How Important is Customer Service to You?

Last week I had a fairly bad experience with an online seller. Let me preface by saying that as I grow a catalog of vendors for my shop, this idea of great customer service is really really important to me, because I’ve had some not so great experiences from several vendors. And last week, it finally hit home that saying, “the customer is always right.” Now whether or not that is true, at least you as a customer should always be made to feel right, don’t ya think? I do. And that was definitely not the case in a dealing I had with a vendor last week. Through the course of several emails, I was made to feel like I was in the wrong, that I hadn’t even purchased their product and was a liar, that I had no idea what I wanted and what I was doing and that I was some faceless person that they didn’t even want to try to get to know. It’s a stinky feeling and one I hope that none of my own customers and clients have ever had from me.

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Here, at A Fashionable Stitch, its really important that you have a good experience from me. I’m a real person. I want you to feel like you can trust me. I want you to know that your experience with my products is important to me. I also want you to know that I do try to test drive everything that comes out of here and I try to pick the best sewing supplies to go in my shop. As a one man band, its hard to keep on top of emails and requests and even shipping (sometimes impossible) but its really really important to me and I love it too! I love sewing and I want you to love sewing. And as I try to perfect my user experience here for the shop, I would love to know how important customer service is to you.

What do you consider great customer service? Is it important that you know the seller – whether because you read them (like me) or because you actually personally know them? Trust is a bit part, I’m sure. I’m constantly surprised by the number of customers that I have who keep coming back and making their purchase with me. That’s a big deal to me. And a seriously huge Thank You to those of you who do! I wouldn’t be in business if not for you!

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In closing, I would love to hear about what’s made an experience with an online seller so great. I just bought a handful of embroidery patterns from Sublime Stitching and that was a seriously GREAT experience! I’ll be going back for more (maybe adding a handful of designs to the shop – maybe). Jenny Hart – what a gal huh? And that’s what was even cooler! I knew her name by the end of the transaction. Yup. Love her, her style and what’s she’s done for embroidery.

I would love to hear your thoughts on customer service friends! What keeps you going back to a seller for more? What, in your opinion, is the best way to a customer’s (your) heart? What’s the wrong way?

Have a very happy Wednesday!



34 thoughts on “How Important is Customer Service to You?

  1. Customer service is really important to me, but let me tell you it varies a lot depending on the country you are in. In the US customer is generally king so you are always treated kindly. In other countries, it depends. Often you are made feel like you are wrong. Two examples, one from yesterday were I went to pay for some medical service and I needed the original request certificate. The woman at the counter told me in a sort of angry voice “well, you should have asked the original certificate to the doctor, we don’t have it”. I simply replied “I am sorry but I am not familiar with your internal procedures”…how is a patient supposed to know this? I would have expected simply “Unfortunately we don’t keep it, can you please go back to the doctor and ask? or even, We will call the doctor and ask him to bring the certificate here”
    Second experience, the boiler maintenance guy kept on insisting that I should get my boiler checked every year by law. I read through the law and saw he was wrong, and I only needed it every 2 years. When I mentioned it to him, he kept on saying I was wrong, asking me whether I had read the laws, but of course was unable to provide any evidence.

    For me what’s important in terms of customer service is a prompt, kind reply and certainly no lies.

    BTW, I am really sorry for not being able to buy from your shop for the moment. I am not in the US and customs and taxes are steep so I really have to think about what I buy.

  2. I’ve been thinking about this a bit myself lately. I recently did a giveaway on my blog where the prize was a gift certificate to the online sewing-or-knitting-related retailer of the winner’s choice. And it’s been such a hassle trying to actually follow through with it. So far, I’ve dealt with two different companies–I’m withholding the names, but one was a large company and one was a small, independently run one. After looking at the large company’s website (the winner’s original choice) and not finding anything about gift certificates on there, I contacted the company to ask if that’s something they offer. I got a quick response that basically just said “No.” After relaying this to the winner, she suggested the second, independently run company. They didn’t have gift certificates in the amount I wanted to get, so I contacted them as well to ask what my options were. It took a little longer to get a response, but while they couldn’t accommodate the specific amount of money, they did suggest maybe throwing something else into the giveaway so the winner could still get a little something extra out of it, as well as taking the time to give me instructions on what to do at checkout to make sure the gift certificate would get to her. So even though it took longer, I’d be more inclined to deal with the second company again because of the more personal response and the sense I got that they cared more about making sure that I, as the customer, would be satisfied.

