Wednesday, March 20, 2013

“Thank You and Please Come Again” - A simple lesson on customer service

A couple of months ago as a little gift to myself, I bought a handcrafted glass brooch from a fellow handmade seller. It is an original high quality piece of accessory which I am more than happy to add to my collection. I placed the order, checked out my shopping cart and paid for it immediately.

The first day after placing my order passed… no e-mail from the seller. OK, maybe she only checks or sends e-mails once a day (which is fine as a lot of people do that to minimize distractions).

Two days…

Three days…

Still no word from her about receiving my order and payment. Not even a quick note to tell me when my order will be posted. I thought perhaps this seller was really busy filling up the orders and do not have the time to thank each buyer personally. So I kept my fingers crossed that she did receive my payment and waited by my letterbox for the package.

The brooch did arrive within a week of placing the order. I did a happy dance (well not really because I am shy that someone may see me but I did do the hip hop in my head). I eagerly opened the package. The brooch was lovely, perfect and just as described in her store’s listing. I put my fingers inside the package again, expecting a business card (so I can keep and refer to it for future purchases) and maybe a little note thanking me for my order. Hmm… feels empty. I turned the bubble mailer upside down and shook it (like how you would do when you could not believe there are no M & Ms left in the packet).

Nope. Definitely nothing else in there. That was rather strange. Did she run out of business cards or notepaper or pen or ink or something? Does writing a simple Thank You seem a bit too much for this seller to fit into her busy life?

How did I feel? To be honest, a tad disappointed. Not disappointed with the item but with the service that I received. It may not seem like a big deal to some but I suppose that, as a seller and a buyer in the handmade marketplace, it makes me expect a certain level of customer service which sets us apart from the big retail outlets. I understand that some stores do sell a lot on a daily basis and for the owner to send a “Thank You and We will be shipping your order in X number of days” e-mail to each individual sales order could be a momentous task. However if you wrap and pack each order personally to every customer, it seriously only takes less than 2 minutes to write “Thank You” at the back of your business card and pop it into the package.

I am always proud about the kind of customer service that we give and receive within the handmade community. The simple old-fashioned service where we call each other by name and knowing that there is a real person behind every transaction. It is about establishing a basic relationship to show support and gratitude between two parties.

Consider this – the seller is actually missing out on a very important opportunity to reach out further to her customers. If she had sent an e-mail after the purchase, she has given me a secure and comfort feeling that my order did go through and was accepted. If she had included a business card in her package, I am able to keep it and remember her shop for future purchases. If anyone commented that they love my brooch and want to get one for themselves, I can easily pass on the seller’s details (opportunity for her to get extra business with hardly any effort).

Will it affect my decision to buy from this seller again? Maybe.

One thing’s for sure is that I am always going to associate this experience with her shop. It may not be intentional but it will be remembered.

The next time you sell something online, do not underestimate the significance of a simple Thank You.

Do you think that writing Thank You notes is overrated? Is it really such a big deal not to receive one when you buy handmade? Share your thoughts below!

Cassie Lee writes about running a creative business and being happy while you do it. You can read more of her posts here in her blog.  

She is also a mum of 2 young children and runs her little handmade shop called Rainbow Lollies where she sells cufflinks, tie clips and other accessories.  

Do connect with her on her Facebook page or over at Twitter.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Survival Planning: Passwords and online security

Chances are, you regularly visit many places online where you need to use a password, from social sites like Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter to your online banking or weblog.  

If you have an online business, identity theft is probably the most catastrophic thing that could happen to you, even worse than simple fraud.  It can destroy the brand and online personality you've spent years building literally overnight.  A strong and secure password is the only thing standing between you and anyone who wants access to your Facebook or Twitter account.  You may think you don't have a high enough profile to be a hacking target, but there are a lot of bored teenagers in the world with computers, so it's better to be safe than sorry.

What makes a good password?

Firstly, there's a few things that a good password shouldn't include; anything that could be easily guessed, like your postcode, town of birth, or your pets name.  It also shouldn't be something obvious like 12345 or 'password' (don't laugh, 'password' is unfortunately an extremely popular password choice!)

