Bazaar (bluebazaar.com.au) and Cut&Paste (cuttingandpasting.com.au) which are both quite small, not like these huge ones that have been mentioned but both simply amazing, they really respond and try to make it work for their customers. A couple of recent good experiences I have had are with live2scrapbook.com and scrapbook generations, who were really friendly when I emailed them for info.
    Jennifer McGuire and you are both very upfront about who you have had good experiences with and as a customer I think that is so helpful. Thanks for the honesty!

    • May August 18, 2011 at 12:26 am #

      Thanks Ruth! and I will second the http://www.simonsaysstamp.com endorsement!! They have proven themselves to me with great service and good price on shipping + fast shipping. Love them!

  3. Ruth August 18, 2011 at 12:22 am #

    By the way, May, do you have any tips for me, I have tried to contact a company almost a year ago about a fault product, emailed 2 or 3 times and never got any response (this is NOT a small company). Your article prompted me to email them yet again to see if I will get any answer this time, but I won’t get my hopes up. I guess it wouldnt be appropriate to name and shame them here, but if you have any ideas, I would love to hear them!

    • May August 18, 2011 at 12:27 am #

      My first suggestion would be to call them if you can. Sad as it is, some companies simply don’t seem to reply to email!
      If you would like my personal thoughts or input on a negative situation, feel free to email me may@scrapbookupdate.com – I’d be happy to chat specifics with you privately.

  4. May August 18, 2011 at 12:34 am #

    Fiskars definitely deserves a shout out for great service. I worked with them for several years, and I know both from first-hand and stories from others that they stand behind their tools!! They will replace it with a smile – great service there.

    • Cindy deRosier August 18, 2011 at 9:37 am #

      Fiskars is exactly who I was going to mention. As far as quality and customer service, they cannot be beat.

      • Diane August 19, 2011 at 10:07 pm #

        Agreed on Fiskars. I really appreciate the quality items they produce and their overall excellent customer service. Also, they’re always sponsoring crops and events I attend, even if it’s something small they show you they appreciate your patronage. A little goes a long way.

  5. Gela August 18, 2011 at 3:00 am #

    Right now i am dealing with a non-functioning SLICE machine from Making Memories. Their customer service has been awesome. So great to have prompt response. I didn’t have my original receipt and they dug it up. Instead of thinking I will never by another Making Memories item I will keep buying their products because of the service they have provided so far. Products lure customers but great service keeps them. Great article.

  6. Gab August 18, 2011 at 7:34 am #

    Great article May.

    I once contacted Ranger to ask what kind of adhesive I could use on a Distress Ink pad that had come un-stuck from its base. They emailed me straight back to ask what colour it was as they would replace it. They also asked what other colour I would like as an apology gift. I was super impressed with this great service

  7. Amanda August 18, 2011 at 7:42 am #

    This article made me think of Heidi Swapp and the rub-ons that don’t run-on and the adhesive chipboard that didn’t adhere. Instead of recognizing the problem and fixing it we were told we were doing it all wrong. I lost all loyalty and confidence in her. I seem to be one of the few not excited about what she is coming out with because I worry about the quality of the product and if bad quality will once again be blamed on the consumer.

  8. Laura August 18, 2011 at 9:34 am #

    I really respect companies who strive to create a quality product and then stand behind it with great customer service. (The opposite is also true. If I try a company’s product for the first time and it falls apart, they often will not get a second chance to earn my business.) I also love it when products, such as Ranger’s, are made in the U.S.

  9. Vicki J August 18, 2011 at 11:06 am #

    Great Article May! This rings so true in all aspects of our shopping life. If you want good service you have to be willing to show retailers that their bad service won’t be rewarded. There are many stores/manuf. that I choose not to deal with anymore due to lack of customer respect. Yes many times it makes my life alittle harder because I have to drive alittle farther but I work hard for my money and refuse to give it to a store that just doesn’t appreciate me.
    I am always astonished when I hear on message boards about poor service people receive but bewildered why for the sake of saving 5 cents they will continue to shop somewhere..I really think that customer service is worth more money and in the end might save you money if are assisted in buying the right item the first time and provided with an item with lasting power.

