TEST Etsy Newbie Bootcamp: Class 7 Communication

Welcome to our Etsy Newbie Bootcamp! If you want to take part in Bootcamp and get one-on-one mentoring, or answers to any of your questions, please drop us a line at TorontoEtsyST@gmail.com.  

If you want to open an Etsy shop, just follow this link!

Then, be sure to check out:

TEST Etsy Newbie Bootcamp: Class 1 How to Open an Etsy Shop
TEST Etsy Newbie Bootcamp: Class 2 Branding & Shop Banners
TEST Etsy Newbie Bootcamp: Class 3 Shop Profiles Bios and Photos
TEST Etsy Newbie Bootcamp: Class 4 Make Listings Tempting
TEST Etsy Newbie Bootcamp: Class 5 About Pages

TEST Etsy Newbie Bootcamp: Class 6 Shop Policies

Remember: If you already have a shop, or you open one today, please let us know how to find it! We will be featuring some of our favorite newbie items right here. 

Nautical "Hello Sailor" Canvas Tote Bag by CUBshop

Today we're going to talk about communication. To some degree, all the classes so far have been about communication, but today we are specifically talking about your shop's correspondance. Some of the tips we can offer might seem obvious, but as a buyer, a seller and team captain, I contact a lot of Etsy sellers, and I've been surprised, but some sellers do not answer convos! Convos are Etsy's internal mail system. When a potential buyer presses the 'Contact Owner' or 'Ask a Question' buttons, from your shop front page or a listing they get a text window to allow them to send you a convo. So, this brings us to the first tip:

Tip: Answer all messages, convos, or emails related to your shop! Be accessible and friendly.

Caveat: It is okay to ignore and not reply to phising or other scams. These are not common, but there are crooks on the Internet, so if someone tries to get you to reveal passwords or send them money or merchandize they haven't paid for or use their suspicious shipping method rather than following your own policies, don't do it. Just report it.

Not to say you have to be as flirty as CUBshop's Hello Sailor tote.... but anyone who writes to you is a potential customer and it just makes good business sense to answer them and be as helpful and efficient as possible. Shoppers may have questions about your items that need to be answered before they’re ready to buy — by responding quickly you can build trust and help inform their purchase decision. Even messages which do not appear to be from potential customers could lead to things which benefit you and your business, so it pays to communicate.

Now, Canada is a bilingual nation filled with residents who speak and write all sorts of languages. If you can effectively communicate in more than one language, use that to reach more customers!

Tip: If you are multilingual, list your items in multiple languages!

My own shop, for instance, is bilingual English/French. Under Shop Settings > Info & Appearance there is a Languages tab, where you can enroll in an ever-widening list of languages, in addition to English. Currently you can make listings in: French, Dutch, German, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish and Russian (complete with Cyrillic characters). Buyers whose browsers default to any of these languages will see any of your translated listings in their native language. So, every time I make a listing, I see twice as many text boxes: English Title, French Title, English Description, French Description, English Tags, French Tags. English is my first language, so I tend to be more succinct in my French descriptions, but I can still use this as a way of providing better customer service. If it's easier for francophones to read descriptions in French, they will feel more comfortable making a purchase or sending an inquiry. My sales to Québec and francophone countries have definitely increased since this new tool was added and I translated all of my listings. There are teams dedicated to each of these languages, and it is possible to find sellers who can help if you are a bit uncertain about a translation. You may use as many of the available languages as you know!

Tip: Set up your Shop Info & Appearance so that buyers automatically receive information on their receipt

If you navigate to your Shop Settings (either from Your Shop > sidebar where you find Shop Settings Info & Appearance, or via your Dashboard), as well as setting up your Shop Banner like we did in Class 2 you can fill in a text box with a Message to Buyers so that they automatically receive a note with their receipts. Good things to include: thank you message; what to expect next (for instance, whether you will email to confirm receipt of payment, how and when you will ship the item, delivery information and so forth), encouragement to contact you with any queries, any other information you want customers to know (how to find your blog or other social media, how to sign up for a newsletter, what have you).

Tip: Always let customers know that their item is on the way

I like to email my customers to say thanks, that I have received their order and payment, when and how an item will be shipped, its expected delivery date, and that they should contact me with any questions or comments. I also like to confirm the address. This can also be done by convo (but I find that new Etsy users are sometimes unfamiliar with convos and email can be more effective, unless they have already contacted you by convo). You can also send an automated Shipping Notification, from Your Shop > Sold Orders. Buyers, like most people, do not like being bombarded with email, so I would suggest using one, not all, of these methods.

Tip: You may even wish to send a follow-up email, after delivery, to ask customers how they liked their item and to provide feedback.

This might feel like exceptionally attentive service. You may find you gain useful insights from your customers, say for how to improve, or what to make in your next line of products. Also, having a good feedback rating is particularly important for Newbies. So, this can be a good way to make sure you get those feedback stars under your shop name.

Now, I'm sure all of our Bootcamp recruits are lovely, even-tempered, polite and helpful people, so I don't really need to tell you to be polite. I hope I'm not bursting any bubbles here, but Internet users often do not read carefully, sometimes take the "shoot first, ask questions later" approach. On occassion, people are less than nice. Most people are good people, and with any luck all your communications will be easy and fruitful. But, we have another tip, for any lovely to not-so-lovely  communications, just remember:

Love Yourself First typographic print by lovelylittlepaperco
Tip: Stay positive! No matter how trivial, annoying, needlessly panicked or, on those rare unfortunate occasions, senselessly rude a message you receive, if you are positive, polite, clear and fair you're doing yourself a big favour! A sense of humour is a definite bonus.

