Customer ServiceWhile your only contact with the buyers of your items will be over the Internet when selling through online auctions, customer service will play a large role in your ultimate success. No matter what you decide to sell, there will always be competition out there selling the same or similar product. Contrary to what you might assume, price is not everything when it comes to online auctions and customer service is an essential part of making your auctions stand out and above your competition over the long term.
Giving top quality customer service will bring past customers back to your auctions time and again. If they receive more than they are expecting the first time, then given a choice of 2 similar products at similar prices, they are likely to come back to you rather than bid on an item from someone they have never done business with in the past. You can even develop a network of customers who will choose to only buy from you if you give quality service time and again. Here are some hints to get you service oriented.
First and foremost, give accurate descriptions of the products you're selling. In addition, list all other charges and their costs that the buyer is responsible for paying , such as shipping, clearly in the auction. There is nothing worse as a buyer to find out after an auction has ended that you will need to pay 3 times the cost of the item in shipping charges. Buyers feel more confident bidding on items where they know the exact cost of everything upfront and this will avoid any ill feelings if the buyer thinks shipping and handling should be something other than what you charge.
Other customer oriented issues that should be clearly spelled out in your auction listings include making it easy and encouraging people to email you with questions about the items you are selling. When you do receive questions, always answer them in a timely manner. Quick responses to questions reinforce that you are an honest and straight forward seller and quick responses also gives confidence to the potential buyer that you will ship their item in a timely manner. Also be clear about what you're willing and not willing to do. If you will combine winning auctions together to save on shipping costs, let them know, but also make it clear if you won't.
As questions begin to come from customers, take note of them. If it is appropriate to add that information to all your auctions to make the issue clearer, then do so. If it is better to answer on an individual basis, create personalized form letters for these frequently asked questions so that you can give the potential buyer an answer as quickly as possible.
Have a system in place where you can send the needed information to the buyer as quickly as possible after an auction ends. Although it won't always be possible to contact the buyer right away, you should strive to make contact within 24 hours at the latest and as soon after the auction ends as possible. Most buyers are extremely excited after purchasing an item and waiting days to be contacted by the seller is never a positive experience. The longer you wait, the more anxiety that builds with the buyer as he/she wonders if the transaction will really be honored. This notification system also extends into letting customers know the status of their item. Contact them to confirm their payment has been received and when the item has been sent out. Keeping them informed of every step will make the buying experience from you enjoyable and without stress.
Leave feedback as soon as you receive payment. If you are offering a quality product then there is no reason to wait until the buyer leaves feedback before you do. Not leaving feedback immediately puts a question into the customers mind of whether or not you are truly legitimate. Also, a lot of people take pride in watching their feedback numbers increase. Forget to leave feedback and there is a good chance that you will lose a repeat customer.
Take the time to wrap your items much better and more securely than they have to be. Neatness counts and you should treat each package you send out as if you were giving it as a gift to a close friend. Customers remember when the receive something well wrapped and also when they don't. Personalizing the package with a short thank you note, or adding a bonus will always make you stand out in a crowd and the customer will remember you later.
Finally, when a customer leaves feedback for you or sends an email letting you know that the item has arrived, be sure to write a short thank you email for their business and that you hope you can do more in the future. It is these little extra things that will make you stand above the other sellers and create a group of loyal customers that will refer you to their friends and family.