  10. Steph H. August 18, 2011 at 11:17 am #

    May,
    Your post was right on! I sure hope all the companies in this industry are listening.

    As someone who writes about and consults on branding, I focus a lot of energy on customer service and how it can positively or negatively affect a brand. It’s such a simple thing – do unto others as you would have them do unto you – and yet, so many companies simply miss the mark.

    In this industry I have had wonderful service experiences with Making Memories and Ranger – they really stand out because of the way they handled a product issue. What made the process memorable was that their contact info was easy to find and they very quickly responded to my inquiry. Then, once they responded, the issue was resolved quickly and I was a happy camper! Again, so easy and I am now a fan for life.

    It might be that all the years I worked for companies like Nordstrom taught me what great customer service is, but I also think it’s something that is in a person – either they enjoy being of service or they don’t. If they don’t, then they are not a good hire for a customer service position. When hiring it’s critical that companies know what to look for – who will make a great customer service rep? And, when training, be sure you are not just teaching, but empowering. The companies that stand out in customer service are those that empower their staff to make customers happy. We all know that no company will please 100% of the people 100% of the time. But, it is certainly possible to please the majority of customers most of the time.

    Thanks for sharing your experience and for getting this conversation started. And to those companies who do this service thing well – rock on!

  11. Addie August 18, 2011 at 1:10 pm #

    May, thank you for this. I was shocked when I read a marketing piece about most craft customers of shopping networks not being online. For LSS and big box stores serving these great numbers of customers who don’t purchase online, make your contact/customer service phone numbers readily available on print materials you mail and distribute in store. When customers have issues in the store, make sure someone knowledgable is available to deal with problems and answer questions. Apparently millions of consumers deal with retail stores exclusively. Although there aren’t a lot of brick and mortar stores to choose from, I personally would travel a greater distance to a more helpful store.

  12. Addie August 18, 2011 at 1:14 pm #

    P.S. to previous post: I meant brick and mortar stores when I said “retail.”

  13. Tracy Lathrop August 18, 2011 at 4:46 pm #

    Awesome article May!! It has definitely inspired me to blog about it today! I linked back to this post so that others can read the article! Thanks for all your hard work and telling it like it is!!

  14. Delanie August 18, 2011 at 10:50 pm #

    I was surprised to see American Crafts mentioned as a good example because I am often frustrated by their website. They take so long for new products to be listed – many of their new CHA releases are now in store but no mention of it on their site. Having great social media is one thing but when I have a question about product I don’t want to trawl through a blog but go directly to a good product list. For example, recently I was considering purchasing the Amy Tan sticker book. One photo was posted by the online store I was looking at but I wanted to see photos of the other pages. Go to the AC site, nothing. Very frustrating.

    • May August 18, 2011 at 10:59 pm #

      Over the years I’ve had faulty products, questions, and have been overwhelmingly THRILLED by what American Crafts employee response is. Friendly, helpful, and everything I’d ever want from a company. They’ve got an incredible blog and solid social media presence which is FUN, and beautiful products I love.

      As far as the website- I’ve always been able to find exactly what I want quickly and easily when I do go there. I’m VERY surprised they don’t have the Summer releases (which are in stores) up. That alone isn’t going to kick them off my “awesome” list – but I do hope they fix that soon. I understand your frustration – thanks for taking the time to leave a comment here.

      May

    • Grant Madsen August 19, 2011 at 3:20 pm #

      Delanie,

      I’m really sorry that we’ve frustrated you. You are 100% right … we need to do a better job of putting our new product releases up faster on our website than we currently do. We’ve been hit or miss on this over the last couple years.

      If you’re a retailer, you can already see and order the product on our wholesale ordering site here: https://www.americancrafts.com/retailers/index.php/customer/account/login

      If you’re a consumer, we should have the product announced at the end of July up there in the next week or so. We pledge to do a better job next show of having our consumer-focused site updated faster.

      In the meantime, you can find out a lot about our products by visiting our blog: http://americancrafts.typepad.com/studio/ and using the search bar to pull up posts that reference the new products. Our sneak peeks tend to show off a lot of photos of product, which may be helpful as a stopgap measure.

      Again, really sorry about the delay.