    It does help to get to know the seller via the blogs, too. I’ve been excited to support Tasia at Sewaholic because of reading her blog and following her sewalongs and such. And while I haven’t purchased anything from you yet, reading your blog makes me want to support your business as well. (For the record, I am hoping that I can get my hands on one of those belt kits…just have to figure out what would work best for the trench raincoat I’m hoping to sew later this fall!)

  3. Customer service makes a huge difference. The seller needs to be easily accessible, the products need to be well-priced without lame shipping costs, and the packaging needs to be good – if not in design, then at least in that your items arrive undamaged.

    I just bought some belting supplies from your shop – they’re surprisingly hard to find elsewhere on the net! Your prices were good and you sent me an email when it shipped, which I really appreciate. (Can’t speak to packaging or the items themselves because I gave you the wrong address and my mom hasn’t sent them along to me yet. ^_^ )

    That is some gorgeous embroidery there. I’m glad the seller is as good as their product. After I get more sewing under my belt I’d like to try my hand at embroidery.

  4. well, i don’t think you have anything to worry about – i’ve always had FANTASTIC experiences regarding your shop. my biggest thing is correspondence… drives me crazy when sellers take forevER to reply to emails. i mean, i get that people are busy and it might take a day or two, but i’ve had sellers wait a week or more! or, ugh, sometimes they just never reply at all and i’m sitting there scratching my head, wondering if i offended them somehow. so your prompt responses are something i really really appreciate, and that definitely makes me want to keep being a repeat customer (and tell my friends to be repeat customers as well!).

  5. Customer service definitely makes a difference in whether or not I return to a company or seller. If someone is blatantly rude or otherwise inappropriate (lies like Sewing Princess’ boiler maintenance guy, etc.), I will make a point not to spend my money there again. If someone goes out of their way to be extra responsive, sends me a personalized something-or-other in the package (even just a card!), or just does pretty much anything extra, I’ll make a point of returning whenever I need anything they provide, even if another store or seller is more convenient.

    However, I’m not so concerned that I feel like I’m always right, possibly because I’ve worked on the other end of customer service and possibly because my faulty memory frequently results in me being wrong. πŸ™‚ There is a point at which the customer is no longer right. For example, I bought 3/4″ Petersham ribbon from your shop (along with the Colette Ginger, which I’m so excited to start!), and I just realized that I should have gotten the 1 1/4″ ribbon. If I contacted you and told you that you sent me the wrong size, I would be soooo wrong, and for me to expect you to send me the other size free of charge would be just absurd, especially since I (and you) have the receipt to prove what I actually ordered 3/4″ ribbon. I will, of course, just be ordering more ribbon from your shop, but I’m not really sure how as a seller or service provider I would go about handling a customer who was so obviously wrong and just trying to take advantage.

  6. I think good customer service is hugely important and it’s something I really value, especially online and when supporting small businesses! Good customer service to me can include any number of things. A speedy transaction, pleasant interactions, care when dealing with issues. Two brief great experiences: a small online yarn shop where you always get a personalized note (and a few pieces of candy!) with your invoice, and it always tickles me! Another is an Etsy seller who was so helpful and apologetic when I contacted her to let her know the dress I bought had several undocumented holes. She went above and beyond to fix an honest mistake, and I’ll have no qualms buying from her in the future.

  7. IMO, customer service is the most important aspect of selling, and sad to say, it’s something the accountants and other money people don’t seem to take into account when business decisions are made. Yes, you can provide less service and charge less accordingly, but the service is part of the deal — how else is the customer going to learn about the product, choose to buy it, pay for it, and receive it? I’m always willing to pay more for good service, all other things being equal. However, you don’t always get it by choosing the small company — some are run well, others poorly. The thing about capitalism — whether you like it or not — is that it allows consumers choices. If enough people have a bad experience with a company, that company eventually will find itself out of business. My own tendency is to stick with a business if I have had good experiences with it — and to move on if I have had bad ones.

