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Friday, November 08, 2013


When deciding to spend their hard earned money with any business, small or large, one factor that potential customers often consider is communication.  How easy will it be for me to communicate any questions or concerns with this business?  How open will they be to resolving any issues that I may have?  This is a very important concern, so I wanted to devote this blog post to the level of communication that my kilt clients may expect from me.

Communication is one factor of my business that is simultaneously a strength and a weakness.  What do I mean by that?

When you communicate with me, you are communicating directly with the person who is making your kilt.  There is no middle man to go through.  I am actually the one cutting the cloth, stitching the pleats, and so forth - my hands are on every part of the process up to and including putting the mailing label on the final package.  So you will be talking with someone who has first hand knowledge about your kilt.

On top of that (time to toot my own horn) you will be speaking with a recognized expert in the field of tartan and Highland dress.  Believe it or not, I've met kilt makers (kilt makers!) who could not articulate the difference between pleating to sett and pleating to stripe.  That's not me.  If you have questions about some obscure pleating style or want a particular color scheme, or want some background information on an historic tartan, I'm your man.

Finally, I'm a pretty nice ad reasonable guy.  This is important, because you are dealing with an individual, not a large conglomerate.  If you have any kind of issue with your kilt regarding the fit, or if you are unsatisfied in any way (and this is rare) I am very willing to work with you to resolve the situation.  I am not slave to "company policy," and my primary concern is that you end up with a kilt that you are happy to own and proud to wear.  Kilt making is a business, but it's also my hobby, and so I am more concerned about you having a good quality kilt than I am about the bottom line.  That's something you won't always get from the "customer service department" of other companies.

But communication is at the same time a weakness and I recognize that fact.  I'm not always easy to reach by phone.  I can be slow in answering emails.  I'm not always able to give a quick, immediate reply to your inquiry and for that I apologize.

Kilt making is not my full time job.  It is a hobby business that I work at during evenings and weekends, and that does affect the level of communication I am able to offer.  I am happy to give clients and potential clients my business number (which is my cell phone number), but I am not always free to take those calls if I am engaged in my full time job (which has somewhat irregular hours).  The next time I am able to respond to your communication may be early morning or late evening and so you are more likely to get an email reply from me than a return phone call.

While I do check my email frequently, that does not mean I always have time to reply to your email right away - especially if your question requires any sort of research or thought-out response.  And if I cannot get to your email right away... well, there is the danger of it getting pushed down my inbox and neglected.  I try to avoid this, but it happens more often than I'd like to admit.

My full time job requires a high degree of interpersonal communication, which means often I am talking with people in person, on the phone, or via email, all day long.  When I get home in the evenings often the last thing I want to do is to call or email people - I just want to sit in my workshop and make kilts!  So I can be admittedly slow in responding to messages, and I just beg my customers' forgiveness and patience in this regard.

Some tips:
With that in mind, I truly don't want any of my customers to feel neglected or feel like their business is not important.  So I've put together these tips for the best ways to get in touch with me.

Phone:  Phone is definitely NOT the best way to reach me.  I think it is important that my customers have a real phone number for me, however, which is why I post it on my web site and include it on my business cards.  I know how valuable it is to know there is a real person you are dealing with whom you could actually talk to about your order if needed.  So I am happy to provide it.  However, I can be difficult to reach by phone and so that's not my recommended method of routine communication.

As I said above, I work a full time job, and I am not always free to take phone calls.  And because of the nature of my job, my hours can be kind of odd, so there is no guarantee I will be available at any given time, be it 9 in the morning or 8 in the evening.  It's hit or miss.  So more than likely you will have to leave a message, which I guarantee I will listen to.  However, often the next time I am free to work on replying to customer inquiries will be early morning or late evening, which are not the best times for phone calls.  So you are more than likely going to get an email reply from me.  So best to just email in the first place, unless it is something you truly need to speak with me in real time about.

One final note about the phone: yes, it is a cell phone; no, that does not mean you should text me.  Yes, I do text, and do it quite often to communicate with family and friends.  But it's just not a good way to communicate about your order.  Chances are, I won't recognize your number, and a text from an unknown number that just says, "Can I get an update on my kilt?" does not do either you or me much good.

