Shopping … I effing love it. Clicking on “Add to Cart” is okay and everything, but the real zing comes with clicking on “Buy Now” or however the button that takes your money is labelled.
Some shopping requires a little more effort, thought, and communication than just picking up a few things on Amazon or grabbing a cute t-shirt at Target when you meant to get just a bottle of shampoo … and sometimes you’re shopping for a product, sometimes you’re shopping for a service.
Let’s start with the object of your shopping, whether it’s a product or a service. What do you look for? I ask a few questions of myself when I am at this stage of shopping: Do I need this? “Need” is relative here. Is this what will get the job done? Is this the level of quality I am interested in? How much is it?
Do you notice how the last thing I ask is how much? So right there, while price is a factor, it is not necessarily a determining factor for me. I am not going to shop for things well out of my price range–I buy a pretty French saddle used instead of getting a new, custom one. When I get around to getting a new vehicle, I am not going to be looking at Range Rovers. My shoes don’t cost as much as getting an MRI brain scan. All things being equal, if one product is $20 at store X, and the same product is $25 at store Y, we’d all buy the $20 product at store X, right?
Ah, but all things are not equal. If store X is Walmart, and store Y is HEB, HEB gets my money because even merely the idea of setting foot in a Walmart paralyzes me with fear and anxiety. I like shopping at HEB, so to HEB my money goes. So price may influence my decision, but it doesn’t hold the strongest influence over me.
Let’s keep working backwards, so on to considering quality. Is it well-made? Who made it? The most telling examples I can think of related to quality come from boot makers. Take brands like Ariat and Frye–Frye especially. Some of the boots offered by Frye are extremely well-made, in Mexico, by artisans. And some are made in China. I am not sure if Frye thinks brand devotees can’t spot the difference, but we do, and not just by looking at the origin stamped somewhere on the product. And then we look for alternatives, like Bed-Stu. Quality can make or break a brand. Customers flee because of poor quality and flock because of good quality. I was pretty disappointed when the Ariats I ordered were stamped “Made in China.” I have gotten good use out of the Ariats, but they are not without flaws and the likelihood of me purchasing Ariat again is low because of it.
This brings me to the next factor, will the product I am considering get the job done? The Ariats are getting the job done. But every time I zip them up, I wonder whether I would be happier with a higher quality product with better construction and fabrication. My DeNiro boots are a solid contrast to this–the fit is impeccable, the soft leather has weathered well, showing a great deal of durability over the years, and they have details like a square toe that make them look timelessly stylish. They also cost more. You get what you pay for. Sometimes what gets the job done is not the nicest product available. And sometimes what gets the job done does so with panache.
The first question, “do I need this?” … well, horses are a luxury, so no, I don’t need any of it, but I “need” some of it. You wouldn’t put an ill-fitting saddle on your horse, right?
But I’m not really asking everything just yet. What about the shopping experience itself? Customer service is key. It can kill a sale. It can also make a sale, and impress enough to garner loyalty, thereby ensuring later sales in the future. It can make a short commercial flight a nightmare, or a breeze. It can make shopping for clothes for someone else tedious, or a lovely afternoon with champagne, football, and educated opinions on fit and what color looks best on your friend. Customer service, above all else, dictates where my fun money goes.
I am easily the most swayed, moreso than anything else mentioned above, by customer service. I undertook the process of buying insurance for Eli by first asking horse friends online what insurance they have and whether they’d recommend it … Obviously I got a wide variety of answers because equine insurance is a huge market now. I narrowed my choices down to two brokerages, and the insurer that got my business provided me with what I see as the best customer service. This brokerage was the most receptive and responsive to my questions, my preferred method of communication, and quoted rates to me up front, even with the shared knowledge that Eli’s sinus stuff would result in exclusions. Once all the T’s are crossed and I’s dotted, I will share more about the brokerage I chose and my specific experience, but I can tell you now I didn’t go with the lowest rate–again, price is not really the deciding factor for me. I went with the brokerage that was recommended to me by someone I trust, someone who could attest to having multiple positive experiences with the brokerage, and I went with the excellent customer service experience. I don’t want to have any apprehension about contacting the insurance should something happen to Eli, and now I don’t think I will because of the insurance I chose.
I realize that this post echoes Amanda’s to a certain extent — I was working on it the morning she posted about customer service in the horsey retail sector. I am posting my opinion regardless, because this post will eventually lead in to a more detailed post specific to the horse insurance shopping experience.