  8. Hurrah for great customer service! Good customer service is expected in the States and sadly I find it hard to find it a lot of the time in other countries. I mostly encounter frustrations with the big companies, not so much mom and pop places. I have been repeatedly overcharged due to company errors: bad accounting, stores not honoring their signage or special offer deals, etc. It gets tiring having to argue that you’re in the right.

    At the very least I want to be valued as a customer. I almost always will tell everyone of a bad experience faster than I do a good one. But don’t get me wrong. I love singing the praises of service well done and one that puts a smile on my face. And knowing how much you value good service will definitely make me consider getting products from you rather than try someone new and take my chances.

  9. Like many others, I would like to say that I have had great customer service from you. I think that customer/seller interactions are always better when there is some level of knowing each other, just to create that personal connection that makes you more understanding of the needs of the other person.

    One thing I wish more sellers/vendors would do is just be upfront about the best way to communicate with you. I personally like email, especially when trying to get specific information, so if there is an email address then I’m going to use it. It is incredibly frustrating to then not hear from the seller, call them, and find out that they only check their email once a week. In that situation, it would be better to just say that phone is faster. On the flip side, my husband prefers calling people, but we recently dealt with a man whose voice mail filled up quickly, and we could never get a hold of him.

  10. I just ordered something from you yesterday, and I was happy with the email I got afterward. πŸ™‚ I guess it does make a difference that I read your blog and know the history of your shop, though that’s sort of unconscious.

    If I’m buying from a seller on Etsy or eBay, I want it to feel like a personal interaction, with friendly communication and a sincere apology if something goes wrong. In return, I make sure to keep my expectations about prices and timing reasonable. But a tracking number is an absolute must, no matter how friendly the seller is.

    The times that I’ve been really delighted with an Etsy/eBay seller, it’s because they wrapped my purchase up like a gift in tissue paper and ribbon, or sent very warm emails.

  11. I think customer service and relationships is particularly important for online services. With brick and mortar buildings, geography is a factor. I’ll go to a store because it’s close, because it’s there, because it’s my only choice. But online, there are lots of reasons not to use a service rather than TO use a service.

    I’ll speak positively for Sew Sassy. I made a large order, had it shipped to my parents vacationing in Florida to save me some costs. My mom opened it up and said our lists didn’t match. It seems they forgot to pack the second page of my order. I emailed detailing what was missing and they were upfront on how it happened and shipped out the second package at no charge to me immediately. I shopped there again because they made a mistake and rectified it. We all make mistakes, both as consumers and retailers, the issue is how you deal with it.

  12. So there was this lady who was operating a fairly popular covered button and belt business. I had had difficulty with a belt that came back shorter than it should have and therefore unusable. I swore off this business for some time, several years anyway. But like a fool, I went back. What I got was someone else’s belt. When I tried to sort this out, I was asked to pay the postage to return the wrong belt and to receive the correct belt. You may not believe this, but I got the wrong belt a second time. (The two other customers involved in this mess were a bit upset as well; I found this out when I suggested that we just mail the belts directly to the customer who should have them.) At first, the business owner wouldn’t do this but eventually saw the wisdom of this. I subsequently got an ugly letter from the business owner telling me that I should be more patient and understanding as she had just lost her husband. Of course, I felt badly about that but some outrage that she thought it was okay to conduct business this way under her sad circumstances. Needless to say, I didn’t use her service again. I cover my own buttons and I avoid custom belts since I can’t do a decent job on them. Thanks for letting me vent.

  13. Customer service is probably the deciding factor of whether I’ll do business somewhere ever again. And I’m not real keen on giving second chances (unless I hear of new management, etc.) I realize that makes me sound like a b!tch, but I’ve got a youngster and husband that give me all the attitude I can tolerate in a given day. πŸ˜‰ But once I’ve been treated well, I’m pretty much a customer/walking advertisement for life unless something goes majorly wrong.

