Posts tagged philosophy
Posts tagged philosophy
“WOW…. Your company builds a great product which both of us are extremely pleased. What a great sensation. Truly holds the suction for a long time. Thank you and I hope to send some new business your direction.” ~Happy Customer
You know… it’s REALLY hard to do good work in the business of creating products, when faced with competition from other companies that only seek to sell LOTS of products, not stick to selling good products.
It takes a constant pressure to improve what you can, and to maintain what you have made great already. It takes willpower to avoid the quick buck of shipping the work offshore where it’s cheap, but also totally un-customizable, and un-supervised and far worse un-cared-about. It takes the ability to say NO to other things. It takes the ability to understand not just what the customer is willing to buy, but what they really want, and how they intend to use your product - then design it from top to bottom as a good experience. It also means listening and learning when it goes wrong.
So with all that to be done to make a good product - it’s natural that you end up burned out after a while. But it’s all worth while when a customer sends you something like this. A little reminder that your hard work has actually made someone’s dream into a reality.
P.s. If you don’t know what a Vacbed is… click through this image
I feel like this is a metaphor for a lot of business leadership out there… “We’ve been selling typewriters for so long… how could we ever change that!?”
It will all end in reams of paper tears.
Stay nimble businesses! Dance your way to success, then keep dancing.
Props to http://www.thedesignbureauofamerika.com/current-prints-screen-process.php for the amazing artwork. You can buy this print from them.
I’ve been thinking about customer experiences for the past couple of days based on a few recent events.
I left the world of normal big business to start my own company partly because I was sick and tired of people doing needless things for 90% of their time and then rushing the important stuff they did into 10% of their time. Things I don’t miss: paperwork circles, meetings, projects that led nowhere, meetings, begging for permission to get something done, meetings, begging for budgets that are smaller than the amount of salaried time it took to administrate the paperwork to get the budget in the first place, oh, and meetings.
So, with my own company comes the freedom to do things in my very own version of “right”. ”I’m going to do things right from now on!” I said on day 1. I even wrote it on the chalk board in the shop to hang as a reminder. I soon discovered the harsh reality of doing things right… ready for this…
IT IS EASIER TO DO THINGS RIGHT!
Seems counter intuitive? There is a small catch. You have to take a slightly longer time frame into account when doing things right. But it works very very well.
So… what is it that we’re doing so right you might ask?
We start with quality ingredients (To the point that we sourced our own supply of latex into North America… which we now share through www.sheetlatex.com)
We take our time with designing products (3 or 4 generations of designs are scrapped before the “final product” is ready to sell)
We keep improving over time. We’re always looking for ways to do thing better and higher quality. Our vacbeds started out really good, but now they are spectacular… but still improving in small ways with customer feedback and our own advances.
…and certainly not least, customer service.
Customer serivice is one of the things I care deeply about. My philosophy is.. if you are going to buy a $400+ latex toy from us, you will get: latex sheeting, some glue, a little bit of metal and plastic and other stuff that makes up the product as advertised, but also and most importantly you have bought yourself a couple of days of highly skilled labor.
Here’s the thing. I can make a beautiful and technically sound vacbed without much in the way of customer service. Something that you could get “off the rack”… but it’s not going to be YOUR perfect vacbed. For it to be perfect for YOU, I have to at very very least know…
So you don’t just buy a vacbed or mobius gloves from us. You buy a little bit of our time, and a lot of our care. In some cases it’s a cut and dried project and one email transaction back and forth is all we need to build the product… sometimes it’s a chain of emails a mile long. Either way, we find out a little about our clients. We refer to their products with a first name attached. Examples:
“How’s that vac cube coming?”
“Jodi* is going to LOVE it… the colors work really well together!”
“What are you grumbling about?”
“I’ve just re-re-re-done this seam!! I hope Richard* appreciates this!”
I also try my best to drop a quick email to our customers when their product actually hits the workbench if it’s been on hold for a bit while we clear other orders out of the queue. It’s not as good as being super super quick (which in my mind is likely going to mean super super sloppy) but it’s better than a void of contact. I want our customers to be excited about the process, not just the result.
So our customers begin to get this sense that we care about them, and that really shows in their response to the products. They open up and ask us more personal (but important) questions about using our latex gear to it’s fullest. They send us personal notes of thanks. They actually act sheepish when they do something dumb and break a product (which we happily repair - not for free, but not extortion either) as if we shared in creating it. They get, in a word, MORE.
So, what do WE get out of this. As a business shouldn’t we be striving for efficiency and cost cutting. What’s with all the posts on fetlife answering random stranger’s questions about latex? Why spend time yakking to a customer instead of being that bit more ahead on orders?
I’ll tell you what we get out of it. We get BETTER QUALITY in our products. It is very easy to cut corners for a faceless source of money called “some customer in Sweden*”, but I would personally hate to produce something less than great for Sven*! (Oh Sven*… why did you choose a purple and pink lab coat? I’ll never know!) And what’s more… we enjoy our work more. Those long hours spent bent over a work table fussing with a complicated seam, seem less daunting because I’m making it for Alice*. Carying the heavy roll of 35yards of latex to the post office seems less tiresome since it’s for Drew*. Gambling lots of my own money to start a business seems less scary when it’s FOR people… not just for more money.
You know what else we get out of it. LESS STRESS. If we are getting behind we simply tell our customers that we are getting behind… and 90% of the time they are fine with a slight delay. That takes the stress of the catch up game, and keeps us working at the level of quality we want. 10% of the time they say “I have an event and I need it by X-date” and then we know to get on that right away… customer contact is just win-win.
So. We’re not the cheapest (actually, we ARE the cheapest for some stuff… our vac-cube for example - but I’ll write about price gouging and how I don’t like that either in another tirade) and we’re not the fastest (Faster than we used to be, but next day delivery is not happening for products… sheeting, yes… vacbeds, no) and we’re not the biggest or best known. But cheap and fast and reputation are not what make for a good quality experience or product. People are what make quality.
And we assume that our customers are quality people.
*Names and places changed to protect the kinky!