I am starting this Q&A because I think it's in your interests and ours to hear our response to some of the issues raised in the Complaints thread. If you have a question or concern, you can ask me here and I can clarify BE's position.
You can also post on our pinboard on our website, that's what it's for. In the interests of you, other customers and us, please tell us what we can improve! You can do it anonymously if you wish.
1. All bags are - and have been for a while - quality checked by 4 different people before leaving Italy. They are then also checked in London before they are sent out.
2. Occasional human error is impossible to avoid but we will always seek to rectify these for you.
3. All bags should be received in perfect condition and although we have learned that can be a subjective concept, we have very high standards and are more likely to be over-cautious. For example some of you can confirm that we have informed you that a leather cannot be used as it has a mark, but when we send you a picture you actually go on to approve it.
However, it is probably impossible for us to make everyone happy, all of the time.
4. It is important to rely on our website and not on any other source of information about pricing or whether a bag has one zipper or two, for example.
5. IF you receive a bag that is not what you ordered, which is actually very unlikely, then there is no question that we will rectify it if we can. We will request a picture from you, not because we don't believe you but because we have to show it to our manufacturer to explain what has happened and seek a solution. This process is usually very quick. If the leather is no longer in stock, which has happened, we will find a solution that is mutually acceptable, always within reason, of course.
6. It is true that we do not and cannot accept returns of made-to-order purchases just because you don't like the final result, much as you wouldn't be able to return your made-to-order curtains, kitchen, windows or wedding dress, to name a few. This is why it is advisable to talk to us about your choices before having the bag made for you.
7. Most of the issues we've had since BEC began have been caused by people leaving comments in our comments field which are misinterpreted. If we removed the comments field so that you only have set options chosen by us and no flexiblity at all, I can almost guarantee you that overnight we would have a near 100% success rate. But so far we have chosen to be flexible.
However, from the complaints thread I can see that this does seem to be backfiring on us.
If I were a potential purchaser reading the complaints thread I would definitely be worrying that I would have issues and that they would not be resolved or addressed by BE and I can honestly say that as CEO of the company, I don't think that is a fair assessment of Belen Echandia. In fact, we've had many a customer who has taken the plunge despite worrying in this way and has emailed to say how wonderfully surprised they were. I genuinely believe that is a more accurate assessment and I hope that just the fact that I am taking the time to post here on your forum will reassure you of our customer-friendly policies and our dedication to getting things right.
Finally a question:
Given that most problems are caused by misinterpretation of requests in the comments field, do you think it is time for us to minimise the options available and and the flexibility of BEC so that you cannot leave comments for us about small changes you want to make that are not supported on BEC? I know that this would upset some of you, but would it give the others more reassurance that their bag will arrive exactly as described on BEC? Which one is more important?
I do like having those extra options however I've seen the same thing end up happening with another brand, Ignes. They finally had to limit the amount of 'customizations' that were being made to bags and I would imagine it being for many of the same reasons that BE is having issue with now. I can completely understand if BE removes the comment field if this in the long run is causing issues and eventually losing potential customers. Maybe a disclaimer in that area would help so that a person might think twice before leaving a comment that could alter their bag in an unexpected way.
I am curious about one thing. If a customer leaves a request in the comment field does a BE representative such as Maya or Rose contact that person to clarify their request? Perhaps that would be another solution to be certain that BE understands the request?
I know for me if I'm doing a BEC I am in contact with one of the BE reps to be sure my requests are clear but maybe not everyone is aware that they can email Rose or Maya during the BEC process?
I think the comments section should be deleted. You offer the choices for customization, and that's that. How much more can a bag be customized? I agree that that is where the problems are hatched, because things in the comments can be interpreted in various ways.
BE states above: "4. It is important to rely on our website and not on any other source of information about pricing or whether a bag has one zipper or two, for example."
While I think BE would like this to be true, it is not true. One example is that the Root I'm Beautifuls are supposed to have "brass" hardware, according to the website. However, what ends up in the customer's hands is brushed gold hardware on part of the bag, shiny gold hardware on part of the bag, and shiny gold zippers, because apparently no "brass" zippers are available. To me, this is not transparent. Why should I discover this after I place my order, not from BE, but from tPF????
