Online shoppers aren’t known for being particularly afraid to hurt a brand’s feelings. If they’re unhappy with the service they receive, they’ll more often than not let you—and the internet as a whole—know about it. Which is why the most successful online vendors have rigorous customer service strategies in place.
One of them is Antoine Viel, internet sales manager at Direct Music Sales, which sells musical instruments through a storefront in Quebec City and an award-winning eBay site. Viel was recently named the 2014 eBay Canada All Star Entrepreneur, and for good reason. In the past 12 months, his eBay page has received 259 positive ratings from customers—and only one negative.
Viel opened the eBay store when he started to note an increase in showrooming—that is, potential buyers testing out his wares in store, then leaving to purchase it from someone else online. He’s gone on to embrace the online medium. In fact, sales have increased dramatically since he did so.
So, what does it take to produce such happy online customers? Viel has three main recommendations:
1. Be flexible
“The biggest challenge of selling on a platform like eBay is that you’re selling in a global marketplace,” Viel explains. That means that if a buyer is interested in purchasing a guitar at 2:00 in the morning and wants an answer to a question, a seller based in another time zone might have the advantage. That’s why Viel and his team have embraced a 24/7 approach to managing the site, so that every querry can be addressed as quickly as possible. “I’m always working on and off. I’m very comfortable with that,” he says. “I was working as a musician before, so I’m used to working flexible hours.”
2. Don’t sell what everyone else is selling
Key to Viel’s success has been stocking things that aren’t easily available from other sellers. Along with new instruments, his store sells unique items, such as demos and used instruments. That gives Direct Music an edge: “People are going on eBay to either get a very good price or something very unique.”
Viel also insists on keeping the bricks-and-mortar storefront, which he considers another unique advantage. Local buyers will often purchase through the eBay site, but then opt to pick their instrument up in the store. That starts a relationship that can yield big returns when the buyer needs an instrument repaired or serviced. “People buy online, but they come back to us after doing it,” he says.
3. Give buyers an excellent experience
In the ruthlessly competitive online marketplace, the little things matter. That includes presentation; Direct Sales likes to maintain a professional-looking, easy-to-navigate user interface on its eBay site. The company maintains a very buyer-friendly returns policy, which allows people to return their purchases within a month of buying them with little hassle. And Viel insists that his team takes care of the logistical details that make a world of difference to the buyer: every instrument is meticulously packaged to ensure safe shipping, and each address is double-checked to allow for on-time delivery.
For more from Viel, check out this week’s BusinessCast, which you can listen to by clicking the button above or download by clicking on the iTunes logo below:
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