The following is a detailed summary of what has been going on behind the scenes and in some cases not so behind the scenes….
* Dealer cuts: Over the last year I have been restructuring the way we operate. In late May/early June I came to the realization that we hadn’t achieved all of the efficiencies that I had anticipated. As a result I concluded that we were unable to support such a “large” dealer network. Although it personally pained me to do so we had to cut some of our dealers in order to give me the breathing room needed to increase our capacity. Ironically this meant cutting our most productive dealers, Milwatches and Gnomon. I would like to make it clear that I did not end their dealerships because they had done anything wrong. Quite the contrary, they were both exemplary dealers and I will continue to recommend them. What it came down to was basic mathematics, I just couldn’t create enough slack in our production schedule to hire and train more staff if I had to continue to supply them watches at wholesale prices. We will of course honor the warranties of any watches they have in stock or sold since our partnerships ended. Epaulet in New York and Urtid of Sweden continue to operate as Mk II dealers.
* Phone inquiries: I am sorry to say that we had to end the practice of taking inquiries by phone. That is to say if you have an urgent problem and you leave us a voice mail we will respond by e-mail or via the ticket system and by phone if necessary but we can only field general questions via the CRM portal. I do apologize for the inconvenience this will cause some customers and realize that this will turn off other prospective customers. Given that I have more work than hours in the day I have to budget my own time with an iron fist. E-mail enables me to manage my time more efficiently. I understand that this means leaving “money on the table” so to speak but its better to serve our current clientele better and grow into a service level that will enable us to consistently serve the customers that we can reach but can not help at this time.
* New web site and upgrades to the E-boutique: I hope that everyone is adjusting to the new layout and finding the new web sites are easier to use and more informative. The new sites follow a general trend in online retailing by creating what is termed a “brand” site that is separate from the web store. I am not certain why other companies do it but we structured out web sites this way for technical reasons. Ultimately I hope that the information people need will be easier to find and updated more consistently. The new brand site is the reason why we have been able to do a better job of producing more timely updates and more informative content. Without it I would still be coding web pages manually with the updates backing up because I was stuck wondering why the second bullet point won’t left justify properly. That having been said I expect that the brand site will finally look like what we envisioned after a few more revisions during the remainder of this month.
* Size of the Watch Collection: Although the selection on the E-boutique right now is relatively sparse this reflects an artificial shortage. We are trying to control the number of models available at any given time in order to manage our lead times more effectively. One can expect at least the same number of new watches in a given year but launched sequentially rather than all at one time.
* CRM portal: Even after running the system for a little more than a year we are still learning how to fully utilize the software. Fortunately the software is good enough that we were effective from day 1 but we are still making adjustments in how we deploy it to get the most out of it. It’s been quite an adjustment for me personally because organizing everything in a virtual space requires a different logic. I am at heart the kind of person that would be more comfortable covering all of the walls with white boards and working that way. However on this scale and in this day and age it would be ridiculous to essentially work the way they kept track of Spitfires in the Battle of Britain.
On balance we are more responsive than we have been in the past and the “ticket system”, as impersonal as it may sound, is enabling us to better tailor our efforts to each individual customer’s needs. To be perfectly honest, over the last 6 months, we have dropped the ball on a few customers but the situation has been steadily improving. If one compares what it was like to interact with us 18 months ago to today you would be forgiven for thinking it was an entirely different company.
* Project software: We have been using Project planning software now for the last month or so and it’s been a cruel mistress. Operating with the software has been eye opening in that it has helped me make better decisions and get a better feel for our productivity. We are trying to work down our lead times as quickly as possible while trying to ship the Kingstons as quickly as possible. Balancing these two priorities has been very difficult but so far we are still on track to finish delivery of the first 200 Kingstons by year-end, although not necessarily before Christmas.
If you made it all the way down to the bottom of this post congratulations are in order. These kinds of posts are neither fun to write nor read but I hope that you come away with the conclusion that we are responding to customer feedback and will continue to work earnestly towards providing our customers with a more rewarding experience.