'Industry Standard' isn't really good enough....
Its all been a bit confusing around here lately. Not just for me and Steve, but for all of the new lovely people that have [and continue] to join us- and, for you, as our customers.
The other morning, we were having a chat in the [very makeshift] office in our new HQ, about 'Industry Standard' and how I didn't want Wyatt and Jack to be Industry Standard because, in all honesty, Im not really sure i like what industry standard represents?
The conversation came about on the back of us trying to think our way around the length of time customers have been waiting for their orders.
Its NEVER happened before [ honestly, customers have never had to wait such a long time for their order... not EVER and certainly not to the extent we are currently dealing with!]
All the 'usual' processes kicked in....
You know, automated response emails, so people wouldn't think they were being ignored, that kind of thing... but when i went home at night, it didn't feel right. That, to me, is industry standard as we have come to expect and accept it.
I don't think standard is good enough.
As a customer, I don't want an automated reply- I want to know whats going on with my item and i want a human being to tell me. I want to know the company haven't legged it to South America, never to be seen again [I've got a sombrero on as i type.... no, I haven't!]
I realised that I [we] haven't communicated in the way that i [we] usually would, because we [mostly I, to be fair] were panicking.
Putting response systems in place that are not a true reflection of what we're about. Not in line with our ethos.
I also realised, that i had done a pretty rubbish job of explaining why... so i wanted to give you a little bit more of an insight, into the team we have here and exactly what we're trying to build and achieve.
A completely honest and transparent view, starting with our main point of contact, our hello@ email address.
Up until a few weeks ago, it was me who handled both the customer facing email addresses.
At all times of day and night [im not complaining, thats what we all do, when its our business and we don't want to let anyone down...] then, almost overnight, the influx of emails became too great for me to handle by myself. Try as i might, i just couldn't get through them all...
But I knew someone, who could.
Thing is, the reason I knew she could, is because she's one of the warmest and most caring people you could ever wish to meet, with a huge amount of experience in lots of different areas, so that meant, she already HAD a job [as is the way with people who are that good with people!]
So, i had to cover that period of time for a little while longer, until she became available. Unfortunately, that meant, there was a backlog of emails building up in the background, so until we could properly manage them all, we put an automated response in place [as they say, Captain Hindsight is 20/20] It was against my gut, but i came to the decision that i would rather people had a response, than no response at all- i realise now, that was wrong]
I was however, entirely right to wait for Lottie. If you have emailed or spoken to her on the phone, you'll know why!
So then lets talk a bit about our cutters and machinists.
Some of them have come from really heavy corporate backgrounds, where they've been guilted into working ridiculous hours and missing key moments in their kids lives.
Some have arrived with us looking for company, or to learn something new. Some are carers that are so loyal to the families of the people they care for, that they've had to try and manage both [or multiple] jobs, so they don't let anyone down- and you know what- THATS why they work with us!
Steve an I know, that they're the kind of people, we want to have around, building our bags, with the same love that we have over the years. So, sometimes we have to wait...
We wanted an apprentice.
We wanted an apprentice that would become part of our team for the long term. Not just to use them for a short time and pay them a smaller wage. We don't agree with that! So, again, we had to wait... [we have one now, she's amazing, but it took time...]
The most frustrating thing about all of this, is that we wanted to have all these things in place, BEFORE people finally starting realising we exist!
I believe they call that Sods Law.
Unfortunately, all these things have hit us at the same time and the knock on effect of that, is that the order you may have placed, is definitely running behind...
I feel awful about that. We all do.
We absolutely have to work through these orders chronologically. Its the fairest way. We cut everything by hand. We stitch everything by hand, we pack up and send everything by hand... [later than usual at the moment, but you get my point!]
But we all really hope that you'll see we're trying to build one of the only sustainable manufacturing facilities of its kind, here in the UK, in a rural area, with high unemployment.
With people who aren't 'industry standard' but with people who turn up to work early, because its the first job they've ever looked forward to going to, or the ones that turn up late because their childcare let them down and they don't feel scared to say that, because they know, we all know, these things happen. Or the one who offers to draw out templates, whilst she waits to hear how her fathers operation went. I kid you not, THESE are the people we are lucky enough to employ!
We are trying to disrupt a system that we feel is flawed.
We really need your help as consumers.
I know its asking a lot, if you've bought a bag for a birthday and it hasn't turned up, or perhaps you were hoping to take it on holiday... but, if you will help us invest this time, in this facility and these people, we will work our absolute HARDEST, to make sure we [and you!] never end up in this position again.
We're striving for better than 'Industry Standard'.