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The Top Five Biggest Customer Service Mistakes Etsy Sellers Make

Traci Hugelmaier has been selling vintage on Etsy since 2013 and now helps other vintage sellers start, grow, and scale their business on Etsy.

With decades of customer service experience, I've learned a thing or two about customers and business. Whether helping people build stuffed bears, or solving big problems for corporate hotshots, the basic concepts are pretty much the same. As a vintage seller on Etsy since 2013, I've placed customer service at the top of my brand strategy. Why? Customer service is *always* the key to having a successful business. That is no different for Etsy sellers, although it does translate in slightly different ways.  

Prioritize customer service and you will set yourself apart from your competition and get the sales ... Cha-Ching!  

What's more, all the hard work you do on your SEO (Search Engine Optimization) with eRank will get you tenfold the results if you wow those buyers once they have found your listings and your shop. With excellent customer service, they will buy more often, come back more often, and leave you five-star reviews more often. All of these factors boost your SEO even further.  

Here are the five biggest customer-service mistakes I see Etsy sellers make. 

1. Not Having a Good Item Description

Your customer service begins with your first impression. On Etsy, most often that first impression is made by your item photos and listing description, since those are the first things your customers will see if they find you through Etsy search. (And probably where most of your traffic is coming from.)  
Here are a few simple ways to have a first-rate item description:   

  • Have an organized structure to your item descriptions that makes it easy for shoppers to find what they are looking for -- think sections and bullets where appropriate.
  • Anticipate all of your customers' questions, like: who would need it, why do they need it, what size is it, what condition is it in?   
  • Make sure you have good grammar and spelling -- use the Spell Checker tool on eRank regularly to double-check your spelling. Why? Because correct spelling and grammar build trust.

If you can anticipate your customers' questions and build trust while keeping your listing description interesting and easy to navigate through, you are WAY more likely to get that sale!

2. Not Shipping Promptly

Part of being a successful business is having an edge on your competitors.  
Do everything you can to get packages mailed the same or next business day. Think about the online retail competition out there: do people like to wait to get things? Nope!  
Even though we are not Amazon, people have been conditioned to expect things they order online as if we were Prime.  
Do all you can to have items in stock and ready to ship. If you customize or make to order, limit choices: offer only materials you have in stock, and items you can easily and quickly produce.  
When you do so, you will be rewarded with sales, more happy customers, and great reviews!  
If you don't ship promptly, customers may move on to someone who will.  
However, should something come up that prevents you from shipping as promptly as you planned or promised, be sure to keep your customer informed. Believe it or not, that's often all it takes to keep someone happy. 

3. Not Having a Brand

If you think you don't need branding because you are just starting, or that branding is only for businesses more successful than yours, think again! :)  
Branding is how you show your customers what you are all about. And it's more than just your logo and what colors you use.  
Branding is how you treat your customers, your tone in your item descriptions, your About section, and your profile picture. It's your photos, your banner, and your social media presence.  
All of these things add up to answer the top two questions every customer is subconsciously asking: "Why should I purchase from you?" and "Can I trust you?" Having cohesive and professional-looking branding shows you know what you are doing.  
Invest the time figuring out your branding, and you will set yourself up for success, and set yourself apart from many of the other businesses on Etsy. 

4. Not Accepting Returns

I hear so many Etsy sellers say things like, "I'm a small business, it's just me. I definitely am not going to deal with returns. That would be a nightmare!"  
Actually, with the right strategies in place, you should rarely have returns. You will, however, absolutely be flushing sales down the toilet if you do not accept them.  
The reward far outweighs the risk.  
That said, it is necessary to exclude certain types of items from your return policy, like some custom or personalized items, or intimate items. Etsy allows you to do that in your return policy. Not accepting returns of these sorts of products will make sense to the customer, whereas not accepting returns of any kind will not make sense, and can and will cause some people to decide not to buy from you.  
Not accepting returns might make a customer wonder what's wrong with your items, or cause them to not trust you. Simply put, they just might not be willing to give you their money.  
To minimize your quantity of returns, put these strategies in place: 

  • Have excellent customer service and pro-customer policies (like accepting returns).
  • Make sure you have detailed descriptions and enough photos so there are no surprises.
  • Be very careful with your shipping process to ensure that the right thing is sent to the right person, and to ensure nothing gets damaged in transit.  

