Above – my 2 Children Daisy & Emily… could they be the future leaders of Stolen Goat Corporation???
On a personal level this year has been a genuine roller coaster for me. Ditching your steady, well paid, corporate job that puts food on the table for the whole family in favour of running a company called Stolen Goat is not a decision that comes lightly let me tell you. I struggled with this decision for a while. But my whole family has belief in this company as do I. You only get one go at life, one, just one. So here I am, making a go of it. Every day I wake up bursting with excitement about what the future holds for Stolen Goat and the continued support from you all as customers, riders, friends and community makes everything all the better.
It’s no secret that new businesses struggle to get any help from the bank these days. I can well and truly confirm that to be the case. The rules and restrictions they put on a new business is choking and exhausting. They tell you that they want you to succeed but some of the policies seem to tell a different story. They have to be responsible, I get that, but there are lots of struggling companies out there who needn’t be quite frankly.
To be honest, this kind of challenge makes it all the more rewarding to see that a year on, Stolen Goat is not just surviving, but growing. Like most cyclists, I enjoy a challenge. The bigger the better. I find the rewards of surviving in this tough economic climate far greater than raking in easy money.
When Stolen Goat launched, many people pointed out to me that it would be a struggle as everyone is feeling the pinch right now. Personally – I think that launching a business in these conditions is the best thing you can do! When times are tough, people want the best for their money. They seek out two things – quality and trust. It’s the reason why fantastic companies like John Lewis go from strength to strength. They offer high quality items and a trustworthy service. I would like to think that every single one of you who has bought from Stolen Goat feels the same about us. If not, then please get in touch.
Lessons for this year – Embrace every challenge and reward is sure to follow.
What is Customer Service?
I have always tried to put the customer first. A lot of companies say it but rarely deliver. This is the core of our culture and I genuinely think it’s the reason for our survival and indeed growth. So it will always be at the core. Here are some things we have learnt about Customer Service this year. This is an ongoing learning experience that will never be finished…
Customer service is not just responding to complaints. Great customer service continually gives the customer satisfaction above and beyond what is expected even when the customer is already happy. Yes offer a solid return policy of at least 60 days, but make it quibble free – no one should have to give a reason why they are returning something.
People want to be able to make contact, thats why we offer phone numbers, email support on every page of the website, twitter and facebook dialogue and more.
Most companies see the website as a sales channel. But, when you are online only like us it simply has to be more than that. It is our home, it’s where people hang out as well as shop. Yes, make it attractive and search engine friendly, but above all – make sure people can use it easily and on any device they choose. And make it quick! Too many companies opt for cheap website hosting these days, this is sketchy and slow at best. We pay a pretty penny for super fast web hosting because nobody likes to wait for a page to load.
Don’t make people create an account to buy something, but do make it an option. Let people choose different payment methods.
Lessons for this year – Usability is customer service.
Fulfilment is a massive part of customer service. We live in a fast paced society and we all have expectations. That’s why this year we took the step to move all our stock in with a logistics company. As a new company this was somewhat daunting and certainly an extra cost. But it means that rain or shine, we can offer excellent delivery and returns all year round. Anyone who orders before 4pm on a working day gets same day despatch. If you want a next day service, we can offer it, if you want free UK delivery for orders over £40 – we can offer that too.
Lessons for this year – Options are customer service.
Accountability is crucial to building trust. We give each and every one of you the chance to voice your opinions about our service once you buy something. This makes us accountable and keeps us pushing for better all the time. We use a third party review service – Trustpilot – it’s expensive but solid, reliable and above all – independent. At time for writing we are hitting 9.6 out of 10 which puts us in the top ten in our main category – bike accessories. Reviews are a great way to get feedback, positive and negative so we plan on continuing to pay for that service.
Lessons for this year – Accountability is customer service.
Community is not important – it’s vital
Something else we have learnt this year is that community is vital. Building a friendly, like minded community is how modern companies grow. These days people use various methods of scoping out a company. Online reviews help but social media activities are quickly becoming the cornerstone that builds up a newcomers opinion of the company. We’ve put a lot of effort into our facebook and twitter community this year and that effort will only grow in the future. The benefits of this are becomingly increasingly measurable and to be honest it’s the simplest way of engaging with real people on a day to day level. It’s good fun, and fortunately it makes good business sense too. Our Strava club is also growing in numbers… lots more to come with that in 2014 ;-)
I am actually not too concerned about how big our fan base is. Whether we have 6000 facebook likes or 6,000,000 – the important thing is that people get something from being a fan. Whether that’s engaging with other people, taking part in competitions, getting heads up on news or learning of sales before everyone else – we all have our reasons for taking part in a social media community. I would rather have 100 brand ambassadors than 1,000,000 face less “fans” who never say anything and don’t care what we have to say.
Lessons for this year – don’t build an audience – build a community.
New Vs Existing Customers
Most companies use discount codes and sales to attract new customers. New customers are new opportunities for a small business so that is understandable. But we want to keep our existing customers happy first and foremost. A customer who is happy buying from us multiple times is far more valuable than 2 customers who only buy one thing – not just financially, but morally too. That’s why this year we have given weekly discount codes out to our existing newsletter subscriber list. Thank you to everyone who subscribes, I’m happy to say that your continued loyalty means we are able to continue with this policy into 2014.
Lessons for this year – keep existing customers happy and new customers will follow organically.
A look into 2014
The main lesson for 2013 has been that relationships matter. Customer relations are fundamental, but so are business relations. We are building good relationships with our peers and the brands that we buy from. This can only lead to better opportunities in the future.
Next year will be a landmark year for us. We are working on a very exciting project which will hopefully be unveiled in April/May. It should right a few wrongs in the cycling retail sector and I am super excited about it.
Asides from that project we have lots of new brands lined up to come into the Stolen Goat shop so stick around for a vastly growing selection of cycling goodies. We will also be exhibiting at a number of high quality events such as the eagerly awaited Festival of Cycling in Yorkshire that will see the start of Le Tour de France!
Cycling is booming in this country and rightly so. But let us not sit back and ride that wave – we intend to make our own luck and push the boundaries of what is possible at every single opportunity.
Thank you everyone for your support and custom. Stolen Goat is officially here to stay and it’s all thanks to you. Cycle safe, look after yourselves and your families and have a great 2014.
Tim Bland, Owner of Stolen Goat.