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LONG TERM SATISFACTION
Easy to cheapen products, but at what cost to
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
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
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
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
(Note: Have any comments company reputations and/or
cheapening products? Any topics you'd like to see Kate write about?
Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.)