Store Owners: How to Provide Better Customer Service

I’ve been in the mood to blog all night, and wasn’t sure what I felt like writing about. This is not the post I had in mind, and I really hate to complain. But I’m really bothered by this, and upset that my evening has ended on such a sour note. So I’m hoping that some designers and store owners out there will someday read this and that it might cause them to think or consider a few things.

Lately, I’ve been noticing a growing trend with really bad customer service. Out there in the real world, you don’t see as much of that as I have in Second Life. Maybe its that more people consider Second Life a game than we realize, or they don’t take their business or their customers as serious. But think about this.. how many times have you looked at the profile of a store owner, and see some of the following examples written there.

**DO NOT send me an IM, read my picks before contacting me.

**DO NOT send me random friends request. I will not accept.

**DO NOT IM me to say hello, are you there, or can you help me. State the nature of your message in the IM or it will go ignored. Kthnxbai.

**If you don’t like it, find somewhere else to shop.

If you are reading this and have any (or all) of those statements in your profile, don’t be too quick to think I’m talking specifically about you. I’m not- because sadly, I see that in more profiles than not. Yes, I understand about capped IM’s and that business owners in SL are extremely busy. I completely agree with you- certain steps must be followed to keep your IM’s from getting out of control, and to maintain an organized way to deal with customer questions or issues. But you should also bear in mind that the customers behind the avatars are people, too. And although you may get the same question 50 times a day, the person who just IM’d you is someone who might have spent a lot of time and their Lindens to purchase an item from you because they really wanted it. It is important to use your profile to communicate to your customer base the best way to get in touch with you. But writing a checklist of Do Nots and Don’t You Dare’s comes across rude, and sets the wrong tone from the beginning. Here is a great example of a courteous, professional profile message:

If you have any questions regarding a purchase, please refrain from sending an instant message as my IM’s often get capped. Please send me a notecard, or check my Picks for answers to more frequently asked questions. Our customers are very important to us, and I want to make sure that I receive your message so that I am able to help you. Thank you.

When I see a profile message like this, it tells me that the store owner really cares about their integrity as a business and keeping their customers satisfied is a priority to them. I bet a lot of the most well known designers in SL have such a loyal following partly because they are so friendly to their customers, in addition to making really great products.

This all brings me back to the point of my post. Earlier this evening, I saw an item on one of the freebie blogs that really caught my eye. It was from a fairly well known store that I have heard of before, but had never been to yet. I really liked the item, so I TP’d over to go pick it up, and take a look around. When I got there, I saw that the items in the store were great. This is the sort of place that I’d like to come back to. They even had a couple of lucky chairs with some great prizes in them. Unfortunately, I was suffering some serious lag of hair fair proportions. The store was not THAT crowded, so it may have been an issue with SL. I really don’t think it was the fault of the store or sim owner. But moving was nearly impossible, like trying to force your way through molasses. We’ve all been there. On top of this, the lighting was extremely dark and I was having trouble finding the stairs or doorways into another section of the store. I spent several minutes looking for the free item over the area of four sections on two different floors, before finally giving up and parking myself at the lucky chairs in hopes that I’d find something else good. The store had two live models/customer service employees stationed near the chairs. As I was standing there, another girl showed up and mentioned she was looking for the same item I was. I said I was unable to find it, also. One of the models remained silent the whole time we were there. The other one told us that the items was at its usual vendor spot, but that she was not allowed to tell anyone where the freebies were. Both the girl and I started looking around the store again.. several minutes later we gave up again and returned to the customer service girl. Again, she told us she was not allowed to announce where the freebies were. Meanwhile, another person asked twice for the section for men, and was ignored both times.

