Monday, July 26, 2010

Customer Service - Is it THAT important?

I do find I ask this question a lot - actually, it's rhetorical for me because I completely believe that it's one of the most important aspects of any business but, most especially, for a business trying to keep afloat during a recession.

I was pondering this question today and, as I go about trying to organise things for my holidays, I found a perfect example of really bad customer service - so bad, I had to Tweet about it!

I'd been having a discussion with my husband as to how we should get to the airport - as my Dad is going with us, a coach was out of the question (he's 78) so we decided we'd get a taxi.  Great.  We happened to hear an ad on the radio for a cab company who offered discounts for each journey so I thought I'd give them a call.

I'm ringing and get put on hold immediately - ok fine, I'm thinking they're hugely busy, probably a good sign.  Then the call gets answered.

Me:  Hi, I was calling to see how much the taxi fare from my house (location named of course, I'm not that bad that I'd assume she'd know!) to the airport would be please?
Girl: It is whatever it is with a discount
Me: Emmm, ok but I don't know what it is even with a discount so could you possibly tell me?
Girl: *Sighs* Whatever the taxi meter says it is minus the discount (said in a way that clearly told me she thought I might need assistance to get through life).
Me: Emmm, ok then, thank you so much for your help.

Two seconds with Mr Google, and I found the taxi rate (huge!) and then got my calculator and worked out what 25% off would be (still huge).  Ok so you could say, well why didn't you Google that in the first place then? Because I wasn't aware that the company I'd like to purchase a service from wouldn't be able to quote me for the service they provide would be my answer.  I was left feeling like an idiot, like I'd wasted her time (and mine) and that I was a complete inconvenience.

Needless to say, I didn't book that taxi.

The whole episode got me thinking of examples of good service then which was easy to come up with.  One of my suppliers, Helen, is an excellent example - when you place an order with her, she responds back in less time that it can take to make a cup of tea, asking if everything was ok, telling you when she'll package up the order, when it'll be sent and when I can expect it to arrive.  Then she'll email to say it's sent off and always says to check back with her if there are any problems.  If I have a query on any of her products, she's always available to ask any questions or help in anyway.  Her products are second to none (which is why I use her as a Soaperstar supplier) too!

I find it incredible that, in these recessionary times, one company can be so unconcerned with what their customers think or what experience their customer has, one would have thought that they'd fall over themselves to gain new customers.

At Soaperstar, we are firmly of the opionion that our customers are our priority - in everything we do, we put the customers first ... so we buy the best quality ingredients, we comply with all current legislation, we follow good working practices, we test and research all our products until we're completely happy with them, we acknowledge receipt of orders and keep in contact with customers to tell them about delivery times, we're fully available on our site, email, Facebook and Twitter and communciate with and respond to our customers on a daily basis.  For us, there is no other way of running our business - nothing less is acceptable.

So thanks, taxi company, but no thanks - today is a lesson learned ... to know that our customer service is a priority to us and that we're always trying to improve, every way we can.

The Importance of Doing it Right

I've been doing a little internet research this evening on various other soap/body product makers.  There are so many really excellent people out there doing really excellent work and producing beautiful products that should be applauded and bought by the truckload!

But, and I hate to say this, there are some who aren't ... who's products may look very nice in the pictures, but when you look at their ingredients listing, they aren't following EU regulations regarding cosmetics and sale of same.  Now, we may all laugh at EU regs at times (remember the straight bananas?) but cosmetic legislation is put in place in order to protect you, the consumer.  From ensuring that a manufacturer (and I mean the big boys like Lush etc to the small producer making everything themselves by hand, like me) is fully safety assessed, that all the ingredients are stated correctly using the full INCI* terminology (for instance, when water is stated as Aqua, it's not that we're trying to sound posh, that's the law) to being fully insured... all of this is hugely important. 

Tonight, I found some producers who aren't keeping to these regulations and I felt the need to clearly state to everyone that we at Soaperstar are very proud to say that we've worked long and hard to ensure that we fully abide by EU cosmetic regulation, are fully safety assessed for all our products, are fully insured and very aware of the importance of all of these things to our customers.  I would HATE for anyone to lump our company alongside the producers that I found this evening. 

We strive to ensure the highest quality of production and ingredients for all our products and we test, test, test and test some more all new ideas before we ever launch them on the market.  We want to only produce products that we love to make, that we feel are of the highest possible quality and that we truly believe in and can stand by.  We would feel like total frauds to pass off some ill tested, badly labelled and poorly performing products to our customers. 

It really upsets me that there are people out there who think it's ok to not list all the ingredients, to not list any potential allergens, to not disclose fully what goes into their products, to market only the "label appeal" ingredients but not list every single thing that goes into their products - what happens if someone buys something from them and is horribly allergic to it? If they'd been open and above board with their labelling in the first place, that customer could then make an educated decision to not purchase the product.  It annoys me that some producers are happy to put products out on the market to unsuspecting customers - the legislation is there for a reason, that reason being the protection of consumers. 

