A Customer Survey Brings About Change

With the recent increase in first class package mailing rates, Cowboy Rick and I decided to survey our customers to ask their opinions on shipping policies and costs. The results were surprising and led to some major changes in our shops.

The survey went out to our 200 repeat and regular customers. We offered a significant discount in our shops if they replied. About 30 customers replied to the survey and took advantage of the promotion. The information we received in return was priceless.

The first question we asked was whether they preferred us to continue to ship using 1st class mail with an increase in the postage, move to Priority Mail flat rate of $6 including insurance, or move to free shipping with the shipping cost built into the item price. Our assumption was that the majority of customers would prefer the free shipping. We were wrong.

Every customer that was also a dealer replied that they preferred first class shipping to save on the cost of the items. Most of the customers who are not also dealers chose to move to Priority Mail. Only 2 chose moving to free shipping. Overwhelmingly the comments we received on this question went along the lines of wanting to know exactly how much was being charged for shipping and handling. Also, having the insurance (which we buy at a bulk discount rate) included was an appreciated feature.

Secondly we asked about the packaging itself. Did customers want their items shipped in boxes or did they want us to continue to ship with our current method of several layers of bubble wrap in bubble envelopes. There were a wide range of answers and suggestions. One interesting and passionate reply dealt with the importance of moving to recyclable materials for shipping. Many customers talked about the fact that Priority Mail flat rate boxes are provided at no charge from the post office and that moving to Priority Mail could reduce the cost of shipping supplies. Most customers responded that they trusted us to make this decision since we have had such great success in getting their items to them in perfect condition for years.

We also asked questions pertaining to frequency of special sales and preferences for communication. Not only did they answer the questions we asked, but many added a variety of suggestions on other areas as well and the replies to this survey helped us in making quite a few important changes in our shop.

We have always offered only first class mail with optional insurance. We immediately moved to make Priority Mail flat rate our default shipping option for domestic shipping. Using flat rate boxes, we were able to create a shipping discount rule for $6 maximum postage per order that Ruby Lane automatically calculates. We added first class mail as an option and included the cost of insurance in the postage for both. We added Priority Mail as an option for international shipping since we heard loud and clear that getting items quickly is important to our customers. Every customer now has a choice as to how much they are spending on shipping and how quickly their items arrive. The customers seem to be thrilled with this new option and about 95% are choosing Priority Mail.
We upgraded our shipping packaging in Cinsababe’s to custom gift boxes and tissue for a more professional look. In Quindy’s, which is where we place our greatly discounted items, we chose to continue with the bubble wrap and envelopes since most of our customers there are extreme bargain hunters, looking to save in every way they can. We also continued with first class mail as the default option there.

The customer who expressed her passion about the importance of wise choices in every aspect of our business practice brought us some serious soul searching. Not only are we moving to more green products for shipping, we also made the decision to buy USA made wherever possible, even if it costs a little more. It is our way of doing our part in stimulating our economy and it feels good!

The biggest change came in the listings themselves. Talking to our customers one-on-one made us realize that we have been missing an opportunity to clearly express ourselves and our policies. We have now added our 100% Satisfaction Guarantee, our shipping policies, our packaging and mailing options and information on our discount store, Quindy’s, to every listing.
We have been selling on line now for 12 years. It would be easy to sit back and continue to do business as usual. I am so glad that we reached out to our customers when faced with the postal increase dilemma. They brought so much to the table and took us to a whole new level—this old dog is still up to learning a few new tricks!

Cindy Brown of Cinsababe’s on Ruby Lane & Quindy’s on Ruby Plaza

Cindy Brown
Visit: Cinsababe's on Ruby Lane
Visit: Quindy's on Ruby Plaza

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Cindy and Cowboy Rick travel and work fulltime from their RV enjoying all this great country has to offer and scouring the nooks and crannies of every flea market along the way to bring vintage and estate jewelry to their shops. They are currently in New England for the summer.

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