On one hand, I understand it was not the employees fault if they are given rules about not telling customers where to find the freebies. But it seems like bad business to make a set of rules like that to begin with. Both myself and the other girl were there for the very first time, and I believe the point of freebies is to draw in new customers so they can see if they like what you have to offer. Speaking for myself, I DID like many of the items in that store quite a bit, and would not have been there if I didn’t see the blog post for the free item. I normally love shopping, and if the store was better lit/easier to find my way around/not so much lag, I wouldn’t have minded wandering around to find the item. Unfortunately in this case, it was nothing but a big headache. I actually left at one point. But deciding that I really DID want the item, I went back. The girl was still there looking around, still with no luck. By this time it had been well over a half hour and it was getting to be time for me to log off. I opened up the store owners profile, thinking maybe I could send her an IM and ask her for help directly, since her employees had been instructed not to. (I had seen her in the store earlier when I first got there, so thought she might still be around.) As soon as I saw the lists of Do Nots and Don’t You Dares in her profile, I closed it again and decided it was really not worth it. Disappointing, because this could have been a great new place to shop and tell other people about.

Ultimately, neither me or the other girl ever did find the items and we both gave up in left. I am sad to say that I logged out of SL disappointed and frustrated. I’m not sure if I’ll ever bother going back to the store again. As much as I liked the items there, I feel like my Lindens would be better spent in stores where the customers are made to feel more valued. I guess thats one example of where SL mirrors RL, after all.


~ by Nika Dreamscape on October 10, 2008.

12 Responses to “Store Owners: How to Provide Better Customer Service”

  1. I have 3 out of the 4 listed in my profile, but I really don’t think that it says “I don’t care about customer service”. When, actually – I value it more than anything else. If I had more than 500 characters to write a pretty paragraph, I would. However, it’s quite impossible to write about me, my store and my blogs all in that limited space.

    Most people don’t even read profiles. I still receive blind friendship requests, and people IMing me with the annoying: “hi. r u online?” Do I still respond, and accept their friendship? Yes.

    But that’s just me.

  2. Whether a person spends $1L or $1000L in a store, customer service should be EVERY store owner’s concern. I realize that the larger stores may have more IMs about items on a daily basis, but it is unprofessional NOT take care of the people who felt like putting some money in that person’s bank account.

    As far as them NOT being allowed to tell where the freebies are…that’s just unbelievably rude and uncalled for.

  3. that store randomly reprices one of their normal items to 0L and leaves it up on the wall for people to find.. it’s sorta like a mini hunt however i don’t think it’s a good idea since that store is lagtastic and you can barely move in it most of the time…

    the profile stuff i agree with, i hate to see “don’t contact me!” it makes the person seem very unfriendly… lucas and i have always had stuff like “please leave a notecard if we are offline we will get back to you” because we want to make sure people know we are available to help them and we are not going to push them away. people do judge based on apperance in sl especially when all they have to go on is a profile.. you should always make your profile appear professional if you want to be seen as a professional. or at least don’t make it unfriendly!

  4. that store is always laggy and I’ve been in it when it was almost empty of avatars. too much vendor art I’m guessing and probably the texures are too high a resolution. the fact that the entire floor is an alpha layer over an animated layer probably doesn’t help at all.

    I’ve been there for the “find a freebie” before and you just have to turn on hover tips and wait for it to come up, it can take some time for sure. I think that the models were right though, I believe the store owner has a strict policy of them not telling where the freebies are. maybe not the wisest course but you can’t fault the models for that. might not have killed them to point out the men’s section though.

  5. Describe the item and I will make you one dear! You never did wear the toga I made ya. No worries… Next time we party… you can wear it.

  6. This is an excellent post and one that needed to be said. I think that if shop owners really had an issue with getting too many ims with questions they would be smart to hire someone to work as a greeter who’s job is specifically to answer questions and help people find things. Sure, it’s an expense to the owner but if it avoids hundreds of ims and still helps customers on a personal level it’s worth it. Sending a notecard when you enter the shop with FAQs isn’t a great idea. Most people not only don’t read them but are actually annoyed by them. A greeter is a a good compromise in my opinion.

    Another thing that I like to see when I go to a shop is, especially when a new release or freebie is announced, that the shop owner/designer is in the shop to say hello and answer questions. For me, it means a lot to meet the person who created the items I love. By showing up at a release it shows that they care about their customers and aren’t afraid to answer questions or take suggestions from them.

  7. The problem I have is that there isn’t enough room in profile to state what needs to be stated. A shame really.

    I try to put it simply: ALWAYS send an IM – but please don’t send an IM saying “are you there?” – it’s a waste. Simply type out your entire message and I will respond, because I do get IMs through email – which works even if IMs are capped.

