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This is a blog, but also an open letter to everyone in the company about our goals and direction.

Open Letter

There is no such thing as an easy business, because life is full of challenges.  Our challenge is that we deal with literally thousands of orders on a monthly basis, and literally each order is different.  Our creative specialists need to find out what the customer needs, and when the customer needs it.  Often times the customer doesn’t even know what they need, and our creative specialist needs to educate the customer about our custom products.  Sometimes what the customer wants is impossible, and we need to educate the customer on what is possible.

Once the creative specialist takes the order, they need to make sure that every last detail about the order is recorded in our Customer Workshop.  They need to ensure that the size, details, materials needed to create the item, and deadline recorded are all 100% accurate.  From there everyone from the artist, to CAD designer, to factory assigner, to merchandiser, and the factory need to flawlessly execute the specifications recorded by the creative specialist.

To make things even more challenging our customer expects us to execute these steps, not only flawlessly but with lighting speed.  For our custom patch category the lead time used to be 4 to 6 weeks, with a normal shipping time of 7 to 14 days.  The/Studio has led the way in the custom patch industry to reduce that expectation down to a rush turnaround time of just 2 to 4 days, with overnight delivery.  Our customers now expect the same sort of lightning speed that they would from an e-commerce retailer like Amazon.  The only difference is that Amazon has the product in their warehouse, whereas when our customer places the order, the product is not only not in our warehouse, the product literally doesn’t even exist yet.

You Imagine, We Create

Custom manufacturing is complicated, but our goal is summed up in the statement “You Imagine. We Create”.  Our slogan isn’t you imagine, we have to arduously ensure that your information is correct, we have to control the quality, you have to worry about whether we will meet your deadline, and then We Create.  Our goal is to take a very complicated process and make it just as easy as clicking a few buttons.  Just as easy as an e-commerce experience.

Recently we had the opportunity to have our company evaluated by a 3rd party review site, that allows our customers to provide us and the public with reviews.  Fortunately we have already received significant feedback that has earned us a 5 star rating, which is the highest rating that a company can receive.  One of our customer’s explained on this site their experience with us, when ordering custom challenge coins.

Here is their experience:

I approached The Studio for an estimate for challenge coins. We proceeded with the order, although I was paying for the order out of my own pocket and could not be exactly sure how the coins would turn out. I was assigned a representative (Gabbie), who guided me through the whole process. The web site was excellent. The design was worked out and artwork forwarded to me. I made a couple of suggestions and revised artwork appeared very quickly. Perfect…except that one feature did not match my submission. It was explained that it simply would not work with this process. I concurred in the change. Shortly the order was filled and sent to me by an extremely rapid system that included tracking. Except for the courier’s $15 fee, no added charges appeared. The coins look terrific and have been getting rave reviews. (By the way, the change recommended by The Studio was warranted. They knew what they were talking about.) I am extremely pleased with the product and every facet of the process I went through to get it. (Thanks, Gabbie.)

This statement made by our customer exemplifies what we strive to be.  The customer knew nothing about custom challenge coins, and our team lead by Gabbie made the process absolutely seamless.  I was speaking to my friend the other day, and I told him that the thing that I like the most about our business is that I truly believe that we have become the best company in the industry.  I think a lot of our competitors accept the business as a static business that hasn’t changed for the past 10 years.  Whereas we literally spend everyday, every meeting talking about our mistakes and how we can learn from them, we never accept mediocrity, and even when we do things well, we think about how we can do things even better.  Here are some examples of what we do to get better and better each day:

Getting Better Everyday

-Instead of our CAD designers checking the design and sending the design directly to the factory, we implemented a process where another CAD designer needs to confirm that the design is correct, and then the factory assigner triple checks and ensures everything is correct.

-Our Custom Workshop now has built in functionality to remind the customer when to approve their sample, and updates our internal staff as well as our factory partners when an order is behind schedule, so that we can catch up and get the product to the customer on time.

-The other day Greg realized that a customer that has already worked with us before gets the same messages that a customer that has sent in a quote the first time receives.  He wanted to custom the message to our customers to make sure that their experience spoke to their past relationship with The/Studio.

-We improved our packaging to improve the customer’s first impression and experience with our products.  Although our packaging is already the best in the industry, we are still working on even better packaging.

-In our industry it is common for the customer to figure out all of the rules around importing the product on their own.  Previously we took the same attitude.  Emmy pushed us to think out of the box, and we will now start offering our customer free advice on importing the product into their designated country.

-We’ve set the bar higher and higher each month for the speed and accuracy that we demand from our manufacturers.

-We’ve created a QC bible that dictates the level of quality that we expect from our suppliers, and we use it internally when doing quality control before each item ships out.

-We constantly monitor the performance of our shipping partners to the point that we have perfected a system to ensure that the customer receives their product on time.

-We created a custom ticketing system to ensure that all of our customer’s inquiries and issues are properly dealt with.

-We implemented a rule that any redo or refund request must be dealt with in 24 hours.

-We have indicated in our Custom Workshop whether it is a returning customer or an old customer, so that our creative specialists knows the best way to work with the customer.

These are just a few of the literally thousands of both large and micro innovations that we come up with on a daily basis.  This obsessive approach towards constant improvements, have culminated in our 5 star rating, and the comment that the customer made above.  Nevertheless its a never ending journey.  Everyday we come to work we need to think about ways to provide the customer with more information, make the manufacturing process easier, and find ways to make our job easier so that we have more time to focus on the customer.

Micah Solomon

Recently I started following a journalist from Forbes named Micah Solomon.  In his Forbes profile he writes “I write on customer service, customer experience, and corporate culture.”  His overarching theme is that the most important thing that matters in modern business is customer experience.  I agree.  Our number one goal, the reason why we do almost everything, is so that the customer can have an amazing experience when creating a custom product with our company.  This should be consistent from the time the customer goes to our website, interacts with our staff, interacts with our Customer Workshop and receives their order.

micah-solomon

Here are 10 of his articles that are a must read.  Enjoy and implement!

http://www.forbes.com/sites/micahsolomon/2014/01/09/the-customer/

http://www.forbes.com/sites/micahsolomon/2014/11/27/black-friday-essentials-10-customer-service-and-retail-trends-you-need-to-have-your-eye-on/

http://www.forbes.com/sites/micahsolomon/2014/11/13/the-virtuous-circle-of-a-customer-service-excellence-culture/

http://www.forbes.com/sites/micahsolomon/2014/09/20/4-ish-steps-to-a-corporate-culture-your-competition-can-only-envy/

http://www.forbes.com/sites/micahsolomon/2014/12/10/the-secret-of-drybars-50-million-success-making-their-customer-the-star/

http://www.forbes.com/sites/micahsolomon/2014/01/15/the-greatest-hospitality-story-ever/

http://www.forbes.com/sites/micahsolomon/2014/11/26/spamming-your-customers-on-thanksgiving-is-not-good-customer-service/

http://www.forbes.com/sites/micahsolomon/2014/11/21/how-apple-thinks-differently-about-the-customer-service-experience-and-how-it-can-help-you/

http://www.forbes.com/sites/micahsolomon/2014/11/28/guess-which-one-word-makes-apple-stores-retail-customer-service-better-than-yours/

http://www.forbes.com/sites/micahsolomon/2014/10/24/how-apple-virgin-zingermans-and-other-customer-service-masters-bend-time/