It's somewhat similar to how leathers are changed, but customers are not informed, ie., the "older" tan and the "newer" tan matte leathers. BE changes the tan leather, and doesn't inform customers who are ordering tan matte bags, and BE then hopes, I don't know, that no one will notice?? To me, this is not the degree of transparency that I'd hope for. So, when a BE customer orders a bag, she/he waits and hopes that the beloved leather will be the same, but one doesn't really know until it arrives.
Yes, I have been contacted when a leather had some imperfections according to the standards, but to me they seemed minimal, so I still went though and ordered, a great service IMO.
And yes, I have also muddled things up by just commenting in the comment box without clarifications.
But allthough it'll restrain some features on my bags for sure and I would miss them, I will suggest you minimise some options available and cut the comments box..and even so I think enough options will be there to make my bags personal. But I do think this is better than to have some customers in agony over a misunderstood bag.
(I remember in the beginning, just to be able to chose my own type of lining was so much fun!)
I dont think the comments box is an issue. I think if there are comments there, the customer should automatically be contacted about them prior to production to make sure all is understood. That's not that difficult is it?
I have always been contacted when I had comments in the comment box..but I also once did add afterwards..hm. No big deal as it could be corrected.
Also I guess going through comments takes a lot of time..
I've never used the comments field to add something to my BEC bags. I completely understand that a custom bag cannot be returned as it is made to a customers unique specifications (some people have great taste, some don't and why should you be stuck with something that may not sell?) BUT, if a customer uses the options made available by BE and for instance
a customer chooses silver hardware and gets gold
a customer chooses purple lining and gets red
a customer chooses braided handles and gets rolled
Then BE has NOT made or delivered the bag that the customer ordered and they should be forced to take it back. Sort it out with your atelier and penalise them for making the mistake, not the customer.
Some customers may decide that what was made is ok but not everyone. Personally, if I choose purple lining, its because I want purple lining and if you need to change it, you had better ask me if it is ok before proceeding.
I think the key elements here are
1. Communicate, communicate, communicate prior to production so that everyone (client, atelier, BE) is on the same page.
2. Do not make changes that the client has not authorized.
ITA that the atelier should be the one penalized for their mistakes.
I think that the comments field should remain. However BE could send a "proof" to the customer. A PDF file maybe with a picture of the bag, with a swatch of color, all hardware clearly marked with the hardware choice, all measurements and customizations, etc.
It may take a lot of work but template documents could be created easily and then filled in by BE to be sent to the customer for approval.
The customer would then have to reply back with "I Approve the proof" or " I do not approve the proof for x reason" . Then a new proof would be sent until the customer did approve.
I also think that any deviations by the atelier (for whatever reason) would result in a new proof for the customer to approve..
I personally don't think it is correct to compare BEC to a tailor made wedding dress or Kitchen. For a start you get to see the finished project before you have to pay up with them, plus you get alot more feedback along the way.
I agree, why not just contact your customers re: the comments field?
Most of the problems I have heard about with BE relate more to the Atelier than the actual company, perhaps it would help if there were stricter contracts with them, at the moment they seem more a sub-contractor, who hold more power than BE as a company, IMO that is not right.
I'm weighing in as a potential BE customer. As I've stated previously, I've long admired the beauty of BE bags. I also really enjoy the bespoke process.
Let me start off by saying I don't expect every bag bespoked to arrive flawless and exactly as ordered. There is always a potential for human error. What I do expect, is if a error is made by BE for it to be resolved to both of our satisfaction, easily and graciously. That is where my doubts lie w BE. There have been several examples on this board where the customer has bespoked a bag and received it with the incorrect lining, inferior leather, missing corners, incorrect zippers or incorrect hardware. These were not matters of miscommunication or customer error, but rather substituions made by the atelier, oversights by the atelier, or communication issues between BE staff and the atelier. Many of the problems were resolved happily and easily. But, in a number of cases the customer has had to fight very hard to get a resolution, if they get one at all. As a customer, that is not how I expect to be treated. IMO, it's easy to give excellent CS when there are no issues and happy customers, the truer test is how errors are dealt with.
CF - Yes, it does seem from some of the problems raised that the atelier is at the root of it and BE does need to do something because ultimately it is them as the company that will pay the price. Comments field or no comments field, if the people making the bags are not reading and following the specs, problems will continue.