A really strong password should include a mixture of letters, numbers and special characters such as & and %, and ideally it should be at least 20 characters long.  It shouldn't include any common English words, or obvious variations like replacing the letter 'e' with '3'.  An example of a good password would be something like '/,Q>A6KicZ3tWg7$f7EPWn'.  Unfortunately this sort of password is quite impossible to remember, so most people opt to either use a simpler password, or have a single strong password that they write down somewhere near their computer, and then use for everything. 

But a strong password is not enough

OK, so now you have an idea how to create a strong password, your online activites should be safe and secure, right?
Well, unfortunately it's not that simple.  Even if you use a hard-to-guess password, there's still a chance that a bad guy will get hold of it, most likely through no fault of yours.  Every few weeks, it seems, a different high-profile website gets hacked, and the stored passwords for the site are posted online.

Ideally this wouldn't be a serious problem on its own, as the passwords are kept in an encrypted form by the website's owner.  This means that you can't work out what the actual passwords are without knowing some additional secret information.  In practice though, many websites don't do as good a job with this encryption as they could, and the passwords end up in the open as a result.

Now usually the hacked site will notice what's happened fairly quickly, and notify its users to change their passwords.  This limits the amount of direct damage to the hacked site, but now your super-secret password is out in the open.  Even if you change your password for the hacked website, any other site where you've used the same password will be at risk. Even worse, since these other sites don't have to be hacked for the bad guys to get in because they already have your password, it's quite likely that no-one will even notice that anything is wrong at first.

So what's the solution?

So given that even a strong password alone may not be enough, what else can you do?  The best advice here is to create a separate, strong password for every site you use, so that even if one site is hacked, at least there's no way a black hat can get into any of your other accounts with the compromised password.  But if you do this, and follow the guidance above for good passwords, you're going to end up with dozens (or maybe hundreds) of unpronounceable passwords to try and keep track of.  Luckily there's an easier way than generating and tracking these manually, called a password locker

NB: A "black hat" hacker is a hacker who "violates computer security for little reason beyond maliciousness or for personal gain" (Moore, 2005). Source: Wikipedia 

Software Password Lockers

A software password locker mimics a common security practice used to keep track of physical keys, which is a lockable box, or key locker, that is used to store other keys.  Only a select few people have the master key to the key locker, and if one of the stored keys goes missing, only the locks for that key need to be changed.  So long as the master keys are kept safe, all is well.

I use a password locker called 1Password.  It's available for Windows, Apple Mac, iPhone/iPad and Android devices.  It also includes a handy web browser plugin which makes both generating and automatically entering website passwords extra-simple.

A single master password is used to control access to the program, and once it's unlocked you can quickly log into any site, or generate a new secure password with a few clicks.  It automatically associates each password with the website it was generated for, so it can enter your username and password for you next time you visit the site.

1Password has a number of other handy features, such as storage for credit card numbers, WiFi or modem logins, or any other general notes you need to keep secure.  It's also able to synchronise all of this information between devices, so you can have all of your password stored securely on your phone as well as your computer.

So there you have it.  There's really no excuse to be using weak or recycled passwords, so do yourself a favour and invest in a password locker application.  If you ever have a password compromised, you'll be very glad you did.

Further Reading:  

Brett, aka Mr {CHA}, is married to Christine (CHA's editor) and together they have 3 loud and energetic children.  Brett is an Electronic Engineer, who specialises in test and measurement systems.  He has a passion Macs and War Hammer.  He also suffers in silence with his wife's crafty adventures. 

You can follow Brett on twitter or follow his blog Lonely Ant.

The opinions expressed by the author and and those providing comments are theirs alone. The CHA is not an affiliate of 1Password. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Your business and Pinterest

Piinterest Frangipani designs
Source: frangipani designs
Lately I've been reading with interest Create and Thrive's series on how to Grow Your Business with Pinterest.  This series has been written by fellow ABC attendee Caylie Price, the founder of Better Business Better Life.  Its a wonder series which has reinforced my view that Pinterest is definitely a tool that handmade businesses should be using.

Last year the Jeanie from Inspired Wish and I  did a great introductory series on Pinterest

We also had Vicky from Dover and Madden drop by with a great tutorial on how to make your boards pretty - Guest Post: Make your Pinterest boards pretty

And in November 2012 we were very excited when Pinterest created Pinterest Business Accounts.  

