CRM Crime Files: Etsy

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If you are subscribed to my Twitter feed (@leontribe) you will have seen a bit of dialogue with @EtsyHelp over the last week. While a little off-topic from my usual Tweets, it is related to CRM and Customer Experience as it is a great example of how NOT to set up your customer service function.

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My Etsy Shop

About a month ago I set up an Etsy shop (https://www.etsy.com/shop/PocketWatchPillBox) to sell pillboxes which I make by converting pocket watches. Doing this to an antique pocket watch would be a crime against nostalgia so I purchase new pocket watches and convert these instead. Embracing the way of the Etsy, I also let the buyer choose the color of the felt which lines the inside of the pill box (40 colors to choose from).

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The fronts have fun designs and there are literally hundreds of designs I can source.

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Things were going well with sales in the USA and here in Australia.

Nico Closes Down My Shop

Imagine my surprise when I received an email on Tuesday morning from Nico from Etsy Integrity telling me my shop had been closed.

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This was the first email I had received regarding the matter. From a customer relationship perspective it is not great. I am not addressed by name, the specific issue which had my shop closed is not mentioned and the end of the email is basically a threat.

There was no mention of a process for appeal and, given I considered my shop as a poster child for Etsy, I replied to Nico explaining how I upcycle pocket watches and convert them to pill boxes.

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This was sent Tuesday morning and I thought the matter would be settled relatively quickly. Unfortunately I heard nothing until 2am that night.

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Nico had identified the supplier of my pocket watches and, as the outside was untouched by the conversion process, I was using the supplier’s stock photo because they looked great. For the interiors I shot my own pictures.

Again, Nico had failed to address me by name and had completely ignored my reply explaining what I actually do. The handmade policy for Etsy does allow for upcycling, which is what I do, so I was very confused. I replied to Nico with some before and after photos and provided my phone number but felt the conversation was going nowhere slowly and, given he responded once every 24 hours, I needed an alternative approach. In fact, this was the last I heard from Nico.

My theory is Nico is, in fact, not a human but an automated service to weed out commercial resellers by using a Google Image-like service to match Etsy pictures to supplier stock images. This explains the impersonal tone, template structure, and lack of engagement.

Calling Etsy

The obvious option was to call Etsy and sort it out. Googling Etsy yielded a phone number but calling it led to a recorded message saying they do not take incoming calls and to request a call online. Armed with this knowledge, I found the KB article for requesting a call (https://www.etsy.com/au/help/article/4872). According to the article, the process is:

1.) Sign in to your account and go to Etsy’s contact page.

2.) Choose What can we help you with? and any other topics that are relevant to your issue.

3.) Click Request a Phone Call to get to the request form. 

4.) Provide your name, phone number, and a brief description of your issue.

The problem is, the “Request a Phone Call” option/button does not exist. There is no way for request a phone call through their page. Etsy provide no way to talk to an actual person whether you are a seller or buyer.

Other Social Channels

I thought the Etsy Facebook page may be the way to go but, unfortunately I was unable to initiate a request or post to their wall. Finally I thought I would tweet @EtsyHelp to see if they could assist.

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To their credit, @EtsyHelp replied within minutes.

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I sent a couple of direct messages to Ann and waited. Eventually, 12 hours later, Cale replied.

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Fantastic! It had been a bit slow in coming but someone would be in contact ‘soon’. I replied, thanking him and providing my home and mobile number in the hope someone would call. It was 10:30pm on a school night but I was determined to stay up so I could have an email conversation with the Specialist and put the matter to bed.

Charlie to the Rescue

At midnight I got an email from Charlie telling me precisely what I needed to do to get my shop back online. Again, Charlie failed to address me by name in the email, and the content was templated but I did not care. Charlie ended the email with:

“Once I hear back from you with this information, I’ll review it and promptly get back to you. I understand that your Etsy shop is your business, and I intend to make this process as quick and smooth as possible.

Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns about this process. I look forward to learning more about your creative business.”

In short I needed to document my creation process in words and pictures so Etsy could assess I was not simply reselling.

I leapt into action taking photos and documenting the process for converting a timepiece into a medicine cabinet. An hour and a half later (1:30am on Thursday morning) I had compiled all the information requested and sent it through.

Again, I stayed up in case Charlie needed any more information. At around 5am I gave up on Charlie replying and went to bed. I waited up the next night and still nothing. At around 5am on Friday morning (27 hours on from when I sent the email) I was coming to the conclusion Charlie was another bot like Nico.

Etsy Gets a Kick Up the Bum

Knowing the weekend was fast approaching I figured I needed to try and get things moving. So I launched a multi-channel blast. I replied to Charlie via email, Tweeted @EtsyHelp.

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and I also sent the documentation via the Etsy online support form.

My thinking was if Etsy had any sort of case management system my requests would hit the system as individual cases and one of them would get picked up for processing.

Again, the responsive @EtsyHelp responded about an hour later (I received no response from Charlie and only the auto-acknowledgement from the online web form).

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Armed with this knowledge I went to bed for a couple of hours and went to work knowing I would be pulling a late one again the following night.

