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Toward Self-Sufficiency: Customer Service

January 2, 2011

First of all, a very Happy New Year to everyone!  I hope that you had a good holiday season and are looking forward to 2011 as much as I am.

As a quick reminder, this is the fourth article in an eight part series through which I am describing how I am working toward making my sports card and collectible hobby 100% financially self-sufficient.  You can catch up on previous articles at the links below: 

Establishing a Focus for my Collection
Selling on eBay to Achieve my Goal

Utilizing an eBay Store

As I made note of at the end of the last article in which I went over how and why I use the eBay store system to operate the “business” side of my involvement of the hobby, I have noticed that using this system seems to carry an automatic increase in customers’ expectations.

With that in mind, I strive to provide the very best customer service that I possibly can, despite the limited amount of time that I have to spend on the “business” side of my hobby.

In the most basic of terms, I strive to always treat the buyers of items found in my eBay store as I would expect to be treated when I buy items on eBay myself.

Two simple, yet often overlooked things are the driving forces of my customer service philosophy: common sense and respect.  I keep those elements in mind with every single listing and sale that I make through the store. 

To date this philosophy seems to be working out fairly well for me given that I have yet to receive a single neutral or negative piece of feedback on eBay, including nearly three years of operating my eBay store.

First of all, I aim to keep the work that a buyer has to do to a minimum when they are looking through my items.  As I said in the second article in this series, consistency is king.  As a buyer I prefer when I can go through a seller’s items and easily find the information that I need to make a knowledgeable purchase.  For that reason, I try my hardest to have every single one of my listings formatted to look, feel, and be the same outside of item-specific descriptors.  Item titles are formatted in the same manner across the board, and I include as much detailed information as possible within the description in a manner that is visually appealing and easy to navigate.  Not only does this establish a sense of professionalism and trust with buyers, but it makes it much easier for potential customers to find specific items within my 4,000+ listings.

Secondly, I ensure an open line of communication between customers and myself.  I respond to inquiries as promptly as I possibly can, provide as much information as I possibly can, and make sure that the buyer knows how and when they can get in touch.  Every inquiry is treated as a possible future sale.  By ignoring inquiries or taking too long to respond I could be costing myself business, thereby setting myself back a step in pursuit of my goal, which is something I simply cannot afford to do.

Third, I took the time to plan and research what my shipping policies ought to be, then developed and established a strict set of guidelines that I follow to a tee:  I only use bubble mailers or other padded means of shipping in order to protect the items from damage when en route to their destinations;  I ensure that each item is as secure as possible before it goes into the package; and my shipping fees are structured to be as low as I can possibly make them without losing money on that element of the sale.

Finally, when I make a sale I ensure that there is some sort of logical organization of the items being shipped.  As a buyer I find it incredibly aggravating to receive a package that contains multiple items but has absolutely no semblance of order.  When it comes to selling cards I make sure they are in organized by year, product name, and individual card number so that my customers do not have to organize the cards themselves before integrating them in to their collection.

Again, it all comes down to common sense and respect.  Common sense tells me that in order for me to be successful on eBay I need to do each of the things I mentioned above.  By doing those things I am showing the respect for my customers that I would expect when I am a customer myself.

With every listing that I post and every sale that I make I ensure that the buyer recognizes that I not only know what I am doing, but that I actually care about what I am doing and who I am doing it for as well.

**********

I have now reached the half way point of the Toward Self-Sufficiency Series.  Four down, four to go.

Next Sunday I will go over how I go about marketing my store in a cheap, easy, and effective way and how you might be able to use some of those methods yourself if you share a similar goal to mine.

Please feel free to get in touch via e-mail (bb_bros [at] hotmail [dot] com), on Twitter (@bb_bros), on Facebook or by leaving a comment on an article.  It is always great to hear from fellow collectors and people who are finding ways to pursue goals of their own.

Until Wednesday, all the best in your collecting pursuits!

Ryan

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