Quality assurance is exactly that. You are assuring your customer that the branded products she has come to expect are what she gets. We have seen that even though you have the trademark and are the producer, you don’t own your brand, and you don’t own you brand promise. Your customer does! Period!
She has certain expectations about quality, availability, consistency, and dependability. She developed her expectations not so much by your advertising, catch phrases, and labeling, but by her own history with your branded products. If you, your supplier, your distributor, or even your retailer let her down, she will blame the brand – and start shopping for another brand. But, she doesn’t really want to shop because the trial and error process of finding a new brand in your category creates uncertainty, and anxiety. Yet she feels compelled because she feels the quality assurance was no longer there for her, and therefore the brand’s promise had been broken.
So why take the risk with your loyal customer when she wants to depend on your brand? Assure her of quality, availability, and dependability and she will never leave. Your brand will be her brand, the one she buys over and over – and recommends to friends and family!
Quality assurance is a guarantee to your customer. If for whatever reason it is challenged, we highly recommend an apology, an explanation of how you are going to fix it in the future, and, instead of refunding her money, give her more of your branded products at no charge, with the ask, “Please give us another chance to show we can live up to and exceed your expectations.”
Then add clauses to your production agreements, put new policies and procedures into place, create a new form, a check list item or a sign off sheet to improve your quality control and restore your value in your customer’s mind.
We once applied a UPC bar code for a 750 ml bottle to a 1.5 L bottle, which is twice the volume and almost twice the price. This resulted in the retail store charging customers about half of what they should have. The store that received the wrong labeling had already scanned hundreds of bottles, costing them thousands in lost revenue by the time we found out! Even though it was our contracted bottler who made the error, we took complete responsibility. Our sales manager showed up in the buyer’s office with a check to cover his losses, luckily before he became aware of the problem. But we didn’t only have a check in our hand, we had a schedule to pick up the mislabeled products and replace them with properly labeled products. And then the buyer was handed something even more important – a report of how we intended to prevent a reoccurrence. He respected us for that and gave us an ad on the spot. Now that’s quality assurance in action!
Quality assurance is critical especially when dealing with out-sourced goods, services, and processes. We used to wonder why some contracts were so long. When we started Barefoot Wine our bottling contracts were only 3 pages long, but when we finally sold the brand nineteen years later, they were 37 pages long!
Quality assurance is not a destination, it is a journey. You realize that your brand promise and reputation are on the line and you take it upon yourself to make sure your company is constantly looking for ways to prevent the mistake from reoccurring. This is how you constantly improve your quality assurance.
Don’t make your branded products’ customers lament, “But you promised!”
Who Are We.
Having built and sold a bestselling national brand, we appreciate the value of brands and everything it takes to make them successful. Companies are valued by their brand equity. Achieving and maximizing brand equity requires tremendous respect for all your customers, from your wholesaler to your end user.
Starting in our laundry room with no money and no knowledge of the industry, we built the famous Barefoot Wine brand. We learned a lot they don’t teach in school and much of it the hard way. Although our success was in consumer products, our real world experience will be helpful to anyone looking for information and advice about brands.
We have written the New York Times Bestselling Business Book, The Barefoot Spirit: How Hardship, Hustle and Heart Built America’s #1 Wine Brand, which chronicles the history of the famous brand from its inception through its acquisition. Our book is now required reading in schools of entrepreneurship across the country. We hope this book will provide inspiration and encouragement for all those contemplating starting a brand or wanting to improve their existing brand.
Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey
-Barefoot Wine Founders