There is an old adage: The Customer Is Always Right. But, is this true? Of course not. The thing is, it's a good idea to treat them with that sort of consideration and respect regardless. Here are some instances reported by experienced Etsy sellers, Where the Customer Might be Wrong:

  • "My purchased item has not made it to [THE END OF THE EARTH] instantaneously! Obviously, you never sent it and just took my money! Panic and freak out!" 

    This is where good records, clear policies and a polite explanation of when the item was sent, when it should be expected and what happens if it's lost come in handy.

  • "The listing [which clearly states dimensions] fails to state dimensions!"

    Thanks for your message! The dimensions are x by y. Substitute words for any other alleged missing information. Don't worry that you did provide the information already. Sometimes people misread things.

  • "Even though your Shop Policies clearly explain expected shipping times and that duties imposed by Customs are the responsibility of the buyer, you should mark my package 'no commercial value' so I don't get dinged"

    Sorry for any inconvenience, Customer, but I'm afraid that would be fraud.

  • "I love your artwork so I thought I would steal it and print it on [tee shirts or other items] and offer you one as a thank you"

    Sometimes it's necessary to politely educate people on copyright infringement and licensing agreements. You have a right to protect your intellectual property and it isn't okay, or legal, for anyone to simply steal your work.

  • "I think you should cut me a special deal and charge me less money because [I'm special or something or I can buy a cheap machine-made version which is vaguely similar]"

    This person is probably mistaken.... though, it's a judgment call. Don't let your handmade work be compared with mass produced items; apples and oranges. Occasionally, you may wish to make a deal if you get something of similar value in return. Sometimes charities ask for donations and you may wish to support them. It's good practise to check out any charities in question to make sure they do have charitable status and that you agree with their principles. As long as you're polite, it's okay to say no.

  • "Even though you make X I think you should make Y"

    Sometimes these comments are really useful and give you new ideas or insight into what people want to buy. Sometimes they are unhelpful or just plain nuts. Don't feel compelled to please everyone. If you are polite and thank them for their feedback that's enough. If you like the idea, run with it. If you would consider making them a custom order, let them know! Don't make a product which does not appeal to you on a vague promise from a random stranger that they'll buy it. There's a reason that the process for custom orders is to seek payment upfront.

I Love You - Restraining Order -A Mini Card by MsFebruaryDay

As MsFebruaryDay's card playfully reminds us, some people have issues. If you are reasonable, and treat everyone with consideration and respect, you can avoid or diffuse almost all conflicts.

What do you do if you receive a complaint:
1. Thank the sender for their message. It might not be fun, but you want an unsatisfied customer to contact you rather than open a dispute with Etsy or PayPal.

2. Go ahead, be Canadian about it; say you're sorry! We're notorious for saying "Sorry" to mean everything from, "Please speak up, I can't hear you!" to "Hey! You're stepping on my toes!" but regardless of any culpability, you are sorry, and disgruntled customers appreciate hearing it. You want them to have the most wonderful transaction ever and be so impressed that they become a lifelong fan and go around singing your praises to everyone, right? So, even if the complaint is shall we say, less than reasonable, you are sorry, and it takes little effort to say so. It doesn't mean you are admitting you are guilty, or it's your fault that it takes more than a few hours to ship items to the other side of the world. If, on the other hand, you did make a mistake, it's a good idea to acknowledge this and try to make it right.

Sorry card - nature by HafsaCreates

3. Provide any pertinent information (such as clarifying when the item was shipped, your shop policies, and so forth).

4. Let them know what you can do for them. Do you guarantee delivery, or offer replacements or refunds for lost or damaged items (see Class 6 Shop Policies for why you should)? Do you have another item or offer custom orders which might suit them better? If the complaint isn't reasonable (for instance, if you provided exactly what you described, or the complainer isn't a customer at all, but a troublemaker) you may have already done enough, by reading and considering their message. In which case, you can simply thank them for their feedback.

5. Invite them to keep the dialogue going, in case they are not yet satisfied. (Unless they are genuinely out of line... you don't wish to continue to communicate with anyone who is abusive).

6. Keep a record of all communication, just in case.

Most people are great, but in the unlikely event you encounter a troll, you can contact Etsy support. 

Get the Eat Sleep Promote Repeat - Typography Print from SnaptureThis
to inspire you and launching your new small business!

So, now that we've covered the tough stuff, what's the good news Etsy buyers are awesome. They are interested in buying from real people. They appreciate handmade goods. They collect vintage goods rather than cheaply made mass-produced new items. They are artists and craftspeople looking for supplies. The vast majority of communications you'll have with people on Etsy will be a pleasure! Note only do customers appreciate what you offer, they'll often offer compliments, thanks and write nice things about you. Sometimes people just write to tell you that they appreciate what you do. You might even get fan mail! This is the best thing ever. Save these messages for a rainy day, or to cheer you up if you have more challenging interactions. Being an artist or a small business person isn't always easy, but the customers that you can find on Etsy can really make it worth it, in personal as well as business terms.

So do you have any communication tips to share? Have interesting experiences you'ld like to tell us about? Drop us a line or leave a comment below!

The Toronto Etsy Street Team loves Newbie shops! You can find some of our favorite listings from talented Newbie sellers, including those featured in this class in our new TEST ♥ Newbies section. Be sure to stop by often to see what's new in this evolving, curated treasury of amazing Newbie finds!

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