April 6, 2020– Do you know what killed brick and mortar stores and traditional retail? Poor customer service did, along with a laundry list of other unfortunate events. How can you survive in this day and age without providing excellent customer service? Short answer, you can’t and you won’t. We live in a time where people don’t have to settle; they don’t have to put up with crappy attitudes from employees, or a lack of common courtesy, or not being acknowledged when they walk into an establishment, heck they don’t even have to put up with long line ups or store hours or ever leave the comfort of their own home for that matter. The landscape of doing business has changed, so what does this mean for you as a bookseller/author. In this post I’m not going to talk about the importance of being able to sell your work online, I’m talking about providing customer service for your readers and clients who purchase your products from your online store.
In my company, we use something that I came up with, it’s called the HOUSE method. Here’s what it looks like:
H-Hear your customers/readers. Really listen to what they’re telling you. Find out what they want to see more of and what they want less of. What matters to them? How can you tailor their experience so that they receive the biggest benefit of doing business with you? What makes them happy, and what do they like most about your company? What do they like least? Ask them why they read your work and why they don’t.
O-Offer them more than they expect. Include things like free samples of your work, additional bonus products for free, give them a chance to experience a different part of your product line or flash fiction. Go above and beyond their expectations! Let them know that you appreciate them and that their support of your business and work means everything.
U-User friendly experience. Are your site and online store easy to use? Are your downloads working? Are your readers/customers able to access everything they need? If they run into an issue, can it be solved quickly, and will it be a good experience where you can go above and beyond to help them? Are you easy to find and easy to connect with?
S–Solve the problem before it becomes a problem. Maybe you need to use a new platform to connect with readers that will allow you to respond to messages more quickly. Anticipate all of the areas of your business that could go wrong and put systems in place to solve them immediately. This is a what-if scenario that will allow you to give your readers/customers the best possible experience and outcome should things go awry. What if your online site goes down, what’s your back up plan? What if your online payment software glitches? How can customers still purchase from you? This is something that we do BEST because the boss is a bit of an anxiety-ridden, back-up-plan-making, worst-case scenario kind of person. She likes to stay five steps ahead at all times.
E-Edit your game plan. If something isn’t working, you need to stop and pivot in a new direction. Is there someone on your team that needs more training on customer service? Do you need to fire them? Are people enjoying your newsletter and are you providing value to your readers? If not, is it time to find a new writer or drop your newsletter all together? (Ours is coming back, don’t worry! We’re revamping it.) Are you using software that’s causing delays in ordering? It’s time to get rid of the old and bring in the new so that you can serve your readers and customers better.
Readers don’t NEED to read your books. Customers don’t HAVE TO shop with you. Remember that there are a whole host of other choices out there and it’s your PRIVILEGE to serve them.