Building Customer Trust with Clear Customer Service Policies

Terms and ConditionsWhen you are selling products online, building customer trust needs to happen before buyers will commit to purchasing something from you. Since they likely have never met you in person or seen your products other than from your website, it is important for you to give them the information they need to know about you and your customer service policies upfront.

All About You

People who enjoy shopping for handcrafted items generally want to know about the artist that created the item they are purchasing. If you do not currently have a bio on your website where you share this information with your customers, now is the time to add one! It's a great method of building customer trust. Writing a bio or artist’s statement can sometimes be difficult because most people don’t really know what information is important to give about themselves, but if you use the following info as a basic guideline, it should help.

Give your customers information on how you fit into the field of your craft, and how you stand apart in your industry. This would include any formal training you have, degrees or certificates you hold, awards you have won, etc. You'll be building customer trust by showing them that you are competent in your field and that when they buy something from your online shop, they are getting something that is well-made by a true artisan. If you do not have formal training, that is OK— just make sure to word the fact that you are self-taught in a positive way. Do not say, “She has never taken an art class in her life” Instead say something like, “Being a naturally gifted artist, she has learned through experience how to bring life to a canvas through her interpretive style of painting.”

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In addition to the information on your training, also include some info on any technique you use that is rare or unique. You do not need to go into painful detail about your technique, as your customer is not looking to necessarily learn how you made the piece, (and you would likely not want to share that anyway), but a simple explanation that adds interest and intrigue will suffice. You can also include information on how you came to your current medium or genre in order to draw the customer in.

Also, be sure to make your bio somewhat personal. Whether you write in the 1st or 3rd person is not as important as whether you make it personal. What drew you towards wanting to create what you create? What inspires you? Do you have something unique or interesting about you that you are comfortable sharing? Is there someone special in your life that is the reason where you are where you are today? It can be any personal thing, but by allowing your readers to enter into your life a bit, you'll be building customer trust, which will ultimately help their decision to purchase from you.

About Your Polices

There are many ways to write a customer service policies page, but keeping it as simple as possible is sure to bring the least amount of confusion. You should focus on the following topics for your customer service policies:

Payment Options: What forms of payment do you accept? If you take personal checks, make sure to include the address of where the check should be mailed, whom it should be made out to, and let the customer know if paying by check will delay the order. For example, you might state, “Your order will ship within 3 business days of your personal check clearing.”

Shipping Policy: You should have a general shipping policy outlined for your customers. If you have different categories such as a Ready to Ship category and a Made when Ordered category, let the customer know. You can say something like, “Items marked as 'ready to ship' will ship within 2-3 business days. Items that are marked 'made when ordered' will ship within 7-10 business days.”

If you do offer items that are ready to ship as well as custom made, make sure to clearly note which category a product falls into so that you don’t end up confusing your customers and inevitably causing unnecessary disappointment.

Included in the customer service policies should be a chart showing shipping pricing; if you offer International shipping, make sure to clearly state the terms and prices. Sometimes there are taxes and fees assessed by other countries when goods come in, and if you do not want to be responsible for paying those fees, you need to mention them up front.

Return/Exchanges Policy: As much as you might hate to think about it, if you run a retail business you will at some point come across someone who wants to know what your return policy is. It is very important that you make this clear from the beginning! I once worked for a company where someone tried to return an item about 5 months after it was purchased and she had completely broken the item due to mishandling. Her excuse was that there was no return policy posted on the website and therefore she felt justified in demanding the return of her money. While it is rare to run into someone who is this difficult, if you have solid customer service policies in place, you can avoid many headaches.

If you make customized items and do not accept returns on them, make sure you not only say that on your customer service policies page, but also on the item description page. If you do accept returns, make sure you let the customer know on your policy page who will be responsible for the shipping fees, the amount of time from the date of purchase that they have to return an item, and whether or not they need to contact you before shipping items back.

While there are many other topics you could choose to cover in your customer service policies page, these 3 are the main categories that people will often want to know about first. Always make sure there is contact info available on your policies page — you'll be building customer trust when buyers see that they can reach you easily if they have additional questions.

photo by Melissa Williams Netherton

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