The Thrill of the Sale and the Agony of the Return

Melancholy Art Print 8.5 x 11 by SarahSlam
After a wonderfully busy and successful December through February, I regretfully find myself in the season of the dreaded RETURN + REFUND. Ah yes, after months of nonstop hard work in the studio, now my attention must be given to a less enjoyable part of running a business-dealing with THE UNIMPRESSED CUSTOMER (insert terrified shudder here).  There are all kinds of different unhappy customers:  some are laughably offensive and insulting; some are sweet, and yet unwaveringly demanding; and others would simply like nothing more than to return their item and get their money back with as little communication as possible. As any artists knows, when you pour your heart into everything you make, spending  hours trying to make a design JUST RIGHT, it can be hard not to be totally dejected when someone is less than impressed with your work. If history teaches us anything, it is that a depressed artist is not a good thing.  So if you find yourself in a similar melancholy place, horribly anticipating dealing with the next snarling, demanding customer, stop cutting off your ear and see if the following tips can help you.

How to Deal Positively with Negative Feedback:

1)  First off, after the shock and disappointment has set in that your customer is not happy with your work, I suggest taking a DEEP BREATH.  This is so that your head does not explode, as I hear tell that gray-matter is really hard to get out of carpets.  This introspective moment is also to help you pause before you contact your unhappy customer in the defensive, childish, unprofessional, and completely inappropriate way, that you really would like toDeep breath in...Deep breath out... Don't you feel better already?  Repeat as necessary.

2) BLOW OFF STEAM (if you need to).  When turning your attention to the specifics of a customer's complaints, be sure to distinguish between Constructive Criticism and unnecessary or unreasonable Insults.   If the difficult situation involves criticism of your
Blow Off Some Steam by IRONSIDE
work, feel free to try and learn what you can from this critique.  Feedback is an excellent opportunity to examine how you can make your product better.  If however, this criticism fails to be constructive and degenerates into purposely insulting accusations (as in, "you didn't do this(untrue thing)/you didn't do that (untrue thing)/you have horrible craftsmanship,etc"), make sure to "blow off some steam." Save your crazy, ticked off rantings for a special friend/spouse, because speaking to a customer without a BRAIN-MOUTH filter will probably not cause them to instantly "see the light" and realize how awesome YOU or YOUR WORK is.

Thumbs Down T-Shirt by AcrossTheBoardDesign

 3) Next, in a cool, collected, and professional way, DO ALL that you REASONABLY can to resolve the ISSUE your customer has with their order. In the Etsy blog post article entitled "Not Everyone is Your Sweet Aunt Kate" you will find fantastic suggestions on how to run your online business-what to say/do to help facilitate good communication, how to deal with a  customer that is upset with shipping delays, or how to handle a request to return a custom order.  If after applying these suggestion, you still do not have a happy customer, this quote from the aforementioned article can be helpful:

"On a rare occasion, you might find yourself in a situation with a customer that you will not be able to please no matter how hard you try.  If you find yourself  taking too much time away from working on your business or handling your other customers, it might be time to cut your losses.  While you want to do everything you can to turn them all into a Sweet Aunt Kate [the sweetest lady alive, always delighted with your latest crafty endeavor, no matter what it is], there will be times when all you can do is politely thank them for their business, apologize, and go on with your work."

Give Me A Kiss Vinyl Wall Decal by VinylWallAccents
4)  MAKE LOVE, NOT WAR.  If someone DOES end up leaving you NEGATIVE Feedback online, so that your potential future customers can see it, you still may have YET ANOTHER chance to salvage your good reputation as a shop owner.  Etsy has a great option for sellers called "Kiss and Make UP." If both buyer and seller agree to retract any negative/neutral feedback given, it is also removed from your shop's public rating.  Then, you can sleep well at night, knowing that future customers can clearly see YOUR AWESOMENESS, and not be distracted by negative comments made by disgruntled former patrons.  It's as if the nasty little kerfuffle never happened :) Hooray!

5)  If NOTHING, and I mean NOTHING works, GET SOME PERSPECTIVE.  Reading other small business blogs, or talking with other self-employed people can help you see that everyone has to deal with stressful customer situations at one time or another in their career.  I found a great blogger who wrote about what she learned from some of her difficult transactions-Check out her observations about running her indie business here.  Another helpful thing to do is to look at the feedback ratings of other successful sellers, who's work you admire.  99 times out of 100 they WILL HAVE some negative/neutral reviews, which make up a miniscule percentage of their THOUSANDS of successful sales and overjoyed customers.  The fact is, the more successful you are, the more sales you make, the more you people you deal with, and the greater the likely-hood that you may meet someone who you cannot please no matter what you do.  C'est la vie, c'est la guerre.

provided by Fabbydabbystones
6)  Finally, if you feel disheartened, discouraged, and downright dejected after dealing with unhappy customers who don't value your work as much as your Sweet Aunt Kate (who "displays or wears your latest [creation] as if it were a Picasso or the Crown Jewels"), may I suggest a tried and true formula of VACATION + RETAIL THERAPY If you need to find inspiration to continue on in your trade, taking a little time off and finding new things that inspire you can help remind you why you loved to do what you do in the first place.  Personally, when I see gorgeous, gleaming gemstones, a striking or unusual color combination, or an intricate, detailed pattern, my imagination goes swirling off in all kinds of different crazy directions, leaving negative feelings of past challenges behind.

I hope these little suggestions help!  
'til next time...