    Personally, I have been and can be wrong as a customer. I don’t expect you to always find me to be “right”, but I do expect courtesy, even if I’m wrong. I also expect honesty; giving me the runaround to try and avoid admitting you’re wrong isn’t a way to keep my business. I also hate it when people make judgments based on my appearance. If I’m in your store, I’ve got the cash and the desire to spend it. Don’t EVER assume that I can’t buy whatever I’m looking at and try to steer me towards the “discount” section (unless you truly think what you have there is what I’m looking for.)

    I think you’ll be fine. As long as you can respond in a timely manner (less than a week) to questions, ship in a similar timeframe (unless otherwise indicated), and offer a fair (to both parties) return policy, you should pretty well be set. Online business has a bit more flexibility than a brick and mortar, or at least that’s how it seems.

  14. I’d say customer service is second only to having a great product. I really love etsy sellers who wrap your purchase or take the time to slip in a thank you note. It really makes my day and makes me feel appreciated. It also makes me more likely to go back to their shop again!

    My worst customer service experience was with our wireless router. It wasn’t broadcasting to my husband’s laptop. After about an hour on the phone with a person who was obviously not a native English speaker, the guy said that it had to be my husband’s computer (which it wasn’t because we’d already been on the phone with the computer company) and then he had the nerve to tell my husband he couldn’t speak to a supervisor!

    1. So true! Great products that last long and endure the test of time and are well made are so important. I love hearing this too, because where I live “cheap” is king!

  15. Customer service is the be all and end all for me. An extreme statement to make but it makes such a massive difference.

    As a customer myself, like others, it is a huge decider as to whether I use that particular retailer ever again. Please use my name, not a number. If I’ve written to you in whatever format, please read what I’ve taken the time to write and don’t just fire off some ‘proforma’ response as it just winds up an already unhappy customer (and that one’s from personal experience!).

    As a professional who has worked in customer service and is now involved in the enforcement of consumer law, as well as advising businesses to help them comply with it, its a big part of my life!
    Something I am forever advising people is to be honest. If you can’t meet a timescale, tell the person and let them know why and when you’ll be able to do something. Try not to make promises you can’t keep (we’re all human and sometimes life gets in the way of the best of intentions!).

    Particularly for those in the service industry or building trades be honest about when you’ll be able to do a job. People don’t mind waiting if they know at the beginning that they’ll have to wait, what they don’t like is being fobbed off or lied to. And they know when that’s happening, as you unfortunately experienced yourself from someone you purchased from.

    So for me, honesty and communication is king. If everyone knows where they stand it’s a lot easier to deal with things as expectations are managed from the outset.

    It’s one of the reasons I like using small, independent retailers. Something that’s much easier to do now with the internet. They appreciate the difference customer service makes and I prefer to spend my money by purchasing from someone rather than some big corporate something! I’ll happily pay for that, and wait for my goods to ship to the UK.

    Blimey, that all sounds a bit strident. I hope there’s some useful information in there though? And the belt posts are brilliant, it looks like you’ve taken a lot of time and effort in putting them together. I’m looking forward to putting the information into practice!

    1. I couldn’t agree more! It is sooooo important! Being honest is so important too. I for one, am perfectly willing to wait for a product if I’m told approximately how long it will take. But after that time frame, if you haven’t contacted me, I start getting antsy and wondering if you’ll really live up to your word. It is hard. And yeah, we’re all human and can only do so much at one time. Communication and honesty are definitely key.

  16. I just had a fantastic customer service experience (and they are SO important to me): I bought a face potion from Amy Karol on Etsy, which hasn’t arrived (it’s been 3 weeks) and – when I emailed her to advise and inquire – she promptly apologized for its delay and said she would send me a new one tomorrow (asking me to please return the other one when/if it arrived). I suggested we wait a little bit longer, as things do take a long time to get through the Cdn postal service, and to potentially forestall her need to go to extra effort and expense. So she completely addressed my concern and I was able to throw a little bit of extra patience her way. Win / win, I think.

