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JEREMY’S CORNER


Fair and, I have to say, it was one of the worst experiences I’ve had in a long time – I got roasted by the head buyer for our poor service on delivery. At the time I just wanted a big hole to open and swallow me up. I was horrifi ed that our business, which we work so hard on, could have allowed this situation to occur. In our defence, there were a variety of factors at play including large spikes in demand for our products over the year which had been diffi cult to predict. This wasn’t really our retailer’s problem though, the bottom line was that our customer was unhappy and the buck stopped with us. The stores had suffered stock-outs, which was bad for business both for them and us. Something had to be done. What happened, as a result, is a good example of why I’m always pleased to listen to customer complaints even when they’re diffi cult to hear. This is especially true when things can be done that will lead to improvements throughout our business – try not to dismiss complaints readily and always track them.


O


At Blue Eyed Sun we note down all our onions and orchids and discuss them in our weekly team meetings. Complaints are onions and compliments are orchids, and both are key to marketing and growing your business. So, what happened next? Well fi rstly, I assured the customer the problem would be dealt with, then went about taking a series of actions that meant the problem did not happen again.


I communicated the situation to everyone in our HOW TO COMPLAIN


● Do tell them, it helps ● Be clear what the issue is ● Avoid being personal ● It’s OK to feel angry ● Don’t shout and scream ● Let them respond ● Have realistic expectations


HOW TO RESPOND


Acknowledge the customer Listen carefully


Ask questions to clarify Avoid being defensive Don’t make excuses Tell them you’ll fi x it Tell your team Sort the problem Let the customer know Check that they are happy Try to avoid repeats


NE of the best things that happened to me last year was a customer complaint from one of our major key accounts. It happened on our stand at Spring


Know your onions


Everyone wants to avoid complaints but, when they do happen, it can actually be a wake-up call. Jeremy Corner explains the importance of onions and orchids when making the most of your business.


business straight away. I called our workshops and asked them to make sure that whatever orders were due for this customer were the number one priority that week so the buyer didn’t return from the show to fi nd the issues reoccurring.


At the show I discussed the situation with my assistant, who has a background in buying for a multiple retailer, and we identifi ed the top causes of the problems that had led to the complaint. Back at the offi ce after the show we set about tackling these as quickly as possible. Now, this all sounds obvious and you might be tempted to ask why we hadn’t fi xed these issues before a complaint arose. The reality is they were complex and involved a broker, printing supplier and our own internal systems of stock control and warehouse management.


There were also tough decisions to be made that we’d not got to grips with, like increasing our stock holdings, cutting out ranges that could not be reprinted easily in a cost-effective way and external challenges like improving top


level communication with the broker involved. In fact communication within our company, with our suppliers, with the brokers and with the retailer has improved dramatically and has meant our fulfi lment rate hit 97 per cent within the following six months. Our rate of sale also leapt 25 per cent and we’re now the top handmade supplier at this particular multiple retailer.


The complaint also led to us reviewing our warehousing systems and we’ve completely changed the way we hold stock and how our shelving works. We’re holding more stock in less space with orders leaving our warehouse faster than ever which means our customers now get even better service. Blue Eyed Sun were even listed 18th out of 800 for best customer service to independent retailers at this year’s Henries.


The thing I’m most aware of with this particular


customer, and all customers who complain, is that we were lucky – lucky they took the time to tell us as many customers won’t and will just leave and not come back.


By telling us, they gave us the chance to deal with the issue and turn their experience of us around. I’m eternally grateful to them for doing this as, in the process, it has made our business better for them, for us and for others. So do remember to tell your suppliers when they do a good job and,


more importantly, when they don’t. It could improve things for both of you.


Remember to send orchids from time to time and not just onions!


Jeremy Corner is the owner of greetings card publisher @Blue_Eyed_Sun and wedding stationery experts @IvyEllen. Read his blog for greetings card retailers at www.blueeyedsun.co.uk/blog


www.greetingstoday.co.uk 51


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