Rocking customer care: An interview with John Bergquist, of Saddleback Leather - Cendrine Marrouat Photography
A couple of weeks ago, I blogged about three small businesses that rock Twitter. One of them was Saddleback Leather.

Sarah Farver, a member of the team, then contacted me to thank and send me a gift -- a set of leather cord wraps, which you can see at below.


Beautiful, right?

Sarah and I had a lovely conversation via email. She asked me a lot of questions, showing a keen interest learning more about me. I felt very special as a result.

As I love companies with a customer-centric approach and that treat us like human beings, I sent a few questions to Saddleback Leather's John Bergquist, the guy who runs the communications and content team. My goal was to understand how the team works together. His answers are below.

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Cendrine Marrouat: Hello John, how did you become involved with Saddleback Leather?

John Bergquist: Two and a half years ago, Saddleback’s owner and founder Dave Munson asked me to build what he called at the time the relationship team. Saddleback already had social media and content in its DNA from day one.

Regular content and consistent methods were not applied to social media. Also, there was no growth into new platforms beyond the successful growth the company had found engaging with the Saddleback tribe on Facebook.

CM: You are Saddleback Leather's "relationship guy". What does it mean, exactly?

JB: Well, we use what is called the Core Value Index (CVI), developed by Taylor Protocols, to assess people's values. It helps us determine if people are on the right seat on the bus, so to speak. It has allowed us to get people into roles where they succeed.

In the CVI, there is one category called "merchant". The merchant is the people-connection side of all our values. We all have some merchant in us.

My CVI comes in as one of the highest merchants Taylor Protocols has ever tested. I love people, connecting with them, growing their skills, helping them succeed in life and work. It is just what I love doing. So, it was natural for me to grow what Dave called the relationship team. Thus, Relationship Guy.

CM: Saddleback Leather has such a great approach to customer care. I am blown away by the way you connect with people, even if they are not customers. How do you and the rest of the team do it?

JB: I have to give credit where it is due. Our customer service team is world-class. I just built on what they created long before I came along. I also recruited most of my team from their ranks. Doing that ensures that everything my team builds and operates still has customer care at the core. That will never change.

CM: How do you handle bursts in engagement on social media? Do you have guidelines in place or do you go with the flow?

JB: I have trained many teams to engage well in social media from the high-tech to non-profit worlds. Most of what you need to succeed in any human engagement is taught to us in kindergarten and pre-school. Sometimes it takes effort to remember or re-learn those lessons.

Good guidelines make for good social media engagement. As a content team, we also employ the philosophy that we always know a culture before we ever post any content. Instagram culture is far from Facebook culture.

We learn the language not only of the platform but also our customers who use the platforms. That way, our engagement  resonates with the people there right from the beginning.

If you do that, even the bursts of activity are pleasant.

CM: Besides customer care, what allows Saddleback Leather to stand out from direct (and bigger) competition?

JB: Oh boy, well we stand by our quality. People love to copy (or knock off) our bags. We find new ones all the time. In a way, it shows what others would like to be.

We put so much not into the making of our bags but caring for our people and customers. It costs a lot to make a great knockoff. It is impossible to knock off our culture.

It would be great if more companies tried though, right?

CM: What two or three pieces of advice would you give a small business owner who is just getting started with social media?

JB: First, do it. Really do it. Don’t just create accounts and never post. Make it easy and simple at first. Make it part of your regular workflow. If you are into lamp shades, post pictures of cool lamp shades you discover.

Second, stick with it. Tribes, ones that really matter for your business, don’t just show up overnight. They take time to grow. Don’t take shortcuts. Invest in them and they will turn into your greatest asset and advocates.

Last, don’t hesitate on creating content. Just get it out. Learn as you go whether it is a blog, photography, or video.

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For more information on Saddleback Leather, visit http://www.saddlebackleather.com.
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