    The problem is when you IM me to simply say “are you there?” or “Hi” – that’s anew IM conversation – which helps cap the IM queue. The more ‘conversations’ the faster the cap.

    I invite people to friend me. But please send an IM FIRST. Otherwise – I decline it. Not trying to be rude, it’s just that there are too many bots that do this. Especially with landmarks and notecards.

    Please DO drop a notecard. However, if IMs get capped, so do object drops! So DO IM me FIRST. So that even if IMs (and object drops) get capped, I will have an email record of it – and if I don’t see it in inventory or the IM that goes with it – I can IM bvack to YOU. (Because I really DO want to give good customer service.)

    So – how do you explain all of what I just said within 256 characters, including spaces and punctuation? Sure, I could put it into picks and tell people to look there, but many rarely even read the profile before just dropping a notecard or friend request to begin with.

    And for goodness sakes – please NAME your notecards (so I don;t end-up with 50 “New Note” items in my inventory and ALWAYS put your full SL name INSIDE the notecard LOL.

    The problem is people do follow these ‘rules’ then IM me totally pissed-off later on proclaiming piss-pour customer service because I am ignoring them because I never replied to them.

    That’s when I drop the hammer and the full curt reply comes: “Have the damned courtesy to at least read my profile since you are staring at it anyway before you can do any of these things”

    For me one rule applies: The world is a mirror. You will take from it what you give. Politelness with me will be returned ten-fold.


  8. @ari, you must be getting thousands of ims to have it cap when you’re getting offlines sent to your email.. i once was off of sl for 3 weeks and i never capped, had several messages from SoM’s and people.. i was told that if you had offlines sent to your email it actually didn’t cap your offlines like it does if you do not have them sent to email O_o

    those who say “there’s not enough room in my profile” there is always a web profile, you can add all this important info to a web page (there are free hosts out there) and drop the url into your web tab, then simply mention somewhere in your profile “please read the web tab for more info!”

  9. What a horrible experience, I hate when that happens, I’ve been through the same thing but I’ve never dealt with models/customer service reps who couldn’t help me like that.

    First off, I used to have the messages about IM’s capping in my profile but I took it off when I started to be in SL at least once a day so it wasn’t entirely necessary, but I think there is a way to send that message across without sounding so mean.

    You’re right about how more and more store owners seem to have one or more of those messages in their profiles. It would discourage me from shopping at their store when I see those types of messages, and some go even farther to blame SL for bad transaction and how they won’t replace certain lost items, even if they are no trans. I think though that alot of owners instead of putting everything on the front page of their profiles but them in their picks tab and I think there’s more than enough room on their to provide contact information/store policies.

    Lastly, regarding friend request, store owners aren’t the only ones who deal with random friendship requests, I tend to accept them more than decline but I do clean up my friends list frequently, I’m more likely to keep people on my list who I do talk to on a regular basis than those who just want to keep me on there and never log in, or even say hello.

    Sorry for the rambling reply lol 🙂 Great post, I think it needed to be addressed.

  10. Hmmm could be something specific with my account. maybe time to create a new alt? But way too much invensted in this one LOL

    I’ve tried the web tab thing and the picks thing. Problem is I’m not that great of a writer with a command on English language to eloquently phrase the same thing. Meh – I’ll maybe come up with something.

    But yes, this time I really do admit to being a hypocrite.
    I set those rules becuase if I don’t get your message somehow, you’ll get really pissed-off at me thinking I’m ignoring you. When in fact – you have a problem – rather than give you heart-ache about it – I just say “drop the broken one and I’ll just send you a new one right now” – after all, why waste time and heartburn about it?

    Doesn’t cost me anything to drop you a new copy.
    And I figure if you’re trying to rip me off – so be it. 😉

  11. Tip nr 11:
    Keep your textures (building and vendor) UNDER 512×512 please.
    Not everybody loads 1024×1024 ones as fast as you may assume, and you risk losing potential customers (and their friends even) if they have to wait more then 10 minutes before everything has sharpened up.

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