      Grant

  15. Jen Bank August 19, 2011 at 2:18 pm #

    Great article! I have to let you know about a scrapbook deal-of-the-day website that is absolutely phenomenal in terms of products and, most importantly, customer service. Scrapbooksteals.com has gone way above and beyond each and every time I have had a problem. Whether it’s a broken or defective product or issues with shipping they are great. They are incredibly quick to respond when contacted by phone, email or social networking (facebook) and are so pleasant and professional. I highly, highly recommend checking out their website and facebook page.

  16. Laura C August 19, 2011 at 2:27 pm #

    Another great article May! Funny but today on Michaels’ FB page, they had a link to a survey about what we would like to see on their site. Hmmm, maybe someone has been reading Scrapbook Update – LOL, I’m sure that’s too quick for a survey but I found it interesting to have that survey and then this article in my email. So maybe those Big Box stores may pay attention sometimes

  17. Samantha T. August 19, 2011 at 2:37 pm #

    I’d love to throw Silhouette America out there as a company with AMAZING customer service. When I first purchased my Sil, I had a bad blade. The not only replaced the blade but the housing for the blade as well. During the course of the conversation they learned that I bought a Sil with the old style mat and sent me the updated versions (read better) for free as well.
    My mom had computer issues when she first got her Sil, and the IT guy there spent hours on the phone with her walking her thought it.
    **please note that this sounds like problems with the Silhouette are routine, but I promise they are not. It’s a great product from a great company :-)

  18. Cindy in Boise August 19, 2011 at 5:28 pm #

    BRAVO!! There’s so many vendors I want to read this post! And thank you, thank you, thank you for addressing the Facebook madness. It.drives.me.nuts! I thought I was a solo in that feeling. And I do feel less worthy when companies are trying to use me to get more followers :(

    • Diane August 19, 2011 at 10:11 pm #

      I’m also frustrated by the FB “madness” (great term). It makes me feel less important as a consumer because it seems like once they have me, they don’t have to put any effort in.

  19. Gael August 21, 2011 at 7:55 pm #

    Wow, May this is such a positive, upbeat article about something which can really bring out the worst in people.
    Well done! you’ve certainly inspired me into becoming more active in the industry again!

  20. Kim August 22, 2011 at 5:41 pm #

    Great article! It’s also nice to know others are looking for the same things I am.

    I was surprised to see Ranger complimented. I love their products, but I’ve had two issues and tried multiple times to contact them, both via their website and via email, and I never got a response. If others are having success, then maybe my two issues were flukes.

    I don’t often look at company websites because I just don’t have the time. Not counting websites and blogs in my votes, but going for quality product that I find I use over and over, my recent favorites are Fancy Pants and Little Yellow Bicycle. And yes, thank you to WRMK for great quality and keeping album colors. I am a repeat customer, and I’m sure I’ll be buying more in the future.

  21. Neysa August 24, 2011 at 10:08 am #

    Loved the article. I also have to say that I have received excellent customer service from twopeasinabucket.com and I love Scrapbooking in Clawson Mi. I highly recommend both. I placed an on-line order w/ 2 Peas and was missing an item. They immediately replaced it and sent me an extra item as an apology. I love Scrapbooking in Clawson, Mi goes overboard to give fabulous customer service. I wish more establishments would follow suit and will check out some of the other companies mentioned in the replies based off the positive feedback listed in the article and in the comments.

  22. JillT September 1, 2011 at 10:07 am #

    What she said :) (Notice how you woke up a whole lot of people with this one, May???) Sometimes I am amazed at how fast companies respond to my problems. Like mine was the only email I got that day. Then again, just a week ago I got a response “we don’t sell that item number”. Uhhhm. . .1) thanks for your “help”????, 2) thanks for making me feel like an idiot and sending me back to re-check the number and 3) the number was right and so long to your products

  23. Emily B. September 26, 2011 at 11:36 pm #

    This was a TERRIFIC article!! SOOO right on in all points. I especially loved the part where you emphasized that making us (the consumer) feel like were valuable by said company, rather than just another amount in a number of fans! Quality customer service, easy to navigate sites, inspiring blogs with great content an ideas along with fabulous product are what gain fans!!! Keep up the fantabulous articles!

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