It’s been a rather busy year hasn’t it? It seems that the world has decided that paddleboarding and biking are the perfect socially distant activities post lockdown.
We think we’ve already told you that we were nearly 400% up on the previous year to the end of July. That came on the back of being 50% down on 2019 to the second week in April. So to say we’ve been busy is an understatement. And being that busy has caused us a few issues. So for those of you who’ve been a little frustrated by us this year, here’s the story of how things went a bit wrong, and what we’ve learned from it.
The container that was due to land end of June that we were promising to ship from on 3rd July didn’t touch ground until 10th July, and took another week before it was unloaded into our distribution centre in South Wales.
We were already struggling to respond to all communications around then because the entire world was asking questions about what kind of SUP to buy, and every person and their dog was asking when there preorder was. At that point we probably should have stopped being so reactive to customers calls, emails, messages, whatsapp etc, and proactively contacted preorder customers in a bulk communication to advise them things were a little delayed. That would have annoyed a few customers for a short period, but reduced calls on our time for that couple of weeks when things were going so manic.
At this point we were also moving more of our products to be fulfilled by the distribution centre (fins, sunglasses, rash vests etc). This helped us by reducing demands on our time at HQ picking and packing these items, but this was an unwelcome distraction for the distribution centre who still weren’t fully up to normal staffing levels in this socially distant world.
We changed our systems integrations with our logistics partners during this period to simplify it for the distribution centre. However in doing so we broke it so that not every order made it to the distribution centre. This was the biggest mistake – making system changes during your busiest period ever without properly testing them! This also had significant knock on effects. We were relying on the distribution centres stock levels to feed stock levels on the webshop. Because they didn’t have every order, it made the shop look like we had more stock that we did. This is turn led to us unwittingly take more orders for some products than we actually had stock.
We also had real problems with the Go Simple product. The QA of the boards was simply not good enough – some boards had cosmetic damage (printing and deckpad finishing), some boards had leaky valves, the accessories were poor with bags falling apart on day one. To solve this problem for the future we’ve discontinued the Go Simple line. We’ve realised, belatedly, that it isn’t possible to make an iSUP product that meets our ethical, environmental and quality standards at that budget price range. As part of our desire to always exceed customers expectations, we offered those customers affected, reduced price upgrades to the premium quality Go Anywhere boards. But in doing so, we were further affecting the stock level management issues, eating further into stock we didn’t have.
At this point, we were being inundated by incoming from customers asking where there kit was. But with the breakdown in comms between our systems and the distribution centres, we were totally unsighted. Finding out if an order had been shipped meant asking the distribution centre. Finding out how much stock we had left meant asking the distribution centre. But the distribution centre were focussing on the most important things – getting our gear out to customers – rather than responding to our requests for information. Further, because not every order was getting to the distribution centre, customers were getting kit out of order. Meaning that sometimes someone who ordered later than preorder customers got shipped kit destined for preorder customers.
Add to this that that some gear that had been dispatched disappeared. Some of it even made it to the final hub closest to the customer before being turned around and returned to a random address nothing to do with either McConks (Perfect Trim Ltd) or our distribution centre (Border Group)!
And then we had a couple of bad boards. That went bang. Literally. That was a real shock for us. We’ve always had a very, very low rate of returns and failures, nearly always due to issues with valves that are easily resolved with the right advice. But, it turns out that we had a very small batch of boards made in 2019 that had inferior adhesive (long complicated reason due to air quality standards and health and safety requirements). We knew about this in 2019, and thought we had stopped these boards being shipped, but it seems that some still got shipped this year when we had pressure on stock. Our boards are guaranteed to 27 PSI and warrantied for four years for a reason. The glue, dropstitch and valves that we use are the absolute best, and can take that pressure. There are much, much cheaper glues that withstand lower pressure, which is why some boards have a much lower recommended pressure, and why they pop when left in the sun (interesting fact, some boards with a high pressure guarantee use cheaper glues, and have a much higher failure rate than we do). And so we had some boards that popped in the sun. This is beyond embarrassing for a company like us who base our reputation on reliability and quality. But, we like to be open and honest, so we’re telling you all about it. And unlike other (less ethical and scrupulous) brands, we replace without quibble, and we don’t make the customer sign a non disclosure agreement before sending a replacement board (yes, there seriously are companies in the UK that do this just so they can claim they have never had a leaky board!)
We hope we’ve now recalled all of these boards, or have come to an agreement with the board owners. But, it you ever have one of our boards with excessive glue staining/yellowing, air bubbles in the rails, or with evidence of a loss of air pressure over days, please contact us ASAP. In the future, every board that’s made will have a unique serial number, and our factory will record the pressure before and after the 72 hour pressure test, and the person that made the board and the person who signed to QA standards off. This adds about another $50 to our raw cost, but it’s worth it to get it right, and to ensure we can easily recall whole batches of boards in the unlikely situation that things go wrong in the future.
By now we had stopped taking any new orders so we could focus on resolving the mess and clearing the backlog. We focussed on SUP packages rather than paddles or accessories, but didn’t have the spare hours in a day to tell people who had ordered fins or paddles that was the case. Again, taking ten minutes out of a very busy day to make a proactive communication would have saved much time responding to individual frustrated customers, but when the company is in the heat of dealing with individual customers it’s difficult to make that decision to step back, ignore calls and contacts, and be proactive. We did everything we possibly could to make sure that every customer had a board, even offering temporary replacements for some customers until the new container arrives at the end of August. But even doing that we couldn’t keep all customers happy. Some customers sadly were left empty handed and the only option was a refund. Which is a horrible thing to do to a customer when it’s soooo hard this year to get hold of quality SUP equipment at short notice. We’ve seen some social media content of customers we let down using boards that we wouldn’t recommend to our worst enemy. And that makes us feel really guilty!
So it hasn’t all be plain sailing. Thankfully, the vast majority of our amazing customers have had the experience that we aim for. But a small minority of you have been let down. And that frustrates us and makes us rather sad. Most of those frustrated customers have been beyond patient with us – thank you all so much, and some of your messages of support have really kept us going through this! We love you all!
But to those of you who have been affected, we’re really, really sorry!
With the next container arriving at the end of August, we’re desperately trying to clear up any outstanding issues. So if you’re still waiting for something, please let us know ASAP to email@example.com.