Ups and Downs of Craft Business Ownership
I was clearing out some old email today, and got to thinking about the challenges of owning a craft-related business. Or any business, really, but these were mostly emails from Boulevard Designs.
The customer service issues are what particularly vex or delight me. It’s apparently very important to me that people like me, and I have difficulty with the very sage advice dished out in Purple Cow, which I’m currently reading. “You are not your product.” I think it’s easier for people who don’t physically create their own products to distance themselves from their creations. It’s one thing to design something and then have a factory make it for you. It is quite another to design something and then put it together yourself, in your basement, with your children playing at your feet and your husband calling you to come eat dinner already.
I try to overdeliver. I usually try not to purposefully underpromise, but I do try to deliver better than promised. I do not always succeed, and have managed to be fairly kind to myself on those occasions when I do make mistakes. Most of the time, customers are also very forgiving.
But sometimes, I am surprised, as well. One time, I shipped an order to address indicated on the PayPal payment (which is Blvd Designs policy), and then received a complaint because the buyer had wanted it to go elsewhere (and had apparently indicated such when she checked out, right at the same time that she would have seen the message that I ship to the PP Payment address no matter what)*. I explained how that had happened, the purchaser realized where we went wrong, and said it wasn’t that big of a deal, and she LOVED the item. Then she gave me negative feedback. I was practically crushed by this.
Contrast this, though, with a LARGE package I accidentally sent to the wrong address. In another country. And missing an entire line of her address. I mean, talk about mistakes. Holy cow, I was physically ill over that one. And the customer was so gracious. We both kept a close eye on the tracking information, and the package did eventually arrive at her house. She even offered to pay for the difference in shipping, which I refused.
I’ve had customers complain because I delivered their orders earlier than promised. I’ve had customers complain because I shipped their orders as promised, but they wanted them sooner, even though getting them sooner would have necessitated Devine intervention. I’ve had customers (rightly) complain when their orders arrive later than promised or expected. And I’ve had customers who were more than overly forgiving of mistakes, who go out of their way to be accommodating, who are understanding when I’m out of their first choice of product, and their second, as well.
It’s definitely interesting, owning your own business, and having your hands involved in every single aspect of that business. There’s no one else to blame when things go wrong. There’s nobody to back me up, nobody to take the heat, nobody to help solve a problem, nobody to share the workload. But there’s also nobody else to take the credit, to share the glory, or to share the sense of pride in a job well done.
*Note that I’ve since changed the policy.