For centuries the four poster bed has been considered the ultimate dream, for practical, status or for romantic reasons. This still seems to be the case today, although wood and plastics are being used to make four poster beds as well as the traditional solid woods.
As a business devoted to customer satisfaction, we would like to give our clients the designs that they want, and not make what we want, and expect or hope that they like them, or not as the case may be.
The best thing that product manufacturers can have from customers is feedback. It has become clear to me that negative feedback can be as useful, if not more so than positive. Constructive criticism and the reasons for not liking a product can often be more productive than a pat on the back.
Many business gurus believe that businesses can grow to be hardly recognisable from how they started within five years, as they develop to meet market demand. Markets change, and it is said that clever businesses should keep up with customer taste. It has also been said that the best businesses anticipate what the customer wants. Others say that cutting edge businesses give the customer what they want, before they even know they want it, and so define fashions.
So why do markets change? Why do people stop buying a certain style of furniture that has been fashionable for years? You know that the product is good because the customers that have bought it previously are delighted, and told you so. You know that the quality is good, as there is no negative feedback. We have been making quality coffee tables for years, but in the last twelve months, I have not sold one!
With four poster beds, I can understand issues other than design coming onto play when they do not sell. Interest rates and mortgage rates going up all reduce expendable cash. Enquiries are often less during February, reflecting credit card payments after Christmas. The telephone is quieter during August as people are away on holiday. As the years go by, businesses will notice their individual busy and quiet seasons.
The problems may begin when a traditionally busy season is quiet. You find yourself questioning quality and price, and finally you wonder whether the product is no longer in fashion, or perhaps less people are looking at the type of product that you are offering. Instead of designing and developing a new product that you feel may be more suitable, or throwing money at ideas that may or may not work, surely it would be easier and more economical to ask customers what they would like.
The art of a successful business and basic business philosophy is to give the customer what they want, whether it is a custom made piece or a mass produced item. One of the best ways to learn is to ask.
After leaving college I started making what I wanted and failed to find customers to buy my designs. I decided to make traditional furniture that would fit the status quo and found attracting customers became easier. For years we have been making custom made or bespoke furniture for clients. Now, I believe that we can still grow further and to take quality furniture into the 21st century.
Furniture makers must ask their customers and potential future clients, what they would like to see, and move forward with designs, instead of just living in the past with traditional styles and reproduction furniture.
Written by Stephen Edwards, Owner of The Four Poster Bed Company