Customer service and quality, all rolled up nicely

From the teenage years of running a Mobile Disco to owning an Insurance Business, moving into full time employment and then running a Media, Marketing & Customer Service Business, I like to think I have seen many things down the years. I have never been afraid to try things out from quirky gimmicks in the early days to more sophisticated, thought out, promotional items, I like to think my journey continues and I can keep up with the times.

From those early days of ordering 500 business cards, black on white and being annoyed as I saw youngster tearing them up at the Disco Party, or seeing them folded up to stop a table wobble, I moved into pens, key rings etc. Seeing some of the little brats at my Disco’s I wish (and I think some parents did too) that I had invested in branded Taser stun guns!
From the backstreet printers I used in the early days I was delighted when Steve Ward came along into the market place and added professionalism and guidance. Steve and his lovely wife Ann have been in business 34 years and certainly know the industry well. They are members of British Promotional Merchandise Association too. It’s not a regulated industry but you know that whatever you buy won’t be a disappointment when given out to clients. Let’s be honest we give things out to say ‘Thank You’ and, with a phone number on the item, email address and website, you are at the forefront of your clients thinking.

Why give something away that is going to be put in a drawer, or it looks so cheap and tacky that your client would prefer not to use it.
I have worked for the BBC as a freelance presenter for 20 years, presenting a weekly, two hour music show and to celebrate 15 years on air, I decided to ‘treat the listener’. I have a good, loyal, interactive following, who even set up a Facebook Group, and the listeners on there include a barrister, three solicitors, various pop stars from yesteryear, as well as NHS Secretaries, Accountants and Photographers. What could I give them as a THANK YOU? I know, I thought, I will ring Steve Ward at Ad-Options who knows the answers. We had a catch up, as we had played cricket together in the past, and then we got down to the task of planning my giveaway project. We discussed budget, age groups, design and proofing, delivery and payment. I chose some nice pens, coasters and some chargers that would be a great travel companion as they were compatible with iPads, iPhones, Blackberry’s, Samsung and various other electrical items.
Steve asked whether they were going to be posted out or hand delivered as postage per item isn’t cheap in this day and age and that shows how thorough his service at Ad-Options is. I hadn’t even thought about that but none of the items were too heavy and wouldn’t require massive envelopes or jiffy bags. Trust me there is nothing worse than getting one of those post office dockets through the door saying that the postman tried to deliver something and you have to let at least 24 hours elapse before you can go to the post office to pick it up. Even then you need ID and proof of your family tree to get the parcel. The other thing is that, if you track the postman down once he or she has filled in the docket, they won’t let you have the parcel. It’s like dealing with a traffic warden and they tend to be trained in Customer Service Prevention.

Anyway, I digress, but at my age it’s a treat for me. The delivery from arrived on time, was securely packaged and shortly after the consignment arrived; Steve was on the phone checking that all was in order. Now that sort of Customer Service is in short supply these days but I am told that all the members of the British Promotional Merchandise Association work in a similar way.
Buying gift items, as I have done, is a thought out procedure and I don’t overdose people on them. However, in my office at Swanny Towers I always have a BusinessGiftUK Catalogue on the bookshelf. The attention to detail is such that the name of the company is on the spine of the catalogue so it fits in the bookshelf and is easier to identify there rather than being in a pile of papers that gets hidden away.

What will I buy next? Well, I go to as many network events as possible and like to look around at who is carrying what and who is using what. Moleskin notepads are in regular use, the exhibition bag is a must especially in these days of the paid for carrier bag which splits before you get your shopping home! Steve gave me one of his bags recently and it has two sets of handles, long and short which is an interesting talking point for starters! Water bottles are good for all the keep fit people and they fit nicely into the holders at the side of the running machine in the gym. You know the one; it will also hold a tub of Pringles! The mug is also a great idea as everyone needs a brew at their desk. Sadly, as I work from home, I don’t have anyone to make a brew for me, but I am particular in the type of mug I will use. If I go down the mug route in 2019, I will call for expert advice on the matter. Steve did tell me recently whilst chatting about the way the disposable coffee cup was going and he along with other members of the British Promotional Merchandise Association have stolen the march and have introduced branded reusable cups, specially designed to hand over to the Barista for your early morning brew! I like the memory stick idea too, which is something you can take with you to meetings. We have moved on a long way since those early James Bond films of him taking a little camera with him when he wanted to copy things. Now we just plug in a USB stick and away we go! A good capacity memory stick is important though as one that say holds 20mb is not really a good idea as it will soon get full.

I hope I have been able to enlighten you on my business journey down the years and why I use, trust and listen to the advice from Steve and Ann at BusinessGiftUK, and why I buy from them. 34 years and the business is still growing, it says a lot.

Dave Swanton is a freelance media and marketing consultant who also hosts “Sounds Like Saturday Night” on BBC Radio Lancashire.
Twitter: @SwannyMediaMan
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