Monday, October 29, 2007

Returns and Refunds

Fortunately we are in a nice position where we do not get too many returns/refunds. Maybe it is that the clubs are as good as advertised, maybe people give them to friends if they don't like them. I like to think it is the former rather than the latter. Anyhow, with our online business, we do not retain any customer credit card information. This assures that if anyone ever hacked into our database they would get some information that is slightly less useful than what you would find in the white pages except you might get someones preferred lie angle details.

I bring up this point because when we do receive a return or exchange we contact our customer immediately to let them know that we need their credit card information to process the refund.

I received a voice mail this morning from a customer that we tried to reach several times so that we could arrange a refund. Rather than calling us back, he waited 60 days and called his credit card company instead of calling us back. After he called his credit card company he finally got in touch with us. Rather than following up on the refund he told me that we were "reported" to the credit card company. I asked why he did not just call us first to get the refund. I did not get a response. I promptly refunded the order - no questions asked per our policy. Now I have a packet on my desk from the credit card company that will require a ton of paperwork and phone calls to resolve. I have to say, it is a frustrating start to the week.

I would be elated if I found out that the online merchants I deal with discard my credit card information. I always shake my head when someone unloads on us because we don't keep their private financial information in a database.

If you need a good reason to get upset with us here are the top 5 (not that any of these EVER happen):
  1. club missing from order
  2. UPS Tracking Number not showing any detail
  3. you forgot my free ______
  4. forgot to ship a head cover
  5. Bought something that went on sale shortly after

Saturday, October 27, 2007

New Product Development 2008 - Test Process

Mike Blair (Director of Club Development) and I are finalizing the GRIP new products for 2008. We have had a lot of debate about our new "rusty" wedge. We settled on a nice oil can finish and Mike was very vocal that we allow the finish to rust thereby creating natural spin while maintaining a conforming club.
A lunch meeting to discuss the wedge design

I am always concerned about durability and customer perception. I read about a lot of golf companies that use robots to hit golf balls and can simulate all sorts of scenarios. I don't have robots. What I do have is an office that overlooks an 80 bay driving range at the East Coast Golf Academy in Northborough, MA and I have New England Weather. Believe me, all you need is amateur golfers and changing weather conditions to really test a golf club.

Our process starts by making up a dozen or so wedges and letting customers try them out and getting their feedback. We were fairly confident about the design, aesthetics, and playability of the wedges and the feedback from the testers was great. It reminded me of the Fairway Wood trials which went really well last year. People wanted to buy the prototype fairway woods on the spot. Since we could not sell them, we had a few stolen.

The second part of the process is putting the wedges in the "free rental" bin at the driving range. They are mixed in with old wooden woods, damaged knock-offs and other junk clubs. Most of the people that use them come to the driving range with no clubs of their own and really beat the free rentals up. If our clubs survive a month "in the bin" we know they are durable. This assures that in the absolute worse usage circumstances that the finis is strong and they will not chip, dent or damage easily. It is our golf version of a vehicle head-on collision test for safety.

The oil can finish passed the test as did the quality of the carbon steel - which we knew because our CNC Milled Wedges use the same steel.

The final test is to put one club head on my deck for one month to endure the rain, sun and whatever else comes out of the sky. I was actually concerned after the test that the club had too much rust and that the finish was not rusting on the surface but it was decomposing. Mike proved me wrong by lightly wiping the wedge down with steel wool for 10 seconds. The finish and integrity of the club were in great shape. We placed a factory order shortly after the meeting.

My only open concern is whether our customers will like the rust. I certainly do. I carried a rusty Vokey for many years.