Actually rather good: companies of the year 2013

by Helen

I used to work in a customer-facing industry. I learned quickly the very simple art of pleasing a customer or a potential client. I also learned how easy it is to deal with a disgruntled customer, how little it costs in real terms, and how crucial to your business it is to turn a problem around.

I wrote about customer service last year. This is a parenting blog, so I don’t write often about business issues, but as a parent I experience a lot of services and products. Most of them are fine, some are terrible; a few have really impressed me this year. And so I wanted to shout about them, to let other people know how great they are, to do a little bit of their marketing for them and let others know why they are impressive.

Our companies of the year 2013

Hinxworth Bridal – the No Hard-Sell Award

It may not have escaped your notice that we held a wedding this  year. To be precise, it was a renewal of vows, but we went the whole hog. Yes, it was self-indulgent, and if I’m honest the initial fuel was our daughter’s desire to be bridesmaid before she became a tween, and too old for princess dreams. I felt vaguely apologetic and a bit stupid for craving a wedding dress – after all, we were already married. But my girl so wanted to try on dresses, and so we made an appointment with Hinxworth Bridal.

It didn’t start well: an accident on the A1 held us up. I had underestimated the time it would take to get there. Then I got lost. We were an hour and half late for our appointment. But all my harrassed calls to the owner were met with gentle and positive reassurance. It wasn’t a problem, we’d made so much effort it would be a shame to cancel, she would wait for us.

Going the extra mile
On arrival she couldn’t have been lovelier – GG was allowed to try on everything she liked, from the coloured satins, to the clouds of tulle of her dreams. Meanwhile I fingered the bride dresses and sighed over the dream dresses I had never had.

Would you like to try one? There’s no obligation, and every bride should have a chance to try her dream dress.

I didn’t need asking twice. In the end we spent over 2 hours there, going well past closing time. We weren’t to worry about the time, she had dinner in a slow cooker at home so it wouldn’t spoil and there was no-where else she needed to be. She treated us both like princesses; I left feeling like the magical dress shopping I had missed out on originally had happened that evening. GG left on a cloud.

In the end we didn’t buy our dresses from Hinxworth Bridal – we found our dream dresses elsewhere – but I would not hesitate to recommend this lovely place to any bride planning a special day.

The Making it Easy Award:
We eventually both found a dress at The Wedding Gallery. The perfect dress for a bridesmaid, no pressure selling over the fact we had left it late to order, and alterations were done swiftly. Once again, going a little bit further in the name of customer service paid off: as I swooned over the bridal gowns, I was told about the sample sale. I had no appointment, but that was brushed aside on the basis that I could spend as long as I wanted just trying on dresses. Again, there was no pressure to buy. So I bought one.

 ChoccyWoccyDooDah – the Going the Extra Mile Award

I haven’t written about the disaster of our cake. Another wedding-related item, our fabulous (there is no other word for it) wedding cake. Three tiers of chocolate, lemon drizzle, and coconut cake, swathed in white chocolate, with the most stunning mango chocolate flowers and gold-edged butterflies:

Incredible cake from ChoccyWoccyDooDah

ChoccyWoccyDooDah had been my cake fantasy 13 years ago, and so I was determined to have it this time round. It was stunning, it was delicious, and it came with cutting instructions. So when we realised the following morning that we had left those chocolate decorations at our party venue I high-tailed it up there to fetch them. They “hadn’t kept them.” Blaming the chocolate for cutting badly, our venue claimed they had discarded £300 of designer chocolate. I have my own thoughts on what happened to it.

I called ChoccyWoccyDooDah to see if they might be able to create a flower and a butterfly for us. I explained how disappointed the children were. Heck I was disappointed. They said yes, of course, and it would be complimentary, as a gesture of goodwill. Why on earth would they do that? It wasn’t their fault, and I was willing to pay.

Exceeding customer expectations
I had to collect it from their London shop. When I did, I was glad I had the car with me – they had given us one complete cake tier, complete with full decoration – yes, that entire cake up there in the picture. Why?? Because they know the value of good customer service, how exceeding expectations creates more marketing potential than any expensive advertising campaign ever could. I will tell the world about them for years to come.

Oh, and it came with cutting instructions – I followed them, and we had 4 perfect chocolate lilies to show for it.

There have been other brands who have impressed us, to whom we have given favourable reviews, too many to mention. So many, it is proof that it’s really not difficult to please a customer, to rectify a customer’s disappointment, or even to go beyond their dreams. And it’s also proof that going the extra mile pays off.

 *We have not been compensated for this post. We purchased products at the full price, and were not asked to write about them. We just wanted to share and celebrate our Companies of the Year 2013.

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