Today I’d like to share a lesson that I’ve learned the past few weeks over at Jess LC. I usually wait a bit longer to share things that I learn there, but this one is at the top of my mind and I think it might be helpful for other business owners now or in the future.
Since the launch of our new iPad cases and coin purses we have had unprecedented success with them and have sold through our inventory much sooner than expected.
This is good (great, even) news, yet the newer, larger, orders we’ve placed are taking a while to create. We order in small batches yet when every item is practically sold out, that means small batches of lots of products = a large order.
The craftsman that we work with on our bags and cases are local, small, and make each item by hand. At this point in time, this is great for Jess LC because I can be in the workshop working with them directly on details and there is no shipping costs or lag time. They are also competitively priced for the small quantities we order, which means that we pass those low costs onto the customers in the overall price as well. If one day I decide to try manufacturing overseas in order to serve thousands of customers I have that option. But for now, I really like having great prices for high quality materials and local craftsmanship. It makes for a more personal product and much more of my own perspective in the design.
The issue that’s coming up is that our orders are pre-selling quickly and sometimes can take longer to make than anticipated.
For someone like me who is pretty Type-A (I decorate my closets just as much as my bookshelves), this is really upsetting. After all, I am the head of the company and even though I am doing everything in my power to get these orders completed on schedule, it still reflects on me if we are delayed.
For example, I was told our most recent order would be ready by Monday, October 24th. Then I found out that there was more work to be done and they would be ready by Thursday, the 27th. But in the meantime, a close family friend of a craftsman died and he flew out to New York go to the funeral. This left just one craftsman to work on the order over the weekend. By the time that the first craftsman got back from the funeral, there was still more to do and I’m now told that they will be completed by this Wednesday.
As you can imagine, this delay was completely unforeseen.
While I was processing this whole situation over the weekend, I had an epiphany when waiting for a table at the amazing burger joint, Kuma’s Corner. Kuma’s burgers are famous all over Chicago and with a tiny kitchen and small seating area, the lines here can be easily over two hours.
Right before we got seated my friend Alex made a comment that caught my attention. He mentioned that the hostess was one of the best he’d ever had at a restaurant. Knowing that I myself felt much like a hostess in the iPad case and coin purse situation, I asked him what made her so extraordinary. His response was simple, “She just seems like she really wants to get us a table as soon as she can. I know that there are a ton of people here waiting, and that she doesn’t need to keep us in mind that much, but she keeps coming up to us and letting us know how long it will be.”
And that’s when it clicked for me: the best thing to do when there is a wait is keep everyone as up to date on information as possible, in a personal way.
This course of action also validated why my customers waiting on cases were being so understanding and supportive over the past week. I, like the Kuma’s hostess, was doing my best to keep everyone updated. On the Monday that everyone expected to get their case, I emailed each person individually and let them know that their order would be ready to ship on Friday instead of Monday, just as the craftsman told me. Then, when I found out that the cases were not ready by that Friday, I again, let each person know in a personal email. I told them that once I had an update this week I would be in touch. I kept the emails short, honest, and apologetic, after all I have been so excited to get everyone their cases as soon as I possibly can!
Once I found out this morning about the funeral situation, I again, emailed everyone with an update. The honest and open communication with each customer has gone a long way. I am so thankful and blessed to have such understanding and supportive customers who are kindly and patiently waiting for their pre-orders to ship.
Once the packages do ship out, I have also arranged a little surprise; I have handwritten little notes to each customer, thanking them for being so “sweet” and patient – and I’ve included a little chocolate treat in the order to match my sentiment.
Overall, I think that what I’ve taken out of this whole order delay and hostess analogy is that honest, friendly, personal communication with customers is the best course of action. And in order to prepare for any future delays with these small batches, I’m now estimating the ship dates on the site for pre-orders right above the add to cart button, to keep people in the loop.
So while I am learning that I do not have complete control over production; I can do my very best, and be the most excellent hostess that I can be.