"Here's one strategy for handling returns from unhappy customers:
Let them know you don't accept returns. Explain that it must be a user error. Explain that the customer must have lacked care or intelligence or ethics. Explain that you're willing to accept a return, but just this one time. And finally, explain that you're now going to put the person on a list, and you'll never sell to him ever again.
Do all this in one continuous statement, without pausing for a response.
This has happened to me more than once.
What puzzles me is this: if you're going to give the customer a refund, why not make them delighted by the process? Why not create an aura of goodwill? At the very least, both of you will have a better day. Even better, perhaps one day someone will mention your company to this former customer--I wonder what he'll say?
One tip: if you say your meta-goal out loud (or jot it down) before you start an interaction, you're more likely to consistently create the outcome you seek, not the one you hyperventilate yourself into."
This article means alot to me. I recently pondered heavily over how I should treat missing packages. One of my customer's package might potentially be lost, and it is not the company's fault that the package got lost, it is definitely not the customer's fault, and if I have to blame someone, of course it is the postman's fault! However, I cannot blame the postman OR the postal service since I used this service understanding that I have to bear the full responsibility of any losses. What now? Where do we go from here?
Well..... I could indicate in my terms and conditions page that customers have to bear the full responsibility of losses. If they want an ease of mind, they simply pay for the registered article service. Fine. However, when missing packages really do happen, is that the way to treat a customer by telling her "I am sorry, there is nothing I can do?"
That mentality made me really uncomfortable. I could not bring myself to do it. While I may not incur the wrath of the customer by telling her "sorry", I definitely will not gain her respect nor loyalty. As a business, that's the worst - an apathetic customer. As a consumer, that's the worst - to know I have made a purchase from a profit driven company who doesn't really care. My decision became clear. If the package really got lost, I will either reship the customer's package at no extra cost, or if I have ran out of stocks, do a refund for the customer. While that might seem a hefty price to pay for being customer focused, I am pretty sure I will have much more to gain in the long run.
And if you are thinking to yourself, "what about customers who try to abuse this system?" My answer to you is, "Trust and respect." If some companies in Japan can abide by an honour payment system and survive rather profitably, so can perk. :)
We all know how important it is to spend wisely, and it is even more important to do so on your new business. I know the feeling - you constantly feel like you are just paying, and hardly getting anything in return. As most entrepreneurs will tell you, take the amount you think you will spend on your business and multiply it by 5 - that will be the ACTUAL amount you will spend. Scary, really.
On top of that, the only way to offer good prices to your customers is to keep costs low, so you do not have to mark up too much. This makes us really scrutinise every cent we spend. To be honest, perk's margins are not high, and we manage our pricing on a value-based pricing - what is the perceived value our customers get for the price they pay? While our pricing may not be the lowest in the market (comparing 6 for $25 panties by La Senza, or Cotton on), we strongly believe the value our customers get is higher. As such, we are priced appropriately - and we continue to keep costs low so we do not need to mark up higher.
I thought it apt to share some of my cost saving tricks with all of you. When times are dire, you get creative!
1) Creative and Design
It might come as a surprise (or no surprise) to some of you that I do not have an Adobe Photoshop license. All the banners I have designed so far come from my good friend "Paint". A tip: If you need to tilt angles of products, simply copy and paste them into Microsoft Powerpoint and you can play with angles!
2) Email Newsletter
I currently use Mailchimp for all my newsletter needs. Free up to 2000 subscribers, it is perfect for start ups since we will not have that volume of subscribers anyway. Mailchimp comes with design templates, reporting, list management tools - what's not to like?
The perk giveaway is carried out via Jotform - and it is so easy to use! Simply create your form, embed it into your website, and you have it. Best of all, Jotform now comes with integration options and you can sync your form submissions to Mailchimp. This way, you reduce the hassle of transferring your database from one place to another. (I hate the process of exporting and importing excels, and technology really has made it much easier.)
4) Email hosting
You do not need to purchase a hosting package for your own dedicated email. Gmail for businesses allows you to set up your email on your domain, and in my case, firstname.lastname@example.org. You just need to purchase your domain from websites like www.asiaregistry.com.
So far, these four tips have helped me keep my cost to a minimal, and as a result, I can then afford to not mark up on prices, and I can focus my spending on inventory purchases, packaging, marketing and customer service. One disclaimer though: you have to be very wiling to be hands on with the above 4 services, and not rely on others to do it for you. Trust me, the learning process is steep, but very worth it!
Before I go into this post proper, I would like to introduce one of my virtual mentors, Seth Godin, to all of you. I would also like to clarify that this relationship is completely one-sided. I take in all the goodness, and give him nothing back in return. :p But maybe, that's the greatest gift of all, to know that his wisdom and words are impacting the way businesses and marketers work and think.
Back to the intent of this post. There are some days at the start of your business where you just feel discouraged, nothing seems to work, and you constantly push yourself to think of the "next big idea", only to feel unmotivated and uninspired, and at the end, all you get is no idea. (yes, I am feeling that right now. sigh.)
It hit me that if I were to tell Seth about my issues, he would tell me two things:
1) No business ride on an upward slope. You need to be able to ride on the waves, and expect troughs.
2) If you cannot put up with the troughs, then maybe, you're not cut out for business at all.
Somehow, that thought put me back on track, and instead of sulking in a corner, I went in search of some "small wins", things I can do that will value-add the business, yet do not require me to rack my brain juices over. I found some pictures of Rachel Berry wearing Eberjey (whee) and next, I embarked on this post.
