No Earthly Business

Second Life® can be a great tool for inspiring and empowering people to utilize their underused creativity. Real life barriers which previously may have hindered unexplored interests can melt away upon logging in with very little investment required, aside from one’s time. Hell, you don’t even have to change out of your pyjamas.

Always wanted to be a singer? Don’t let your unsuccessful American Idol audition squelch dreams of your name in lights. Get a mic headset, an audio stream, and stock up on some karaoke tracks.

Dreamed of being an international runway model? Your 5’7” (171 cm.) female or 5’9” (175 cm.) male stature inhibits your catwalk aspirations. Grab some fashion poses and animations, a sleek array of avatar customization products, and max out that height slider.

Haunted by the overwhelming desire to dress up like a fox and register for a furry fandom convention? Forego the cost and cumbersome nature of a full-body fursuit. Assume a furry identity by getting familiar with some anthropomorphic attachments.

Anyone can make up for lost opportunity in real life by taking advantage of the resources offered in-world.

Take owning a business, for example. As long as one has the talent, ability and know-how to create vendors and ads, promote their products and/or services in the usual forums and has a little capital for start-up *bam* you’re marketing virtual land, selling prim baked goods or creating clothing items.

The beauty of SL is that one does not need any real world experience with the inner workings of a business environment to start their own company.

The curse of SL is that one does not need any real world experience with the inner workings of a business environment to start their own company.

No, I didn’t just get mixed up and contradict myself. The freedom of being able to open one’s own store based on their heart’s desire is a double-edged sword.

Business owners with little concept of or consideration towards good customer service practice are, quite frankly, a pain in the ass to transact with. And there’s no infrastructure for a ‘Better Business Bureau’ to advocate on the consumer’s behalf.

Buying a product or service from a retailer who does not have the willingness to appropriately liaise with customers and appeal to common sense trends is frustrating to deal with – making them unlikely to get repeat business. A bit like shooting oneself in the foot. “Hey, I have this great product, but I’m such an asshole that asking me why I sell no mod pants because you want to buy them will send you running in search of a comparable product from a competitor”, isn’t a good base upon which to establish one’s business strategy. Neither is “I piss off Second Life one customer at a time” a good corporate motto.

A curmudgeonly shopkeeper that keeps him/herself in ignorance can drive their own customers away. Imagine that.

Some time ago – before they subscribed to their own domain/hosting plan and cleared out the old free WordPress blog – Shopping Cart Disco asked its readers to comment on less-than-favourable experiences with shop owners.  One commenter shared how she and a friend had been browsing in a particular store while the aging “couture” designer herself was there making chit-chat with shoppers. The resident, who had fully intended to make a purchase, left the store appalled by the designer’s own inappropriate behaviour.

Shop owners: having a location stocked with your reasonably-priced goods isn’t enough.

Here are a few simple things that keep customers happy:

Customer service:

  • Whether you speak the language of your patrons or not, treating people with dignity and respect is a universal that crosses all boundaries. Even when your customer loses his/her cool and acts like a complete ass, keep calm and be clear.
  • Remember to pick your battles and keep it professional. Some people get worked up and can’t see beyond their own frustration (and for some reason they haven’t sought help in anger management to the point where mild hiccups during the course of virtual life drives them into a tizzy). Don’t follow their flawed example. Plus, consider the comedic value of posting the chat log on your store blog for the blogosphere giggle at.
  • Never underestimate the power of a customer service rep. If you suck at being nice to people, find someone who doesn’t. You may not make the weekly/monthly revenue to pay staff, but getting paid in your products or clothing may be as gold to some.

Product permission and demo sensibilities:

  • It ‘aint rocket science. Hair and skin styles should have demos. Give people an opportunity to try before they buy, otherwise, be prepared to field IMs from those who have gone out on a limb based on the vendor/ad photos and purchased your product.
  • To be courteous, set the demo price at L$0. “Hai, here’s a demo of my product. You might not like it, but give me your money anyways.”
  • It doesn’t hurt to make pants (and sometimes shirts – especially dress shirts that go under suit jackets) modifiable. Allow your customers to choose the level of fit to the items that will compliment their virtual identities.

Listen to your clientele:

Most designers invariably make products that they themselves would want to purchase, which drives initial sales interest. Many shoppers see your products and visualize all the possibilities based on your style/approach. People who shop in your store or subscribe to your service have an external perspective on your business that you don’t have. Sometimes a bold customer will come to you with a feedback about your brand. Of course, some people have asinine suggestions, but don’t be so sure to dismiss the ideas of those who have sane and constructive advice. Their suggestions of additional colours or cuts are insight into appealing to a broader market than just your own tastes. Be adventurous and consider taking their recommendations. And – hey – it’s free market research.

Empathy is your friend:

Everyone in the world is a customer at some point or another in time. Think back on positive or negative experiences you’ve had as a consumer and reflect on the reasons why you felt that way. The bad stuff: endeavour not to repeat and project it on your own customers. The good stuff: adapt it to your current needs and make it a part of your approach.

Above all: don’t slam the door on your own business.

Can’t cope? Read Customer Service For Dummies.

(FYI: There’s gonna be a lot more “u’s” used around here. Favourite. Colour. Honour. Learn to love ’em.)


7 Responses to “No Earthly Business”

  1. Awesome post Cat! Words to live, shop, and do business by!!

  2. Canadian spelling FTW! Great post 🙂

  3. TeenaBasevi Says:

    Great post, hope lots of business owners read and take it to heart!

  4. Good to see you back in the blogger world, Catero! Wonderful post, and so dead on accurate!

  5. Hurrah for the “u”! And a great post as well 🙂

  6. English spelling for the win 😛

  7. I swear this should be “printed up” in a New Designer’s Guide to SL and handed out to every person who even thinks about starting fashion creation. It would make things run a lot smoother for everyone. Great post!

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