Customer satisfaction is critical to the success of your creative business, because understanding and adapting to the needs of customers can give you an edge over your competitors.
Here are my essential customer service tips when undertaking commission work.
1 Straight talking
Don't be shy... be very clear about the design, pricing and delivery date at the consultation stage because this will help avoid potential disasters at the end of the commission process caused by any misunderstanding.
Confirm what has been agreed in writing or email if you can, just a few words will re-assure your customer too.
Ask for some basic background information on the person the commission is for. You can use this information to make sure your design will really fit the brief and ensure your meet your customer's expectations exactly.
Follow up on any telephone calls from your customer about design changes with a quick email to confirm the details agreed.
2 No empty promises
If your skill/expertise cannot respond perfectly to the design brief, suggest an alternative design that could work or don't take it on.
Take care, if you produce imperfect work to meet an exacting design brief you may ruin your reputation. Consider outsourcing but be prepared to spend extra time and cost on this process and make sure you include it in your selling price.
Agree a delivery date and stick to it - but be realistic and add a few days to cover the unexpected delays that always happen.
3 Be clear with your pricing
Don't pluck a selling price out of thin air then make additions as you go along - yes, the customer will probably pay because they will feel obliged to, but they will be mightily cross and may not use you again - ever. If in doubt ask your customer for a few days to consider their commission brief so that you can give them well thought out quote, that includes material options if necessary.
4 Involve your customer in the "Making story"
Once you have accepted the commission don't forget that the customer is part of the process - keep them informed of major progress timelines, just a few lines on email will reassure them and they will feel part of the making story.
If there is any major delay to the delivery date for whatever reason you should always tell your customer as soon as possible.
You could also some photos of your progress to present to your customer at the end of the commission, to give your work provenance.
5 Finishing off
Be clever and make sure your commission is gift ready.
Make it easy for your customer to present their commission. A small matching bag, box, tag and tissue don't cost much, but they do make a big impression on how professional you are.
Be professional with your presentation, are your boxes, ribbons, packaging etc all branded?
Be self-critical and make sure the commission is fit for purpose and finished nicely.
Present your invoice in an envelope at the time of delivery and make sure your payment options are clear.
6 Bragging Rights
By this I mean provide your customers some ammunition to brag about you and the wonderful gift you have hand-made just for them. Include your business card in the gift bag and make sure it provides a brief 'bio' or making story about you and how or where you make your work.
7 The Human Factor
Customers are individuals with their own agenda and learning to create a rapport with them is essential. Putting product price to one side for the moment - people who like you are more likely to want to do business with you, buy from you and remain loyal to your brand.
How to create customer rapport
Be professional: Customers are not your friends, but you can be friendly.
Listen carefully : Remember every customer is different, seeking to understand their WANT and discover their critical NEED (bottom line).
Clarify : Summarise and explain your understanding of the NEED.
Communicate well: be respectful and try to communicate in the same style as your customer.
Want to learn more enterprise skills?
Contact me for information about one-to-one, 1-day courses that can help you get on track and become more confident with the business side of your making.
Good luck with your creative endeavours,
-Founder of The Bespoke Jewellery Training Company
-Jeweller / Silversmith
-Creative Business Development Consultant
Email Dawn at email@example.com
About the author
Dawn Meaden-Johnson has over 30 years’ experience working in customer facing Creative and Commercial Industries and in Further Education, including at Birmingham City University School of Jewellery for 10 years, during which time she has worked extensively with national and international clients.
Dawn is a creative business development consultant and the founder of The Bespoke Jewellery Training Company which provides national one-to-one practical tuition for Jewellers and business enterprise skills training and enterprise mentoring for young jewellers in the West Midlands.
A Silversmith graduate of Birmingham City University School of Jewellery.
Dawn still creates jewellery under the brand Dawnstorm.co.uk which specialises in limited edition anodised aluminium jewellery combined with silver.