My mood is lifted already. :)
Moral of the story: Stay positive, keep on moving, look for small wins. You may not realise how important it is, until very much later.
It's been a while since I posted anything on perktrepreneur.. There are so much going on, so much to write, that I do not know where to start!
A habit of mine is I regularly keep up with business periodicals and websites, and came across this read. I fully agree with this article by Inc magazine on the advantages of being small. The points stated are exactly the reasons why my customers support me so much. One should never expand at the expense of neglecting your customers. Word of mouth is key, and this adage has never been proven wrong - Make a person happy and he tells one other. Piss one off, and he tells 10 others.
I believe it is all about the packaging when doing a business, more so when it is online retailing because it really lets your customers know what your website represents. When it comes down to this detail, trust me, it is not an easy affair.
I have to admit I did not think too much about packaging because I thought I could make do with my existing supplies of organic wrappers. However, when I had my first sale and I had to actually deliver the item, I could not make myself settle for a less than perfect wrapping.
In the end, I went out searching high and low to look for what I had in mind. Aligned with Perk's branding, it had to be a white box, with pink ribbons, and pink tissue. For smaller deliveries, I could use a white gift envelope, pink tissue and a pink ribbon. And true enough, it was so hard finding something that was affordable.
Some pointers to take note of:
1) Branding is everything. Your packaging is your first impression!
2) Take note of the box, the envelope, the tissue, the ribbons, the postage. These are all important costs to factor in your product pricing so they will not eat too much into your margins.
3) As much as possible, keep it simple. The more complicated it is, the harder it is to find. And when anything is customised, it is expensive and for startups, that is a cost we cannot afford. Sadly.
4) Of course, find a supplier. (And supplier finding deserves a post of its own because finding a good supplier is SO difficult.)
And I am close to finding my own packaging! Pictures coming up soon. :)
Long story short, the idea of perk came in 2009 when I have a penchant for lingerie browsing, yet could never afford the lingerie I like. They were expensive and for someone who just started work, splurging on them was a no no. Furthermore, I know lingerie in Bangkok is really cheap. Being the spoilt traveller and the educated consumer, spending $100 for lousy bras and $50 for crappy panties were unjustifiable. To pay a good price, the lingerie have to be really beautiful. Or of exceptional quality. Or they were special close-to-my-heart items which I just had to buy. This sprung the desire in me to start a lingerie business. Why not? I have everything to gain, and nothing to lose. Furthermore, if I could make some money out of my own hobby, that seemed like a really good deal.
My mentality was to first look upon it as a hobby, as something for me to work on after work, and then see where it leads me to. If Charles and Keith could offer decently designed, decent quality shoes at affordable prices, why couldn't I do the same for intimate wear? The more I thought about it, the more excited I became. I could see a market potential. Next, the era of flash sale websites came along. Again, I thought, if Reebonz could get designer bags at a good discount, and sell them for cheap, why couldn't I do the same for lingerie? I would source for items from renowned brands like Elle MacPherson Intimates, Agent Provocateur, Myla etc, and retail them at a decent discount.
It was all too easy to get carried away by the current market trends. There had to be proper business planning, and a proper business model in order to have sustainable revenue. It helps to have practical friends around so they give valuable inputs, and make you look at issues from a different angle. I cannot say I have any business plan (in fact, I am still in the midst of finalising mine!) - I simply cannot envision myself sticking to an initial plan. I had to give myself room for trial and error. What was crystal clear to me was firstly, I have to offer good value, and always put the customer first. With good products that appeals to the customer base, the revenue will naturally come. Another guiding principle was that I would never allow myself sell sub-par lingerie. A great quote that stuck with me till now, "At a profit if we can, at a loss if we must. But always, fine lingerie." Using these two guiding principles, I went in search of what can and cannot work.
What will not work
Flash sales, multi-label retailing, selling bras at the start.
I had to ensure this business will not rise and fall with a hype, so flash sales is definitely out of the question. Multi-label retailing will not work for me at the start, as I simply have no quantity and no credentials to prove myself! I also decided to leave bras out of the launch product range as I am simply not the expert in that area, and the scariest thing would be to sell a product I am not knowledgable in.
What could work
Retailing underwear, oem/odm manufacturing.
One cannot try on underwear at retail, or online. So this aspect already helped reduce the barrier to purchase. Besides, I love underwear and I am confident of my ability to select designs of the right style and material. I can then work with manufacturers to custom design and produce a product range I am proud of, and offer them at a good value to my customers.
Stick to it
Once you have got an initial idea, stick to it! I stuck to my idea for almost close to two years now. I wasn't the most organised in this hobby. I started off with working on branding and packaging, before I even found a manufacturer! Before I knew how the dollars were coming in, I had already spent $2k on coming up with this logo. But who says you have to do things in a certain order? As long as you know you are not procrastinating and have a reason for doing what you did, stick to it.
Things do fall into place
I faced many obstacles - The most obvious of all was that I simply did not have the quantity to do any custom design, nor the business reputation to find a trustworthy manufacturing partner. That never stopped me from the search for other options. I started buying samples in small quantities so I could see for myself the actual qualities of products. i also never stopped searching for brands I could potentially retail. It all came together when I bought a batch of products from a relatively reputable manufacturer on Aliexpress, with a low MOQ required. At that same time, I was recommended this brand, Honeydew Intimates by a common friend and I bought a sample of a few of their products. You simply cannot imagine the joy when you realised you have reached a breakthrough, that there is finally some light at the end of the tunnel, and there is now a small basis for you to further your efforts. :)
More to come from perktrepreneur. Stay tuned!