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12/19/13

Thoughts for small-run gear makers...

So I've ordered a few pieces of gear from small shops over the past year. Not custom, designed to make specifications gear, but off-the-shelf designs that these companies are actively promoting at the time. They make them - sew, mold, whatever - by hand, one at time, so predictably there is a wait time involved.

That's fine.

The problem comes when you state a wait time...and then blow past it without update. So 3 weeks turns to 6 week without notice, 2 weeks turns to 5 weeks.

All right, so it's taking longer than expected. I understand. Shoot me a note.

Even if you don't shoot me a note to say "hey, looks like we're going to take a bit longer than we thought", you can at least respond to my e-mail kindly looking for a status update.

If you've got so many e-mails coming in asking "Hey, you said to expect a 6 week wait time, it's been 12 - any update?" that you can't keep up with them, you need to hire some help, jack up your prices or do something else differently.

Blowing past the time frame you've established, no proactive notice and no response to your customer's inquiries is just not an acceptable way to treat customers who have already paid you.

If someone did that at an office job - blew deadlines, didn't communicate - how long do you think they'd be employed for?  In the private sector, not the government.
 Raven Concealment - though they are probably 'big time' in terms of custom gear - has developed the communication model to imitate. They set expectations for wait time at the outset and then send out an e-mail update every step of the way. Really, you get 4 or 5 e-mails from them. If anything, they really probably over communicate your order status - removing the lingering question of "Did they forget about my order? and "Did this dude just run off with my money?"

Of course, a one or two man shop is not likely to have the bandwidth to send every customer 5 e-mails communicating their order status. But come on guys, no matter how awesome your gear is, if the customer experience is sucky and generally unprofessional, how successful do you think you'll be?

Edited to Add: ANY communication with your customer is an opportunity to wow them and continue to build loyalty and enthusiasm for your work and brand. How companies deal with slipped deadlines, mistakes and whatever can be defining positive moments for customers...or they can burn bridges.

8 comments :

  1. Hey Alex,

    I've run into this problem before as well. Particularly with one company in general thats is based out of Idaho. The website has been mislabled on prices multiple times. Customer service telling me its in stock and then it being currently 4 weeks and still havent received my items. Contacting the company 3 time via email and not getting a response. I like supporting the little guys breaking into a business, but when customer service and consistency are lacking it just makes me want to continue supporting the companies that do put out a reasonable product in time.

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  2. Yeah I am going through the same thing with one website that I will NOT order from again. This summer I ordered an item and as usual it said 1-2 weeks shipping , after 6 weeks I sent an email that I wanted to know and ETA for my item and their response was " We are sorry but you are not eligible for a refund since it was pat 30 days"!!!! Resent the email stating that I did NOT want a refund just to now when I would freakin get what I had been charged for. Finally got the item a week after I needed it for a business trip , I had ordered this item 9 weeks ahead of time so I would have it.

    In the same boat now , I ordered some items for xmas gifts two weeks before thanksgiving. One item came and am still waiting on the two ones I really need. The websites still says processing the order on ALL items , even the one already sent.
    Needless to say I will never order from them again no matter how good the price seems to be!!

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  3. Not to mention, you never know when an ignored customer might happen to be a blogger with a wide audience who isn't as polite as you and who would plaster their frustration every where WHILE naming names...

    Keeping paying customers in the dark is definitely a bad business practice. It also leads me to think that if they're that bad with order updates, imagine how awful their customer service is when it comes to returns, repairs, etc...

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  4. I had a great experience with Ravel Concealment when I ordered a Vanguard 2. They shipped it in a couple days and it was there in 5 or so. Got emails when it was processed, ready for shipping and shipped.

    Another company I waited over a month for a product that was supposed to ship in a week.

    Setting realistic expectations (hint build yourself in some wiggle room say 20%. So if you need a month say 5 weeks) then communicating are good business practices.

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  5. Replies
    1. Not SOE, actually - I've only ever ordered one thing from them (a belt), and don't remember it taking long to get to me.

      This same problem has actually happened to me with every piece of 'handmade' gear that I've bought this year, minus a holster from RCS - which is part of the reason I didn't call anyone out. A couple have handled it adequately, others less so.

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  6. It seems to be even worse with gun builders. I know the old creative artist cant be rushed hogwash and the pick 2 of the 3 options (good,fast,cheap), but I find it hard to believe that these people dont have reasonable expectations for their own purchases,etc. So how can they be so ignorant in their own business?

    Your added note about dealing with customers is so true.
    The absolute smartest individuals/companies view problems & screwups as a opportunity - ,not a hassle to avoid or personal insults. A prompt professional manner of dealing with problems will usually lead to one of the most loyal customers possible and one who produces positive word of mouth advertising at a greater rate than anything a business could ever purchase

    Cheers

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  7. I will ditto the comment about Raven Concealment Systems. I ordered a custom holster for my XDm with a light/laser combo on the rail. The sight stated 10 to 12 weeks! for custom work, but all the reviews I had seen said it was worth it. I came two weeks ahead of schedule. Fine work and ahead of time.

    Communication is key, I check my company email every morning as I sit in bed! If there is something that needs attention, it gets handled just as soon as I walk in the door. There is no worse advertising than a dissatisfied or pissed off customer.

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