Still hesitant to accept returns? Unless a return is seller-faulted, it is standard practice for the customer to pay for shipping charges both ways when they return something. You are not out anything besides some time in the rare instance you do get a return! And that, my friend, is just the cost of doing business. 

5. Not Having Enough Communication

One of the biggest rookie mistakes that I see Etsy sellers make is not communicating enough with shoppers, and especially their buyers. This lack of communication is often the result of fear. Etsy tells us that we are not allowed to spam shoppers or customers. However, there are many ways we can and should communicate with shoppers and buyers that are well within Etsy's Terms of Use (aka: rules).  
As an Etsy shop, your small-business edge and personal touch are precisely what will set you apart from all the big guys out there. Use that to your full advantage!  
Consider employing these points of communication to build trust, get sales, and repeat business (P.S.: they are all Etsy "legal": here's a link to Etsy's recommendations: Dos and Dont's of Communicating With Customers) 
When you do so, you will be rewarded with sales, *and* more happy customers, and great reviews! 

  • Have a social media presence. The two platforms I recommend for Etsy sellers are Instagram and Pinterest. Pinterest is technically a search engine, but the concepts are the same: to get outside traction to your shop.
  • Respond to inquiry convos in a timely manner, and always ask if there's anything further you can help with.
  • Make full use of Etsy's auto-response "Message to Buyers" by letting your new customer know what s/he can expect, such as "quick order processing"... just make sure to follow through on your promises!
  • Follow up with a personalized message that lets the buyer know when their order will ship.
  • Send a message letting the buyer know their order shipped, and include the estimated date of arrival when possible.
  • Include a handwritten and/or personalized note and business card with your shipment.
  • Optionally, you can follow up later once you see their item was delivered to make sure everything arrived perfectly. Use the opportunity to sneak in an "if you love it, it would mean a lot to me if you could leave me a positive review here: (and provide a link)."
  • When someone leaves you a review, feel free to follow up and thank them for taking the time to do so.

Pro tip: Save time by using Etsy snippets and just changing the personal details such as name and date.  
Last, but definitely not least: start and build an email list. You can include a link to your email sign-up URL in your Etsy About page. In your convos with customers, remember to mention your email list, and how they can sign up if they choose.
Other opportunities for building your email list could be at your in-person shows, or with visitors to your own website. Aim to make it easy for shoppers and customers to sign up for your newsletters, upcoming shows, and what's-new emails. An email list is a priceless asset when it comes to having direct communication with your customers and potential customers because it's something you own and have complete control over ... unlike social media or Etsy.
 If you are new to having an email list, I recommend MailChimp for beginners as it's free to get started, and it has an easy drag-and-drop interface.  

What Else Can I Do?

You are never going to please all the people all the time ... but if you avoid these five customer-service mistakes, you will be well on your way to pleasing enough people to make a real difference in your business and ultimately in your sales!  
While the concepts above apply to all Etsy sellers, I specialize in teaching vintage sellers how to start, grow, and scale their business on Etsy. If this describes you, and you have been using eRank to improve your SEO, or if you are just getting started, I've designed a fun and totally *free* SEO challenge to help. It's packed full of SEO tips and strategies that you can grab right here!
SEO and having amazing customer service really do go hand in hand. You need to master both to truly optimize your Etsy shop for success! Everyone starts at the beginning though, and one thing successful shops have in common is embracing that there is always room for learning and growing.  
Congratulations on taking the steps to make your shop stand out and bring in the sales. You should be very proud of yourself!  
Happy Cha-Chings,  
-Traci :)  


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