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Monthly Archives: June 2011

Business News Today…

It’s my 100th post!!!!!

I am very thrilled to post my 100th blog post on Pawpaw and Mango. I am even more pleased that you have stuck with my sporadic, random ramblings, your interest means so much to me and I thank you most sincerely.

So what do I write about? I want to share a part of my journey that I mention quite often, my business.

I don’t know if they are made or born but I know for sure running a business didn’t come naturally to me. I can tell you about a good number of my weaknesses- reasons I should not be doing what I do. Rather I want to share some of my challenges and how they have evolved over the years.

Emails.

Emails should never have been a challenge in the first place (except with their unlimited storage, the guys at Gmail have made me averse to deleting emails hence my 17,506 unread emails in my inbox. Yeah.) So my first emails when I started out in business went something like this:

Dear Mrs Blah,

Thank you for your order. Our customer service line is open from 9- 5:30pm should you have any queries, have a good day.

Yours sincerely

Kelly

Customer Services representative

Name of Company.

Then I came to understand that I needed to differentiate my emails from the perfunctory ones sent by department stores in Bond Street, like John Lewis. I was told people like to hear the sound of their names and have a more personal interaction. So email format changed to:

Dear Mrs Blah,

We are so glad you ordered your baby’s cot from us. We trust that little Miss blah is sleeping comfortably in it. Mrs Blah, we would love to assist you again in the  future Mrs Blah and hope you shop with us again, Mrs Blah. Thanks so much Mrs Blah, have a nice day Mrs Blah.

Kindest regards,

Kelly

I needed no one to tell me it was overkill. And then with the recession and businesses closing down, more and more people started to shop online. Not only was competition becoming rather stiff but consumers yearned for the personal contact once enjoyed. Consequently emails changed to:

Dear Mrs Blah,

Thank you for shopping with us. We are working hard to fulfil your needs beyond your expectations and would like you to send us your comments on our products or services. Also, we’ll send you a free gift voucher if you suggest us to your friends. They will get a voucher too. Please join our Facebook page on … and we invite you to follow us on twitter. Have you signed up for our newsletter? If not you can do so on our homepage (link). Finally please let us know if … And on and on I went.

I have since shortened my emails considerably; they are relevant, friendly and to the point. Plus this new-found confidence in who I am allows me to use my real name and not Kelly. Or Zara. Or Joelle or any of those names I wish my mother had named me.

Refunds

I hate refunds- I don’t like requesting them because it means I am unhappy about my purchase. Worse than that though is issuing refunds. I really, really hate that. I would much rather not have sold the goods in the first place. I detest it so much that I don’t let it linger. If a customer purchases an item that is out of stock or damaged or unsuitable for any reason, I give a refund within minutes of the request. Why let the pain drag on?

At the store we don’t give refunds for custom-made items and our terms and conditions clearly state that. So when Mrs Pain* returned item number 1 because she didn’t “quite like it”, I wasn’t perturbed. After all it wasn’t made just for her. I suggested some other alternatives as I always do but no, she wasn’t happy. I didn’t give a refund immediately this time because her second custom-made item was on its way to her. You see I had a bad feeling right from the start. I wish I had gone with my instincts and not offered to customise her second item for her. Needless to say it arrived over the weekend and she wasn’t happy either. I wasn’t surprised. So it was with a bitter-sweet feeling that I processed her refund a few minutes later. It’s not so bad these days as I rarely get complaints about the quality of products, I take the view that my items are great but just not right for that person at that particular time.

Shipping

This one has  the potential to cripple my day- if and when it goes wrong. What hasn’t gone wrong with our shipping? Missing items, check. Damaged items, check. Items damaged on purpose with a hammer, check. Illiterate drivers that don’t understand English and therefore cannot tell left from right on their sat nav, check. Items turning up more than a month after it was mailed, check. I could go on but I won’t. The thing about shipping is that a good shipper is hard to find, but once you find one, hold on tight and never, ever let go.

Social Media

This one is new. Yes I created a twitter account back in 2008 but didn’t do anything with it. Facebook was courtesy of Suzy. Linkedin, I don’t even know how I got on but somehow I ended up there. Thanks to my business mentor you can find me (with my picture!!!) on twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn. The twitter one was rough going, I still struggle to understand why we are limited to 140 characters. Plus I had and still have a couple of pychos following me. Once psychotic behaviour is exhibited, I click the block button. Simple.

Marketing

I have written about my feelings towards sales and advertising here and here. My marketing used to be limited to placing a few leaflets in shops. I hated doing that at the beginning because I don’t like rejection. Maybe mum and dad spoiled me and gave me everything, but I don’t quite know how to handle rejection. So when I ask very nicely if I can place my flyers in your store for your customers as they would find it relevant, and you say “NO!”, I tend to run and hide. I am a lot better now thankfully. My marketing these days consists of- but not limited to- running away from advertisers and magazines. Yes they call me every day! I Thank God for caller display. I don’t mind advertising when budget allows it, and in fact I need to but I hate being sold to.

Competition

One of them left a bad taste in my mind as she stole images and text off my website, which was my introduction to “the competition”. I have since forgiven her (I hope) and have even added some (other) competitors to my network on LinkedIn. I tell them I admire their work and have sent some of my customers to them if I’m out of stock on a particular item. I learned that from Tony Heisch, The oh-so-cool Zazzle CEO.

That’s all for now folks!

Thanks so much again for reading, I am so glad to be back to blogsville! Missed y’all!