Saddle Fit and Customer Service – by Jochen Schleese

I have been reading a lot about customer service issues and suggestions in various online newsletters I subscribe to (especially my favorite – Profitguide), so I thought it seems to be a hot button topic right now and perhaps I should revisit as it pertains to our industry (and more specifically to my company).
Regardless of the business you are in, obviously the ultimate goal is not just a satisfied client, but actually to make raving fans of your customers. People who will be loyal to your product and your brand until the end – no matter what – and who will sing your praises wherever they go. People who actually take the time to sit down and write you a glowing testimonial of their experiences with you and your company and who are happy to share. Sometimes it is actually those people who may not initially have been 100% happy but for whom you have worked even harder to make sure their issues are resolved who turn into your strongest advocates.

Tim McGrath – Quality Control Manager adjusting the flocking of a saddle (to ensure proper fit) prior to its shipping to our customer.

Too many times in the past we have heard from ‘the general public’ that they love our product, but hate our service. Obviously, that hurts. Especially when I know how hard everyone in our company works – from the craftsmen in production, to the accounting/administration department, to our technicians out in the field. So we decided to delve a little deeper into this seemingly counter-intuitive statement. We followed up whenever possible with people who were making these comments and heard that – for the most part – it was because a) we weren’t reactive enough fast enough or b) we simply weren’t available as often as people felt was necessary.
So – what to do? Since we were at the time for the most part basically still ‘commuting’ pretty much all over North America so the reactivity and availability points were absolutely valid. To address this, in the past couple of years we have hired local on the ground representatives and work with a large number of independents as well – all of whom have been trained through the Saddlefit 4 Life® courses and whose expertise is truly second to none.

The truth is still however that no matter what you do – you simply cannot and will not please all of the people all of the time. We do recognize at all levels the paramount importance of our very valued clients and doing our best to keep them happy, but the reality is also that sometimes – the customer is not always right. Sometimes the customer doesn’t know what they want, and so you walk the fine line of guiding them into what you know they need. That sometimes brings with it the most rewarding result!
And although the general wisdom is that clients are supposed to be the important people it has hit me that it is our sales and service technicians who are no less important – to both our clients and to the company. Why? Simply – because they’re excellent. They come to work to be excellent, and they are excellent in delivering service. And if you deliver excellence, your clients will respect you. Clients are happy because of how they are taken care of. Service is caring. It is not menial. It is an art, and it is respected as an art.

Left to Right: Kristen Vlietstra discussing her adjustments with her equine customer; Natalie Sauner’s measurements are being checked by her equine customer; Alexa Frye and Julia Curtis presenting some female vs. male anatomical facts in a presentation; and finally the extent to which SCHLEESE will travel to see our customers – a ferry boat ride is not all that unusual.

You see organizations who advertise their ‘superior customer service’ as one of their USPs (unique selling propositions). But in reality – ‘service’ doesn’t exist for them. There is no process to accomplish service. There are processes on how to make a sale, or how to build a saddle, but there is no process for something that is as important as this.
Over the years, I’ve learned that to achieve great customer experiences, you have to define and analyze great service, and then come up with ways to deliver it, to align employees behind the vision of being excellent. Our people all know their purpose at work – horses are their passion. If they don’t have this purpose, it creates a situation where delivery of service comes down to luck, depending on the employee.

My role has been to establish and keep the standards. So if you feel that you have received poor service, at the end of the day, it’s my fault. It’s the leader’s job to put systems in place to make sure all employees can do well. To me, it’s a moral obligation. Customer service isn’t scalable to increase efficiency and lower costs. It requires lots of time and one-on-one attention. And this is what makes it all worthwhile:

I am a new Schleese customer and wanted to tell you how much I love my new saddle! I have struggled for almost 5 years trying to find the right saddle for my horse. New ones would work for a short time, but were never the right fit for myself and my horse together. After watching all your videos, reading your book and the information on your website, I decided that I wanted to do the right thing for my horse and purchase one of your saddles.
Working with Denise Lenz was so educational and fun! She was just super and explained everything she was doing. I had several people there to watch me ride in 3 different saddles, but my horse Rex chose the Obrigado. His movement was so different than anything I have ever felt before! He has a very short back so it really suited him, and everyone watching agreed it was the one. He was so happy and forward moving in that saddle, and I really just sat there and let him go. Sitting the trot and canter was effortless for me for the first time! Now I see why a “female” saddle makes such a difference. I could never sit his canter easily before or keep my toes forward in my previous saddles. The seat is so comfortable and I feel really supported as I ride. It’s like I am one with him, and not just sitting on his back. Every ride is a good ride and I’m excited to keep progressing with his training now that he can really move his body and not be uncomfortable or restricted.
I slept really well that night knowing I had purchased not only a lovely piece of equipment, but also feeling relieved that my horse will never suffer pain from an ill-fitting saddle ever again. I am a Schleese customer for life now and look forward to working with Denise for years to come.”

“Obrigado” and kind regards,
Christine Stevens and Rex – Winnipeg, MB

I am so happy with Siege’s progress and changes in condition. The two best decisions ever were #1 buying a Schleese saddle and #2 training with Chad. I have never been happier. You and Chad have literally saved my relationship with my horse. I was SO CLOSE to selling him but now we are a team. Learning and getting in shape together. I can’t thank you enough!!!! Not only does Siege love his new saddle, my low back pain is GONE. I never feel uncomfortable.
Again. Thank you.

Allison Jacobson – Pittsford, NY

Left: Rex (owner Christine Stevens) showing off his SCHLEESE Obrigado saddle; Right: Allison Jacobson clearly a happy customer as she graciously hugs her horse Siege.

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