I’ve noticed that a great customer transaction is very much like the making of good love. Moreover, a bad – even mediocre transaction- is as satisfying as a similar love experience. Here’s some observations I’ve made, so you can keep that “lover” coming back for more.
• Buildup / Foreplay – Like a great love experience, a great transaction starts with foreplay. In our field, you have to build up the excitement to a fever pitch, so that when the actual event occurs – the delivery of your piece – it’s even more satisfying to the customer. Look at it from a customer’s perspective – and this is assuming you are a contractor woodworker (you build to order, may get jobs on CustomMade or Etsy). The customer contacts you – “Can you build a table like this for me?” This is where the tango starts. Of course you can build that table for her – but you’re not going to build it – you’re going to craft it for her. You’ll draw up a design and get her input on it. You’ll ask questions because you care about her needs and opinions.
You’re creating anticipation, just as a good lover does.
Customers LOVE this. They love telling you exactly what they want. I mean, where else can you do that? A restaurant, maybe, but I can’t think of another retail situation where things are made to order. The more sexier you make this, the better the pay off later. Be friendly, professional. Get back to people ASAP. Keep them in the loop about what you are doing – “Jen, I’ll redesign that top for you, and get it to you tomorrow; I have a great idea I think you’ll love!” Customers really feel flattered that you are paying so much attention to them.
Just what I’ve cited above is reason enough for people to pay more for your product. It’s not JUST about the piece – but the experience, which costs you little, if anything, that satisfies the client.
• The lovemaking – She’s committed to the project, and has sent you half down. Great! Now what? I always acknowledge the payment – “Michelle, just wanted to let you know that I did receive your payment – thank you! I’ll be starting the table on Wednesday. I’ll send pics and updates often. Thanks again!”
And do just that – keep in touch. Can you imagine sending hundreds – if not thousands – of dollars to someone on the internet that you don’t know, for a product that doesn’t exist? Nerve racking! You owe it to them to show progress pics. You don’t need to go overboard, detailing every tenon, but just a pic or two so that customer has no anxiety about you running off with their money.
And, once again, you are still building up the tension of getting the product delivered. She’s watching it being created; she knows you care enough about her to send her updates, relieving any anxiety. Chances are, you’re her first, so to speak.
•The Climax – Now the project is done. I’ll ask the client if she would want a picture of the final outcome before sending. Some don’t. Some want that big surprise when they open the box. Some want to see it right away. Ask before sending a finished product pic. If they do want a pic, send them one with the piece in a nice setting, like in your living room, outdoors, whatever – but please, not a sheet draped over your table saw in fluorescent light! Ugh!
• The Afterglow – Ship it. I’d advise you to use a new box, and not one that you got your George Foreman grill in. I know you think it might be no big deal, but it is. It’s her first interaction with the piece. How’s it look if the box looks like an ape high on crack wrapped it? I mean, seriously. Show her you care enough to present it in a new box, with the tape fairly neatly applied. Have some pride, will ya? By the way, if you are shipping a larger piece, like a coffee table, and you don’t want the pain, cost and extra shipping cost of a crate, you can get heavy duty cardboard boxes, custom made to your size. Check out CustomMadeBoxes. By the time you buy wood for a crate, not to mention the time, you could have had a box made for you. I made a crate – ONCE.
Of course, you are going to package it extremely well. Another tip: Don’t buy bubble wrap at your local Staples, Office Max, etc. But it on eBay – MUCH cheaper, like 5x cheaper. Also, I buy this foam paneling cheap at Home Depot to pad the sides. I don’t use peanuts, they make a mess and are so expensive.
I recommend using FedEx, if possible. I’ve had nothing but great experiences with them, and their tracking is awesome. By the way, as soon as you ship, send the customer a note. “Jen, just wanted to let you know your clock is on it’s way! The FedEx tracking number is xxxxxxxx, and it should be there Friday”. Once again, building anticipation. Customers often remark to the effect “I can’t wait!”
They WANT to love what you make for them, they really do. There’s been a big build up, and now you have to deliver. They will even overlook minor things, as they wear rose colored glasses, much as people in love do, never seeing the little warts their lover has.
After all that love making, you should have a very satisfied customer, returning, hopefully for more!