Business Matters: Making a Wrong a Right: Writing a Challenging Email

Contributor post by Caroline and Jose of Paloma's Nest and Handcrafted Consulting

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In our previous post we talked about writing a well-branded email, and how the way you communicate with your customers reflects on your business. Helping out customers usually comes easy- expressing the passion you have for your products, or your eagerness to create a special piece for someone. But what happens when that customer is not a happy one? What if you made a mistake, their package arrived damaged, or your item was just not what they expected? Those emails are a bit more difficult to reply to. Not only can these situations be difficult business decisions, but can be difficult emotionally as well.  Our goal is to navigate these situations with grace, turning a it into a chance for your service to shine.

So let's say it's a Saturday morning, and you’re relaxing over your cup of coffee. You glance at your email, and there it is: a brief note from an upset customer. Your heart stops for a bit as you read about the problem they have with their order. How you respond can be a great opportunity to shine in the area of customer service.

Respond to the Issue

Start by taking a deep breath. If you are not prepared to answer the email right away (whether because you are emotionally charged, or because you need time to gather your thoughts and information such as a tracking number from the post office), at least try to send a brief note acknowledging the email, and let your customer know you will get back to them with a solution soon (preferably the same day). Always apologize for the error, inconvenience, or misunderstanding.

Explain plan of action

When you are unhappy with a situation, how do YOU like to have a business respond? What makes you feel like they care? Put yourself in the shoes of your customer. Then do whatever it takes to turn the experience into a positive one. Track the package. Issue a refund. Replace the item (yes, even if it is one-of-a-kind, or custom made). Communicate with the customer what you will be doing to make it right.

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Maybe that looks like this:

Thank you for contacting me. I am so sorry to hear that you have not received your order yet. It did ship last week, and I understand that you were hoping to have it for your friend’s party tomorrow. I am not at the computer right now, but as soon as I am, will research the tracking information and get back to you early this afternoon with an update.

Exceed their expectations.

Nothing makes an unhappy customer more pleasantly surprised than when you go above and beyond what they were hoping for or assumed you would do. Do you need to send a replacement item? Send it Express so they don’t have to wait. Do they just want a refund for a birthday gift that was incorrect, and the event has now passed? Refund them, but send along a handwritten apology note with a tiny token of thanks.  While they may not forget what happened, they will walk away with a positive impression of your brand and how you care for your customers. Now if you are shaking your head thinking about what it may cost you financially to go the extra mile, think again. Errors, damages, and unhappy customers happen to any and every business, and the cost to remedy these situations should be built into your bottom line. The chance to correct a sour situation should be welcomed, as the cost of an unhappy customer is a much greater expense for your brand.

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Maybe your follow-up message looks like this:

I have filed a claim with the postal service, since your package was insured. In the meantime, I will be sending you a replacement piece today so that it will arrive by your party. I have also included a coupon code for you to use if you decide to shop with us again. Thank you for your patience. Please know that this is a rare occurrence for us. We value your business and want you to have the best experience possible when shopping with us. Thank you for letting us correct this for you.

One last note:

Etsy has a Kiss and Makeup feature that allows a buyer to revise a neutral feedback rating and comment. If you receive feedback that is anything less than positive, you should wonder why, and reach out to your customer to find out. Once you have worked to resolve the situation and you have turned their experience into a stellar one (which you should always be striving for), many buyers are more than willing to "Kiss and Makeup," and are pleased to find out that you care so much about your business and reputation. Don’t be afraid to ask!

Have you learned to deal with customer service challenges as a business owner? What do you find helps you resolve situations involving your products? Share with us in the comments below.


Caroline and Jose are the duo behind the heirloom gift brand Paloma's Nest. They believe artists don't have to be starving, so they mentor and coach creatives like you at Handcrafted Consulting.
Join them for a workshop or a one-to-one virtual chat about starting,
growing or managing your handmade business (plus, they are Certified
Etsy Educators)!

Jan Halvarson

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