    1. I love Amy Karol and seriously contemplated the potions and its great that when contacted she responds and knows sometimes things do actually get lost in the mail. I’ve had that happen just a few times already. BTW, for some reason, the mail lately has been a little slow here lately- hopefully your potion arrives soon!

      1. BTW, the potion arrived and it’s fabulous – you totally have to get one. I intend to send them to people as Xmas gifts. Also, she puts an incantation on each oil to bring out the user’s inner beauty. Who doesn’t want a potion with a spell cast into it!?

  17. Great topic. Customer service makes such a difference! I have walked away from major purchases after poor service, and conversely, bought things I might not have after excellent service (and been thrilled with the purchases).
    Hand-written thank-yous tucked in mail orders are a delightful touch.
    I think there ought to be some sort of compulsory national service in hospitality for all people! I think anyone who’s waited tables or served drinks has a much better understanding of how to be both a good service provider and also a respectful customer.

    1. I too have walked away from purchases I had the money for and also bought things I would not have because of the customer service. It is a big deal. And its so nice to work with someone who makes you feel like a million dollars. I’ll go there first before anywhere else.

  18. It frequently amazes me how many businesses function with bad customer service. Unless they’re a monopoly I just don’t tolerate it and will quickly and easily black list a company if they wind me up. I’m not demanding, I’m very easy going actually, so I feel that if they can’t appease me then they’re a) just after my money and not my BUSINESS and are b) risky to get involved with because if they lack basic manners then what else are they incapable at?

    I go to CS for answers to a problem or question which are beyond my control as a customer- not for a chat, friendship or freebies. If something has happened which is a problem I want that problem solved as quickly, quietly and effortlessly as possible. I want to waste as little of my time on it as I can. I don’t blame anyone, I don’t get angry, unless they don’t sort it out first time. If they don’t sort it out or there’s another problem I start to get tired and will not use them again. If they’re apologetic, a real person and contact me directly (not some disgraceful auto email) I’ll be more inclined to give them another chance. As soon as I feel like my issues, which are beyond my control, are boring or troublesome for them that’s when I lose loyalty. I’m happy to be wrong, to have made a mistake, I don’t need vouchers or discounts (infact if a company has been bad you don’t WANT to use those freebies anyway as they stress you out too much) but don’t make me feel bad, stupid, like a criminal. I don’t care if they’re having a bad day or theyre getting divorced or theyre not well- I’m not there giving them my money out of charity. I want a product or service that’s been advertised and paid for. End of.

    1. An awesome comment! I too feel like I’m not a fussy customer. When I go to customer service and get the same responses you’ve listed here, I don’t want to deal with them any longer! This is EXACTLY what happened last week. I had a problem with a product and wondered about the return policy because quite frankly the product didn’t work. I did get a quick response, but after having to take numerous photos of the problem (which was not necessary and way too much work on my part) and having to actually forward a copy of my receipt on to them because they didn’t/couldn’t find it and being told that the product I bought was not one that they sell, I nearly lost it. After all of this, the vendor did finally say that I could return the product in exchange for something that would work, but by that time, all was lost. Don’t want any more contact or products with this company, the taste left in my mouth is so very bad!

  19. Hi Sunni, well I think your customer service is second to none! I am the dim wit who didn’t update her address for my paypal account and you resent me my order. Which by the way I have finally tracked down and sent back to you today. You didn’t need to do that and I certainly appreciated it.
    I work in the health industry and customer service is very important and what I believe makes our clients return to us, I believe you should treat everyone how you want to be treated.

  20. Customer service is a HUGE deal to me. I’ve worked sales and retail for years, so I’ve been on both sides of a transaction. I always treat customers with respect and a smile (though sometimes I have to count to ten before responding) and expect the same treatment as a consumer. I’ve absolutely stopped patronizing businesses because of consistently poor treatment. On the other side, I’m liable to purchase more from a company that is pleasant to work with.

    Speaking of great service, I received Clover from you in record time! Thanks so much.

    1. I’ve had to do the count to ten thing too! Now I’ll admit, sometimes I just have to leave the problem for like an hour to cool off before I deal with another disgruntled vendor, customer or even blog reader! In the end though, there are many more good experiences for me than bad, which always leaves me coming back for more here and in my shop.