Soaperstar was the first non UK member of the Guild of Craft Soap and Toiletry Makers - the Guild's has two very specific aims:
(1) To raise awareness of the legislative standards that are in place that apply to craft soap and toiletry makers
(2) To register as members of the Guild crafters who work in compliance with this legislation and who hold relevant public liability insurance

In order to achieve membership, you have to produce written evidence that, as a producer, you are fully safety assessed and fully insured - without this, you cannot become a member. 

I would urge any consumer who loves to buy handmade products to keep buying them but please ensure that the ingredients in the products are fully and correctly listed (for instance, no label should list Cocoa Butter but should call it Theobroma Cacao, Coconut Oil should only be listed as Cocos Nucifera) - if not, ask why not.  Ask the producer are all the allergens present in Essential or Fragrance Oils listed.. if not, why not.  If you want to, ask are they full safety assessed, or fully insured... they should be.  If they're not, why not. 

It's so important to us at Soaperstar that the customer comes first, they are the whole reason we exist in the first place - we work so hard to ensure that everything we do, we do for our customers and we do it in the right way... and this includes extensive (and expensive!) research and development into new products, correct and full labelling (not just highlighting the ingredients you want to see and hiding those you don't!) and abiding by the rules laid down to protect the customer. 

I am sorry if this is a little ranty but I got so annoyed tonight - and then got to thinking that people would think that maybe we're like that too and I had to come here and talk about it. 

We are so passionate that we do the right thing, make our products in the right way, make our customers happy and safe that I don't want anyone to think that we're like other companies who don't care enough about their customers to help protect them. 

There are, of course, many many many producers out there who make fantastic products and the few that don't abide by the regulations are, thankfully, few and far between.  Consumer awareness though is so necessary and I felt it so important that people know what they should be looking for and what level of service they deserve to get.

End of rant!

* INCI means International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients - you can find more information here.  If you'd like to read more about EU cosmetic regulations, please click here (be aware, it's pretty dense reading!

Friday, July 23, 2010

We're all going on a Summer Holiday, no more working for a week or two... or three!

Hi everyone! Sorry, I've been sort of quiet on here lately but the Soaperstar empire has been mega busy of late! I've been working to make up lots of batches of our wholesale soap to have in stock because... we're off for our Summer break!

This has been an exciting but tough year so far - working, to what amounts to two full time jobs, is tiring but I'm loving it so much... Soaperstar is just what I wanted it to be and I'm so enjoying the reactions of all my customers, we've gotten some really fabulous feedback and reviews and we've been spotted by celebrities!!! 

And, as a sneaky hint, we're introducing some new products in September/October so you will see why I've been so quiet.

So I just wanted to give you the heads up that we're taking some time off this Summer so all orders placed on or before midnight on Thursday 29 July will be posted on Friday 30 July - any orders placed after midnight on 29th will be posted from Monday 23 August onwards ... so if you need to order for your own hols, do it soon! All our handcrafted luxury goatsmilk and glycerine soaps and our Sheer Luxury Body Butters are exclusively available from our online store at

Sun, sand, sea and whatever takes your fancy, here we come!!!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Celebrity Mention for Soaperstar!

I just had to tell you - I got a fabulous link sent to me on Facebook last night, check it out here. Yes! Soaperstar been recommended by Colin & Justin!

For those who don't recognise their names (seriously, you don't?), Colin and Justin are Scottish interior decorators and TV presenters, who have appeared in over 26 programmes, most notably 60 Minute Makeover and I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here.

This is really a story about the power of Twitter as a marketing tool - I joined Twitter in order to help market Soaperstar but I've had a ton of fun along the way and made some good friends.  Twitter is all about relationship building so that you not only enjoy the company of others but they can become your customers too. 

One of my very regular customers is Justin's sister and, although she told me ages ago, I would never have assumed any link or even spoken about it (customer details are utterly confidential of course).  She mentioned yesterday that she had given Justin one bar of the soap only for him to take her whole stash and then, last night, she sent me the link! They must have loved the product!

I had to thank them, of course, and left a message on their Facebook page to thank them and, in reply, they said

"Hey Celine - we LOVED the soaps and are always keen to recommend lovely new product we come across. Good luck with the biz'! C and J x"
Well, chuffed to bits just doesn't describe it! It's soooo cool to be recognised for your work and so publicly too!
I just wanted to say a huge thanks to Colette and to Justin & Colin too, I totally appreciate it!
If you're interested in purchasing any of our luxury handcrafted goatsmilk & glycerine soaps or our Sheer Luxury Body Butter, drop into our store at - we'll be delighted to see you there.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Please vote for me!

Cosmopolitan Magazine are holding their very first annual Blog Awards ... could I beg a favour? Would you please please please please please nominate my blog under the Beauty section?

You need to click this link and choose the category and type in my blog address, giving a reason for nomination. And that's it really, very simple.

So can I beg, plead, cajole, bully, sweettalk you into doing this? I'll be forever grateful! Whilst I imagine there will be TONS of entries (given the magazine is so well known), if you're not in you can't win as they say!!!

Thank you sooooooooooooooooooooooooo much in advance. 
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...