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Creative Leisure News
306 Parker Circle
Lawrence, KS 66049
Phone: 785-760-5071
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Insights on business, and practical ways to improve your own.

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LONG TERM SATISFACTION

Easy to cheapen products, but at what cost to your reputation?

by Kate (June, 2003)

(Note: Kate is a mid-level manager at a major industry company. Kate writes, "I've been employed for almost twenty years in this industry, and I am an avid, across-the-board crafter with a craft room full of supplies for just about every craft out there. Not only is the craft industry my job but crafting is one of my passions.")

Do you consider your company a Cadillac? A Ford? A Hundyai? You may not think cars have much to do with our industry, but I beg to differ. An article in the May 26, 2003 issue of Business Week compared immediate and long?term customer satisfaction levels with foreign and U.S. vehicles. Three comments grabbed my attention because they reflect issues in our industry as well.

Quality and price.

"They are working with suppliers to use proven, reliable parts from existing vehicles in future models instead of engineering new parts from scratch."

If you substitute craft kits for vehicles, you now have a common sense approach to our business. Unfortunately, once a product is a hit in the stores, two things happen that throw the common sense approach out the window.

First, everyone else now wants to produce similar kits and get them in the stores quickly. The best way for them to usurp the shelf space of the first company is to have a more appealing price while maintaining the quality of design. To do this they most likely source cheaper versions of components without first taking the time to do a thorough and lengthy evaluation.

This battle for shelf space results in the second negative occurrence. The first company now follows the lead of everyone else and does what is necessary to lower the price. What happened to the "proven reliable parts"?

Regaining lost ground.

"It will take years of good performance for the domestic reputation to change."

Ship one inferior line of products or miss one big ship date and what happens? You have created a less-than-favorable reputation for your company that may take years to change.

When dealing with buyers regarding a missed ship date, the repair job is easier from one perspective only -- you know who the buyers are. With persistence, you can engage them in telephone conversations or face-to-face meetings where the problem is discussed and resolved. You then make sure that your manufacturing department works overtime if necessary in order to not miss a future ship date.

With individual consumers the situation is much different. If you shipped 10,000 products of poor quality, how do you correct that? You don't know all the individual purchasers. You can't very well put a sticker on the packages of your next line encouraging people to buy them because you promise the quality is improved.

Go online to the message boards and see how vocal your dissatisfied customers are. Once a question has been raised about the quality of your product, that doubt spreads across all products with your name on them. Over the course of time and with a lot of work, that reputation can be changed, but at what cost?

Quality: Now and later.

"New-car quality is up, but what about the long term?"

Does your company spend as much time creating wonderful packaging as the consumer spends creating the project inside the package? Walk the aisles of any craft store and you will find a feast of colorful eye-catching boxes, blister packs, leaflets, and face sheets. That "new-car quality" certainly has come a long way, but we have to remember that our industry has a unique catch to it.

Many of the products we produce take weeks or months to complete. For this reason, in order to maintain and grow our customer base, and by default our industry, we need to make sure that the products we develop do not only satisfy consumers at the beginning but also throughout the entire creative process. To add just a bit more pressure, we also need to carry that satisfaction forward for months or years afterwards while the completed project is being used or displayed.

The bottom line is that we all rate ourselves as the Toyotas, Fords, Hyundais or Cadillacs --whatever our niche is in the craft industry. We may all think we are the Cadillacs, but the real Cadillacs are those companies who continually produce products with great design, clear instructions, and quality components, for these are the companies who remember to focus on the consumer's creative satisfaction.

(Note: Have any comments company reputations and/or cheapening products? Any topics you'd like to see Kate write about? Email her at katescollagecln@aol.com.)

xxx

 

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