Last week a long-term customer of The Graphical Tree dropped in to see us in central London. He didn't have any work to produce. He didn't have a brief to chat with us about. He didn't need a quote. He didn't even have a cup of tea. He was just passing and wanted to pop in to say hello and see if we were all okay.
In a recent Kinfolk article, entitled Can a Brand be Friends With its Fans? the magazine spoke about brand community and people wanting to feel welcomed, included, and a part of something. Now The Graphical Tree isn't an uber-cool fashion house, a major tech company, or a lifestyle brand. But it is a place where customers are certain of the quality provided, know they are welcome, and that we can be trusted. Who wouldn't want to be associated with a brand like that?
During the pandemic lockdown of 2020, with all staff on furlough, the phones were redirected to one of the directors, Simon (that's me). Now although the phone admittedly, and perhaps obviously, didn't ring very much during this awful time, on at least half a dozen occasions customers rang to say hello and ask how we were getting on. It was an enlightening and humbling experience, to hear about the emotional bond that some clients have with their point-of-contact at The Graphical Tree. They were genuine and, despite the situation, the conversations I had were beneficial for the well-being of us all, as well as an acknowledgment of how much we valued each other's existence, as a company and as people.
We operate using an account manager system. But what that actually means, is that customers like speaking to the same person if possible. We honour this. The AM, the point of contact, knows the history of the orders placed; knows the quirks that might happen; knows dimensions and colour references; and understand the personalities in place. People work with people. We learned this the moment fellow director and owner Douglas and I started The Graphical Tree in 2007. We were in the people business, as well as the printing business.
As customer X left us, they said, "I hope you don't mind me just popping in to see the guys."
"I'd be more concerned if you didn't," I replied.