Crowing Ram

Monday, June 28, 2004
Bad service, unanswered e-mail, and who is typically to blame
Me. That answer your questions? Didn't figure, but it's a start.
Just as an addendum to Rob's post earlier today, I, as the other half of ThreadBear would like to point out what I see.
We do deeply appreciate our clientele, and while we do have volume overloads on some things, I believe that in large part the straightforward I'd-like-two-of-this-and-fourteen-of-this-other-thing-and-that-other-pattern orders are typically answered, verified, and shipped within a couple of business days (which for Rob basically means pretty much any time day or night).
I do know for a fact that Rob is up with the dogs at the crack of dawn every day rain or shine, weekends and holidays, answering e-mails, taking calls, and generally running himself ragged (though he'd be the last person to ever admit that it's anything but normal). I also know for a fact that he hasn't taken a day off since New Year's Day, and while I don't think he knows that I know, I'm reasonably certain that he did send out a few e-mails then. We typically say that we took Easter off, too, but truth be told, he ran several orders that day, too; we just didn't open the doors to foot traffic.
Does that excuse poor service? Nope. That simple. We both hate that our trevails with zoning, relocation, and full-time help have put us behind, but neither of us wants to turn away business, either. I can't imagine saying here (online) or in-person, "I'm sorry, but I'm too busy to take your order." So what do we do? We continue to accept orders, and the time it takes us to get back to everyone increases. Some people do wind up going elsewhere, and from my own perspective, I certainly can't blame them. If the situation were reversed, I'd look elsewhere. But there is also the fact that if all of this were happening somewhere other than the Internet, it would go something like this... I, John Q. Public, would walk up to the doors of a shop that was packed with people. I'd see the line and understand that this place is swamped. I like the proprietors and enjoy the service they offer, but I'd have to levy my available time to wait with how much I wanted to do business with this particular shop. I might be willing to wait, and when I did get the service that I expected once someone was able to help me, I'd probably be pleased with the results and walk away knowing that if I needed the expertise in the future, I'd again have to make the decision of whether to put up with the wait for the kind of service that I do enjoy when I can get it.
Do I expect everyone to wait? Lord, no.
Do I think that this can go on indefinitely without negative repercussions? If I did, would I have been breaking my neck to try to get us into a better position to better serve our customers? No, I'd let things go on the way they have been, but that's not what we've been doing. We really have been fighting tooth-and-nail to get set up in a larger space with better-equipped, more consistently available help for over six months.
Please, never let it be said that we have not had excellent part time help in Columbus, Indiana. We had several folks help out at different times who put forth tremendous effort on our behalf, and we're very grateful for their time and energy. The issue has been and remains that we need more help than we have had available, and we have several highly qualified folks who have extended offers to come to work for us in Michigan. It absolutely doesn't hurt that most of those people also have experience working in the industry, so it gives us the opportunity to immediately turn over operation of the shop in large part to them so that we can focus on relieving the bottleneck that we've had with mail orders.
To return to the issue at hand, though, we have, as several people have pointed out, grown extremely quickly, and it's hard to be disappointed with that. However, it is precisely that growth that has created many of the problems. We genuinely had no idea that our products and services would be in such tremendous demand. We really had no remote idea that we would ever become so popular so quickly. Are we pleased? Of course, we're pleased, but we're also very well aware that we are not equipped to handle the huge influx of orders. Are we working to ameliorate that situation? I think the answer is pretty self-evident, but I'll spell it out just to make sure that nothing is misunderstood.
I, as one of the two owners and only employees of ThreadBear Fiber Arts Studio, have spent a large percentage of my time trying to secure larger, more appropriate retail space for our shop as well as a home nearby so that we can continue to operate our business. That leaves one person to handle all orders until we have completed our move. At that time, our new staff will be able to help us get orders completed, and I will, as our business' sole web developer be able to put more of our yarns, prices, and general information online so that the bulk of simple questions can be answered online without having to send e-mails that may sit unanswered because we're currently working as quickly as we can to get orders out the door to those people who know exactly what they want in what quantities they want.
Is this less than ideal? Sure it is.
As unfortunate as that may be, is it reality? Sadly, yes, it is, and no one hates it any more than we do.
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