THE CUSTOMER IS KING - an attitude for success - cartons and labels
The Customer is King used to be a phrase commonly used in the UK and in the course of starting up my business, MERUMAYA Integrative Effective Skincare, there have been times when I have wished that it would once again become prevalent an attitude. While it does not mean the customer is always right, it does mean they contribute to your earnings and reputation and should be valued and made to feel so. When you start-up a business, the quality of service (or lack of it) is vital to your success or can put you on the edge of failure. During the initial discussions with suppliers of services or components to my skincare business, I was upfront about my expectations regarding, quality, minimum standards, time frames, back up data and research, price and general support. I have found that this does not always guarantee that the supplier will deliver as agreed and this has caused some issues along the way. To every one of them I said two things (among others)
1. 'I want to work with people who will feel like honorary members of my company; that are personally invested in my success' and
2. 'By all means make money from me, but make less from me, at least initially, to help me get started and reciprocate my support of British business - not going overseas as so many do. In return, apart from the money I pay and longer term business prospects, those that do a good job for me would get my recommendations and I am often asked for my views and experience of different suppliers. Today I would like to recognise two suppliers and explain why they get my continued business, referrals and public recommendation. Jason Short and his team create cartons across many sectors from food to fragrance. Since visiting their plant, I know that theirs is a sizeable operation, though when I first met them, my impression was of a small business. This illustrates the personal 'feel' to the interactions with this company; genius. Their cartons are good, though that is expected and should not be considered to be something over and above - all to often we think someone doing their job is exceptional - it is not. Other things they have done are exceptional and the reasons I recommend them;
A) Before I had even signed up they did a lot of work for which they did not charge, helping me to start-up
B) When they priced the job, I asked them to do better. They priced again and I challenged them to find a way to make it better without a reduction in the quality of card. They truly did apply themselves (no lip service here) to this challenge and offered me a solution within the composite printing which required more cartons but for the same price allowing me to use them for the next run but make the whole job a little more cost-effective.
C) They understood from the off the image requirements for a Beauty brand
D) When a third party gave them the incorrect dimensions, they did not spend all their time digging out and sending me emails to justify blame. They got on with the job of re-making the item knowing that they would sort out who paid for it afterwards - they put me and the timing of my launch first at this critical moment. On their performance to date, I have no hesitation recommending them to anyone needing good quality cartons. People trying to win business are often really very nice but I have to say that Martin Hughes from Royston Labels is the real deal - this was no sales act. I knew that they are a big company and yet they still have the attitude to customer service of a smaller company. On initial enquiry, they took me, an unknown, seriously, travelling to meet me and followed up diligently afterwards which is not as common as it should be. I recommend them because;
A) the other company I met, sent me sample blank labels in my Pantone colour but Martin sent me sample labels using my artwork so that I could apply to my packaging samples and see how it would look
B) They gave good advice with plenty of actual examples to show me the effects.
C) They re-quoted numerous times without so much as a tsk!
D) When Martin was catching up with work on a Saturday, he was happy to take my call
E) When Martin went on holiday, Kirsty who took over, was very fully briefed to continue the work and further, was quick to come back on issues that she needed internal help with.
F) After agreeing pricing and quantities, I went back one more time with a proposal to increase the labels substantially (reducing the price per label) with relatively small or no increase in overall cost and he took the time to calculate and came back accepting all but one for which he had adn alternative proposal - again, no lip service here. Both have been really open-handed in explaining their processes, where their costs are and providing general 'education' in their area of expertise. A common feature of both is that despite my friendly nature, my interest in them personally, neither has confused this with their professional responsibility and accountability. Nor has the fact that they have given me preferential pricing and am one of their smallest customers, been used as an excuse to give me a lesser quality or service and I very much respect and value all they have done. If you are looking for these services, I would definitely recommend you include them in your choice of three, to tender for your work. If you include them as a result of my recommendation, please let them know that. You may remember from my first ever post that one of my intentions in writing a blog was to help other start-up businesses, not just in skincare and I hope that my recommendations will help those, as well as the suppliers that I highlight in this and forthcoming posts.
Lesson: When giving your brief be clear about the scope of the work and your personal expectations for service level. Put it in writing so that you can measure against the agreed standards
Lesson: Don't be afraid to hold people to those agreed standards; whatever price you agreed, you are paying for it.
Lesson: Make good on your promise to support them back if they deliver as agreed, however crazy busy you are.
Lesson: Have a back up plan for an alternative supplier in case one does not work out.
Lesson: If you are the supplier; listen to the requirement, do not over-promise, deliver against the request in the time frame agreed, take responsibility (and apologise) when things go awry, explain the reasons without defensiveness and blaming others and present a solution, show the same amenability when things go awry that you did when you were pitching for the work. When things go awry and they will from time to time, how you handle it is a fantastic opportunity to create a customer for life and gain more referrals; handled poorly and you lose that customer and everyone who is told of the experience. I would love to have your comments on this post; please do so on the WordPress comments positioned below, underneath the Facebook comment option. Thank you