Email.  This is, by far, my preferred way for you to communicate with me.  I keep a full record of all email correspondence.  So it is super easy for me, if I have any questions about your order, to just search for your email address and read through our entire conversation.  It's the primary way I keep record of your order.  So email is definitely best.

I check my email several times per day on most days.  However, that does not mean I am always able to give attention to your email right away.  This is especially true if your email requires me to look up something (be it information about your order, or an historical fact about Scottish dress), or if your email inquiry is long and involved.  I get a lot of email and depending on the volume any given day, it can be easy for an unanswered email to get shoved down the inbox listing and become neglected.  This is not intentional on my part, but it does happen.  So if you have not heard from me after a day or two, just send me a reminder.  I won't mind at all, and it will actually help me make sure that your inquiry does not get forgotten about.

One further email tip: if at all possible, keep your email short and to the point.  All too often, I will receive an email that is many paragraphs long - sometimes with poor grammar and no punctuation - and after reading just a few sentences I decide, "This is going to take some time to work through, I'll look at it when I can dedicate the time."  Later on, when I finally have the time to parse through the email, I discover that person really just had one simple question that was buried in the fourth paragraph, which would have taken me about 30 seconds to reply to had I known.  So please, try to keep your emails short and sweet - this will help make sure I am able to reply to them in a timely fashion.

Facebook.  I do have a Facebook account which I use for personal purposes, and I have a Facebook Page for the business, which I welcome you to follow.  But Facebook is NOT the best way to communicate with me about your order.  I much prefer email.  It's easy for a comment made on my Facebook page to go unnoticed and get forgotten about.  I try to read most of the comments left on Facebook, but I cannot guarantee I will read every single one.  So if you have a real question about your order, or a potential order, take whatever you were going to post on Facebook and email it to me instead.

X Marks the Scot.  I love this web forum; it's a great place to talk to other people who share in your same highland dress enthusiasm.  I have had an active account there for almost ten years.  New House Highland is a paid X Marks advertiser and so I have a dedicated forum on that site.  Any postings made in that dedicated forum get emailed to me.  Also, any Private Messages sent to me on X Marks also get emailed to me.  So that can be a good way to reach me.  However, I still prefer email for general communication about your order.  The reason being that I need to log back into X Marks to reply to your PM or forum posting, and I may not be able to do that right away when I receive the email notification.  That increases the chance that I will forget about your correspondence (at least until the next time I log into X Marks).  Not to mention the fact that any communication about your order made via X Marks (or Facebook) won't be included should I need to call up record of our email correspondence to verify anything about your order.  So again, email is best.

The Scottish Tartans Museum.  For fourteen years I worked at the Scottish Tartans Museum in Franklin, NC.  I still support the museum, and have business dealings with the museum gift shop.  I occasionally make kilts for them, and supply them with House of Cheviot kilt hose.  Because of my long standing association with the museum, it has happened that when people place an order (either for a kilt, or a pair of kilt hose) through the Scottish Tartans Museum gift shop, they will want to communicate with me directly with questions about their order.  Please, if you placed your order through the museum gift shop, direct your questions to the museum gift shop.  In these cases, I will not have any kind of order record for you and so will not be able to speak with you about your order.  Nor would it be my place to do so.

In summation
To sum everything up, I think good communication is vitally important to any business.  At the same time, I am not any business.  I am a single person who handles absolutely everything about the business.  I am the production team.  I am the IT department.  I am shipping/receiving.  I am the customer service department.  I also don't do this full time - and I have a family that I like to spend time with, as well.  Owning your own home based hobby business has a lot of good aspects about it, and I enjoy every minute of it.  But it does mean that you cannot expect the same kind of customer support that you may find from larger companies with greater staff to handle questions and correspondence.  (Remember, time I spend answering emails is time I am not sewing on your kilt!)  The smallness of our operation here has its advantages and disadvantages when it comes to communication.

But please know that your business, your satisfaction, and your communications are important to me.  If I don't get back to you right away, know that it is because I am busy and sometimes forgetful (as we all can be), not intentionally negligent.  Email is always preferred.  Keep it short and to the point.  Give me a couple of days to get back to you.  And if you don't hear from me, just send me a reminder.  Those basic steps will help me provide you with the level of communication that you deserve, and that I want to provide.  Thanks for understanding!

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