  21. While a personal connection is nice, and it would feel good to support the buisness of someone I admire, for me the most important parts are communication and quality of goods. Like an other commentator I live outside US, but I’m hoping to place an order with you soon =)

    The US saying “The customer is always right” works great in US, in my experience. Both customers and salespeople are polite and respectful. Unfortunatley, in Sweden I learned while working in sales that a lot of people take that sound device and twist it into meaning that the customer can behave any way they please. I’m ashamed of how very rude most Swedes are to the sales-staff, and do my best to always be nice, no matter how I feel. I think it’s important to remember that the person behind the counter is usually not the one to blame for whatever problem I have. That doesn’t mean that poor customer service is ever ok, but that the customer also need to be polite (in no way am I trying to insinuate that this would be applied to your situation as described above! A vendor not interested in taking care of my concerns is not one I would return to either).

    Hope this made any sense… But just to be totally clear: I’m not trying to excuse poor customer service! And as I said, customers with bad manners isn’t a problem I saw in the US, just here at home =)

    1. You have an excellent point! I think the customer should also engage in appropriate behavior with the seller. We all make mistakes – goodness knows I’ve made my share, even on some customer orders, but its no reason to be rude or even make someone feel like a liar (which is how I felt because they immediately assumed that I hadn’t even purchased their product!). I also look for quality goods! I would much rather take quality over quantity any day!

  22. I think customer service is quite rare these days. I recently had a very pleasant experience with a tshirt printing company, Custom Ink, and it was shocking that I was talking to a person who was very helpful and nice. That is why I will actually return and recommend them. Most days, customer service is through automated voices (like my internet company! grrr) or it is about trying to resolve problems.

    I think transactions of the creative sort, like through etsy, are usually pleasant, especially when it is packaged very prettily! But I definitely prefer a lower price, so if the packaging adds to the cost, then I’d much rather a regular ole package. Also if I feel like the seller is someone that is truly making an effort to have a great small business (like you! or Tasia from Sewaholic!) then I will be much more likely to buy from them. Anyhow, I hope you are able to restock on the Clover pattern! I’d love to buy one from you, along with your belting kit!

  23. I’m sorry that you’ve had such a bad experience. I do wish people took more pride in their work and the service they provide. I’ve been know to boycott stores for arbitrarily long (sometimes indefinite) periods of time for bad customer service or because I feel taken advantage of. So, thank you for taking pride in your store and offering quality products and great service. I was delighted at our email exchange when I bought my tailor’s ham and seam roll from you. I have also enjoyed my experience with Sublime Stitching. While I haven’t ordered anything from their site, I did win some of their transfers. They came quickly and did not disappoint. I’ve been slowly stitching them up ever since, and it’s been quite a joy.

  24. Customer service is so immportant. It never ceases to amaze me how businesses stay running with appalling service.

    Here is an example of service that was so bad it went viral here in Oz:

    Personally haven’t set foot in this store since the technicolour bar wench designs don’t appeal.

    Anyway I’m digressing. As a repeat customer of yours Sunni, I appreciate the updates and very fast receipt of packages and reasonable international postal rates so much so that I eschew buying from the actual suppliers and tend to buy from you instead πŸ™‚



    BTW: I received my colette jasmine and clover patterns a few days ago. Thank you.

  25. This is such a great thread. Being on both sides of customer service throughout my life, I find what Erika wrote rings true with me. That phrase of the customer being always being right can become so twisted, and used as an excuse for horrible behavior from the person you’re trying to assist. I’ve had to count to 10 on so many occasions, when people are abusive or rude. On the other hand, I have simply stopped spending my hard-earned dollars at places that treat me or other people poorly (if I can help it). Why should I support someone who doesn’t want to properly sell me something? I’ve yet to make a purchase from you, but I am 100% certain you’re a doll. Culture plays such an interesting role, too… I had some very amusing customer “service” moments during a year in Russia (a country I love, btw, so no offense!). Also, I totally adore Sublime Stitching!!!

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