Etsy Gets Another Kick Up the Bum

It was now very early Saturday morning. At 2am, over 48 hours later, I again blasted all channels, resending my documentation.

Again, it was Ann from @EtsyHelp who responded about an hour later.

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Seeing if I should go to bed or not, I asked if I should wait up.

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Et tu, @EtsyHelp? The 48 hours had already passed and I knew the call request option was a dud. With sleep deprivation kicking in, I concluded it was time to add another channel to the blast, trust@etsy.com. I was not exactly sure what the difference between integrity@etsy.com, support@etsy.com, and trust@etsy.com was but I figured another ticket in the system could not hurt.

Charlie Comes Online

15 minutes later, at 4:44am on Saturday morning, Charlie got back to me. Whether it was the email to Trust, the escalations by Ann or simply that Charlie had been away the day before I will never know.

“Hello,

Thanks for taking the time to send me this information about your Handmade process. I was happy to learn more about how your items are made. I am approving you to sell your customized pocket watches. 

Your account privileges have been restored, and I’m updating your account internally with the information that you provided. Below, I have outlined some changes that we will require that you make to your listings. Please take the next 5 days to make these updates, failure to do so within this timeframe may result in the suspension of your account.”

Again, Charlie had failed to address me by name but he had restored my shop so, as far as I was concerned he could call me pretty much whatever he wanted to. I responded, expressing my thanks.

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The changes were the use of my supplier’s stock photographs (which, I assume had triggered Nico the Wonder Bot). Charlie gave me a link to an Etsy policy which states stock photography cannot be used, a policy I was unaware of. Within 24 hours all stock photographs were removed. An hour later I received a new order for a pill box.

My shop had been down for five days but, after a lot of work,and little sleep, it was back up.

Advice to People Seeking Support From Etsy

There are a few things I have learned from this process:

  • Etsy’s heart is in the right place. Etsy take the quality of their shops seriously and really dislike commercial resellers
  • Etsy, unfortunately, is more focussed on customer service cost than on customer service excellence and the points they gain from maintaining shop quality are lost in frustrated customers seeking support
  • Etsy employ automated/semi-automated processes to remove resellers from their site so it pays to ask for help across multiple channels to ensure you are not being ignored by a robot

If you are trying to get a response out of Etsy Support, understand that everywhere except the USA is serviced out of Ireland and it is not a 24 hour call center. There was a five hour window when Support sent me emails (midnight to 5am local time) and usually it was one email per night. Outside of this pattern they were as silent as the grave.

If you want someone to reply to you, your next best option is Twitter’s @EtsyHelp. As Cale admitted, they cannot action a request but they can push it through to Support. Also, through other communication with them during this saga, they also confirmed they can see the responses Support issue regarding active cases.

There is NO phone channel for Etsy, inbound or outbound (certainly not for Australia) so forget it. @EtsyHelp will keep you sane while you wait for Support/Integrity to get back to you but you will NEVER hear the human voice of Etsy.

Finally, never get angry. There were plenty of times when Etsy messed me about but, they held all the cards. They had all the power and being rude would not give them any additional motivation to assist me. Also, many of the people we interact with in call centers are acutely aware of our frustrations but are powerless to change it.  Be respectful and if they do not escalate, take it upon yourself to escalate for them by reaching out to different channels.

As an extreme example, towards the end, I was doing internet searches for the email addresses of Etsy’s board executives (which would be pretty easy to guess) so I could email them as an escalation point. Another option would be using one’s LinkedIn network to pull in a favor. Thankfully I did not need to in the end.

Advice to Etsy

It is admirable that you are passionate about the quality of your shops but your customer service processes are woeful. Consider embracing channels customers actually want to use, rather than the ones which cost the least and provide the minimum viable support.

Telephone support would be useful and I genuinely believe a problem that took five days to resolve could have been resolved in less than 24 hours. Also, while other channels may cost less on paper, as is evidenced by this blog, when you have Ann, Nico, Charlie and Cale all working on one case, things get expensive, very quickly.

Even if telephone support is not practical, offering support which actually does something for more than five hours per day would be handy. Web chat or even eating your own dog food and embracing the conversation system set up for buyers and sellers within the Etsy platform may be useful.

Finally, stop setting poor expectations. A big part of my frustration through this process was Etsy telling me things which were simply wrong. Behavior such as being directed to the fictitious process for requesting a phone call, or being told my request would be actioned ‘soon’ and then waiting more than 48 hours cannot be justified. If there are response times which Etsy expect to meet, put in escalation systems for when these are violated. If you only provide global support for five hours in the day and only send one email per day per case, make this known and then people can sleep.

Conclusions

Now the saga is over I am really happy Etsy re-opened my store. Etsy make it very easy to have an online shop and the nature of my product make it an ideal fit. However, with Amazon launching ‘Handmade’, Etsy is no longer the only global handcraft sale site online.

History shows us that today’s go-to site is tomorrow’s archive.org entry. If Etsy is to maintain their dominance they need to manage the relationship they have with all stakeholders in their ecosystem and respect what they value. Having the least commercial resellers but the worst customer service does not do this. Given my shop’s success is predicated on Etsy’s success I really do not want to see this happen.

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