After I lost a ring last spring that, while relatively inexpensive, had great sentimental value because it was a gift from my mother, I wasn’t sure what to do. I knew I wanted to purchase a replacement ring, but I wasn’t sure where I wanted to buy it or what style I wanted. The only rings I had worn in the previous 10 years had been gifts.

I contemplated going back to the department store where my mother had bought the ring and find something similar. However, the idea of having to face the salespeople and be pressured into choosing something out of my price range or simply having too many choices felt daunting. Yes, I had shopping anxiety.

Whether they realize it or not, many customers go into purchasing situations feeling stressed out or anxious. Customers may walk into a retail store or a landscaping consultation and hesitate to ask questions because they’re afraid of asking a “dumb question” or being pressured to commit to a service or product they’re unsure of. A young plant grower may worry about bringing in a plant mix that won’t sell well or will be difficult to grow, while an independent garden center owner wants a straight answer from a grower about how a plant has performed in trials before buying it. When it comes down to it, all green industry businesses are customers at some point, and want a low-stress, problem-free buying experience.

The same was true for me. I had heard a lot of positive reviews about Etsy, an online marketplace selling handmade goods including jewelry, so I decided to try that out. I was able to browse through products from the comfort of my couch, see reviews of the sellers, easily sort my options and eventually found the ring I wanted. The seller was prompt, courteous and even sent a handwritten thank you note and a cleaning cloth with the ring. When I realized that I had ordered the wrong size, the seller was glad to take it back and resize it, and quickly shipped it back to me. Although the sizing error was my fault, she didn’t make me feel bad or end up charging me for what was an easy fix for her (even though I would’ve gladly paid). Instead, she invested a little bit of time in communicating with me and making the situation right, resulting in a satisfied customer who would gladly purchase from her again.

What about your business? Do you provide customers with a level of service that makes them trust you and want to return to your company? Check out our cover story on page 6 for customer service tips from across the industry.

Karen E. Varga, Editor