This series by Caylie takes using Pinterest for your business to the next level and I strongly suggest that after you have the basics down you read this series.

Did you know that the CHA has its own group Pinterest Board? 

Last year we have create a group board called Australian Handmade where we encourage Australian handmade businesses to join the group and pin their products.  This board provides great exposure and it is a good way to get your products seen by a wider audience.  To join this board simply contact me at

About the Contributor: 
Christine is a Wife and a Mum of 3.  She is the owner of C Percy Designs and the Editor of The Contemporary Handmade Alliance.  She is also the Editor of the Handmade Cooperative - Australian Handmade 4 Kids and is a little obsessed with all things crochet. 
To find out more about Christine go to her blog or Like her on Facebook.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Survival Planning: Social Media Contingency Plan

Nobody likes to think something bad will happen to them. But sometimes they do. And what’s important is to know what to do in case of a disaster.

Disasters come in many forms, from personal injury or illness to natural disasters and man-made events.

Due to the unforeseen nature of emergencies it is a wise idea to have a plan in place in case something happens to you, or an outside force creates a situation where you can no longer be social online.

It’s a good idea to be realistic about the sort of disasters that could strike. I have split up some typical ones into two main categories. What are the disasters that could strike you and your business?

Natural Disasters

Bush Fires
Major Storms
Disease Outbreak

Other Disasters

Building evacuated
Long-Term Illness
Being Hacked
Loss of Information
Loss of Power

Once you have assessed these for yourself and your business, you need to think about how to craft an overall plan to deal with them.

Backup Admin

Do you have a backup Admin for your social media networking accounts? If not, it might be time to add someone you trust with another admin account.

Choosing the right person can be difficult, but it is worth spending some time on. They should:
Be someone you trust
Have some knowledge of social media and how it works
Have the right personality – calm in a crisis, honest, and dependable are all good traits.

Train Them

It’s not good enough to just have someone else have access, you have to think about what they would do in case something happens to you.

Training your backup admin around what you do and how you post would be a great idea.
If you have multiple networks you post on, think about whether you want one person for all of them, or different people for each.

Tone & Style

How do you engage with your fans? If someone will be taking the reins in your absence, do they know what your style is? This is important if you need someone else to take over while you are out of action for a while.


Passwords are something we have been trained to keep close to our heart and not share, but it is very important you have someone else who knows your passwords or at least know where they are written down.

Again, find someone you can trust and supply them with a copy or at least let them know where they can find the list.

Backup Information

There is nothing worse than realising all your hard work for the last couple of years is gone.
This is exactly what can happen to you if you rely on only one source to hold your files. Backing up is extremely important as it allows you to recover lost information due to hacking, corrupted files and natural disasters.

It is also a good idea to back up your files to an online source, like Amazon, Dropbox or similar place. This is important as it stores your files in a second location in case your first location is destroyed (by fire, flood or other disaster).

Time Out

Have you given thought to what you would do if you had limited or no access to your networks? This could be due to power outages, no internet connection, or being hacked.

Is there a way you can get someone else to post for you, or another way you can post. For example, most social networks and blogs have a way to post via email if all other options are closed to you.


If you have help from current employees, do you know what will happen if something happens to them or they leave?

Are they going to take your fans and followers with them? (See ownership below). Can you or someone else take over in case they leave suddenly? How long will it take to get a suitable replacement? What will you do in the meantime?


Is it clear who owns the information you have on your networks? Make sure you have a clear written understanding of who owns what when you have other people posting for you.

Do they understand what they create and post belongs to you and your business? Is this clear to all involved?

Write this out and get your employees to read and sign it, saying they understand it.

Scheduled Posts

Make sure you have a quick way to cancel any scheduled posts. They can prove very dangerous to your brand in certain situations.

Imagine a situation where you have scheduled a week’s worth of posts all about your sales and then your store in forced to close due to a natural disaster or illness? This could look embarrassing at best and make people angry at worst.

Upcoming Promotions

Make sure you include a get out of jail free clause in your terms & conditions for any promotions. You do write terms & conditions for your promotions don’t you?

This can be as simple as the following:

If for any reason any aspect of this promotion is not capable of running as planned including by reason of infection by computer virus, tampering, bugs, unauthorized intervention, fraud, technical failures or any cause beyond the control of the Promoter, the Promoter may elect to terminate, modify or suspend the Promotion at any time at their absolute discretion without liability to any entrant or other person.

