One of the crucial parts of your art business is the way you relate to your customers.
When I tell clients this, they’re usually quick to assert that they always respond within a few hours of getting an email and that they’re really polite.
They don’t want to lose the sale because they moved too slowly.
That’s good customer service.
But I know they can do better; and I know you can too.
Great customer service is actually what you want to strive for.
To explain why it’s important, I’m going to grab an example from my husband’s work life.
He runs a math tutoring center and they’re constantly reviewed on the Listen360 platform, which parents in our area use pretty religiously.
When they get a 7/10, it’s considered a bad score. If there’s enough that didn’t go well or didn’t exceed expectations to warrant dropping your rating to a 7, then the place you’re reviewing isn’t something you’d go running around recommending. So it’s a bad score.
Even an 8/10 is assumed to be a pleasant experience, but not one you’d seek out over other options.
When they get a 10/10, which I’m proud to say they get frequently, it’s always from a parent who is already happily recommending their center to other parents and who is not only happy with the service but also intends to keep returning even after hitting their goals, because they know they could do even better than those goals.
Of course the whole point of the review is so that you’ll get more customers.
It’s incredibly important to their center that they get lots of 10/10 scores, referring people both because these parents are over-the-moon excited and telling all their friends and because their online review is being seen by people they don’t know personally and encouraging them to come into the center.
SO WHAT TAKES YOU FROM AN 8/10 TO A 10/10 IN YOUR ART BUSINESS?
It’s actually got very little to do with responding quickly. It’s much more about being meticulous – a trait that some people have naturally and others have to fight for.
See when someone considers buying a piece of art, they’re rarely in a rush.
While they don’t want it plodding along for weeks, they also don’t need it settled within hours.
But when you rush to answer the email within hours (or sometimes minutes – are you guilty of that?) you lose the opportunity to be meticulous because speed is the priority.
It’s usually better to slow down and respond back within 48 hours, which will feel plenty quick to a potential art customer and gives you the time to think through the situation and your word choices and ensure you’re responding in the best possible way.
Let me give you another non-art-world example.
We’re buying a house right now and some of the people we deal with (real estate agents, mortgage lenders, home inspectors, contractors, etc etc) are 10/10 meticulous… and some of them started as an 8/10 pleasant but have lowered and lowered their score in our minds because of their lack of meticulousness.
One in particular made the process much more difficult than was necessary primarily due to unclear emails.
WHAT WERE THE HALLMARKS OF THE UNCLEAR EMAILS?
o using abbreviations without defining the abbreviation first
o paragraphs that should have been bullet pointed for clarity
o poor grammar
o improper punctuation
o unfinished sentences (seriously – they were truncated)
o sending multiple emails about the same thing with different information in each
o being given several options without an indication of the pros and cons of each option
These things could all be fixed with a little patience on their end, sitting down and really thinking through what they’re doing – i.e. being meticulous.
IN YOUR ART BUSINESS THIS LOOKS LIKE:
o Removing distractions before you respond to an email or get on the phone so that you don’t make mistakes because your head isn’t in the game.
o Gathering information about the order and/or the artwork before you respond to an email or get on the phone so that you don’t have to look for it while you’re in the middle of things or guess at the facts.
Misinformation is very difficult to correct later and can tank your reputation with the potential customer.
o After writing an email, combing back through it for spelling, grammar, and punctuation mistakes.
o Thoroughly considering the future of each situation. How might this customer respond to my email? If I tell them X will happen, is it possible that Y could still happen instead? And what will I do if that’s the case?
Am I taking their perspective into account in addition to my own? Are there other ways this situation could be handled? And which way is the best for this instance? etc.
o Taking extraneous options off the table. For example, if they’ve asked for rush shipping and you could do next day delivery, 2nd day delivery, or 3 day delivery with either UPS or USPS… with 6 different price points for the 6 different services, then you don’t want to offer them all 6 options.
You want to pick the best 2 options for them. If the rush is for a birthday party in 3 days, then you wouldn’t offer the 3 day delivery because there’s no buffer zone in case something happens or even for them to wrap the present.
And you could take out the most expensive options. Then you might be left with the 2 day service for both carriers and the 1 day service for USPS. So you’d give them the 1 day shipping option from USPS and the 2 day option from whichever carrier you personally prefer so that the customer has 2 options to choose from.
That’s a simple choice that won’t overwhelm them and it will also delightfully make them feel like you’re an expert, confident artist who is taking care of them and walking them through the process.
That’s a recipe for a 10/10!
o Making sure that any options you’ve given always have a pro/con explanation beside them.
Another 10/10 move!
o Looking at the finished email before you hit send and making sure it looks visually easy to read. Add paragraph breaks and bullet points so it doesn’t feel overwhelming or confusing.
o Offering niceties at the beginning and end. For example, always start with something kind about their previous communication like “Thank you so much for bringing that to my attention.”
You should also always end a conversation, whether through email or verbally, with something like “Thank you for taking the time to chat with me about this. Let me know if you have any followup questions. Happy Friday!”
These extra sentences make a world of difference in the other person feeling like they’re being treated as a human, not a transaction.
METICULOUSNESS CAN EXTEND BEYOND YOUR DIRECT COMMUNICATION WITH CUSTOMERS AND POTENTIAL CUSTOMERS AS WELL.
Don’t forget your website (especially pages with buy buttons for your art!), your social media posts, and your newsletters. These are places where some thoughtful attention and patience can result in stellar 10/10 feelings from your fans instead of those boring, pleasant 8/10 feelings.