There is no argument that customer service is important. If your customers are happy, they will usually return. Often, they will recommend you to others, and word-of-mouth can be the greatest source of advertising, and definitely the least expensive. I think this is especially true in virtual worlds. Perhaps many do not consider it as such, but I believe perhaps the most important act of customer service is responding to the questions of those who have not yet made a purchase…the potential customer. That potential customer could very well be your next ‘top’ customer. Unfortunately, I believe there is a serious lack of attention to the importance of potential customers in virtual worlds, and this is the purpose of today’s rant.
I understand that communication in virtual worlds is subject to be lost due to many reasons, more than I can even list here. As a resident of virtual worlds, I believe it is my responsibility to understand this, and as a mature adult, it is my responsibility to consider this before attacking someone for not responding. Generally I will send both an IM, as well as a notecard, and if I’ve received no response after 7-10 days (depending upon the nature of my question), I will send both a second time. If I still receive no response, and I am not able to easily find another means of contact, I give up…on both communicating with the merchant, as well as using their product.
As a potential customer, I often have questions regarding the product I’m interested in. If it’s a full-perm creator, unless it’s clearly stated where I can find it easily, I will always ask if they offer a license that allows the use of their products in other grids, and if so, what are the terms/requirements. It’s a fair question, not a tough one. I am quite willing to pay extra to use a product in other grids (within reason, of course), and most of the creators who make products that I am interested in using will see repeated business from me, and often, I give referrals to others. Most of the merchants like myself, with whom I am familiar feel the same as I and the ‘trickle effect’ can generate a lot of business for a creator. After all, most of the time, that’s how -I- found the creator. As a potential customer, the ‘potential’ is there for you to make a fair amount of money. I understand that many do not wish to allow the export of their products, and I understand many of the reasons (that is a post for another day), however, the failure to respond at all gives the impression that you either don’t care, or don’t pay attention. Either way, that is definitely not what a customer wants or expects and it would be foolish for them to spend the money on something that could possibly be just a useless item taking up space in their inventory. That is also one of the big reasons so many creators find their products being used elsewhere without permission (again, a post for another day lol).
Most times, it’s simply a creator whose skills I admire, and whose product I would love to have for my personal use, but there is something about it that I don’t understand, or something that I want to confirm before I spend my money on it. Again, these questions are not tough ones, they don’t usually require a great deal of thought. It is, after all, your product, so you should understand it, but on the off-chance that you don’t, you should be able to easily find the answer. Regardless, as with the full-perm creator, the potential is there for you to make money. However, I’m not going to purchase something that I don’t understand, with the hope that I will be able to figure it out on my own. Let’s face it, there is a lot of competition in many virtual worlds, and most of the time, there is a product as good as, or better than your’s. If you can’t be bothered to give me a reason to purchase your product to begin with, what guarantee do I have that you will be available to help me if I have a problem after the purchase.
Regardless of what you sell, I ask you to consider this: If your business means so little that you are willing to throw away potential money in your pocket, why do you waste your time and money? Why take the risk of having your name tarnished because you can’t–or won’t–offer complete customer service? And if your business has become so successful that you no longer have time to attend to your customers and especially potential customers, perhaps you should consider having someone else to do that for you. Word-of-mouth can break a business faster than you may realize.