Offline Message

If disaster does strike, have you created a standard “Offline” message you (or someone else) can quickly post to your social media sites?

The best idea is to keep it vague enough to cover most emergencies. Try this one:

Due to unforeseen circumstances we will not be posting anything for a short time. We will post more information soon. Thanks for your understanding.

Social Media Guidelines

Having a simple social media guidelines document is a great idea as it will let other know what your policy is when it comes to social media. And it is a great reminder for you as well.

Stuff to include:

  • What it covers, from social networking sites (Facebook) to company blogs (including comments) to forums and discussion boards (Yahoo! Groups) to online encyclopedias (Wikipedia)
  • Who someone needs approval from to post
  • Who they represent when posting and full disclosure of this
  • Types of subject matter they can post
  • Protecting copyrights and private information – yours as well as third parties
  • Privacy concerns and the protection of customers personal information
  • Responsibility of what is posted
  • What happens in case of bad press, or negative feedback

One of the best ways to mitigate and control (as much as possible) disasters is to prepare for and pre-empt them.

There are several ways you can do this, such as planning and creating contingency plans and documents. But you can also mitigate a lot of the fallout by building a strong and happy community in the first place.

If your social networking community believe in you and what your business is trying to achieve and have trust in you, they are more likely to have understanding (and even help out) when disaster strikes.

You cannot control disasters but you can plan for them and have a set of guidelines in place to help you deal with them.

Do you have a social media contingency plan in place? 

Further Reading:  

 passion is to help people achieve their dreams. Baked Social Media's main goal is to help small business owners grow their businesses online using social media.

The opinions expressed by the author and and those providing comments are theirs alone.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Sponsor Spot: Billymac Billymac chalkies

Our sponsor this month is the {CHA}'s great friend Billymac.  

Last month they released their Wall Chalkies range.  Now you can have some chalkboard wall art for your home or office.  They are available in a range of sizes and shapes OR they can be custom cut to any size or shape you want - how cool is that!!

They are a matt black chalkboard wall art/decal for you or your kids to draw and write on.  They wipe clean with a damp cloth .  

The billy mac clothing Wall Chalkies art cut from professional grade Chalkboard Vinyl. Your Wall Art comes with detailed instructions and is ready to apply.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Product Photography Tips

I have been having a little look around some online storefronts - Wow!  There are some amazing items out there, but their photos don't do them a great injustice! 

Now I'm not saying my pics are truly great (far from it and I've got a long ways to go yet) but could I point out a few little things that may help if you are new.
Fashion bib necklace by Sesenarts

1. Make your item the focus of the picture. 

Make sure there are no distracting elements in the background. Eg if the item is taken indoors against a wall, make sure there are no door, window frames, tables, pics on walls etc in the background. Neutral backgrounds are best if possible and look more professional. 

2. Remember the 'rule of thirds'. 

Fill up the frame with your image, use cropping to get rid of unnecessary space around the image and try to keep the finish cropped pic square. You wont get cut off images then when you upload. 

Red Embroidered Hanging Heart by Sesenarts

3. Use natural lighting as much as possible. 

You can buy daylight bulbs from the hardware store to assist if light is lacking. Don't use a flash. I  find mid afternoon the best time to shoot

4. Use a light box.

To assist in getting a goodly amount of light, use a Light box. Or what I do is get a couple of medium sized sketch books, open them up to clean white pages and arrange them around the small object to be photographed.
Coral Felted Wearable Art Scarf by Sesenarts

5. Reflect Light. 

Use use alfoil taped to a cupboard to reflect light back onto my mannequins for the scarves.
Have a good day all. I've got some things to re-photograph!

My name is Julie Smith and I have been practising as a mixed media and textile artist for over 20 years. I have created both wearable art and wall art using wool and silk as my base then embellishing with beading and embroidery to enhance each piece. 

My work has been exhibited and sold numerous exhibitions and galleries, both here in Australia and internationally and I hope to have my my own gallery and teaching space in the near future. For now my wearable art can be found at and Handmade

Note:  The opinions expressed by the author and and those providing comments are theirs alone.