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I've only been flying for a couple of years now, but I've seen a trend in hang gliding related businesses that I've dealt with. Their customer service sucks.

Not all of them.
I've dealt with 6 hang gliding related businesses, and only 2 had good customer service. I work in a customer service business. If I provided the level of customer service that I've gotten from the other 4, I wouldn't have any customers left.

I am not a hard person to please. All I want is the product or service that I bought at the price I was told, within the time frame that I was told to expect. That's all. If you tell me it's going to take 4 months to deliver a product, and you deliver it in 4 months, that's great! I'm a happy customer. If you tell me 6 weeks and it takes you 4 months, that is REALLY BAD CUSTOMER SERVICE.

So, to all you hang gliding businesses out there. That is how you can grow the sport of hang gliding. Just do what you say you're going to do. That is all.

User avatar
By DMarley
Economies of scale.
When a business that produces a powered piece of equipment that must be well engineered and constructed for flight, and only has one or two persons employed to build these units, schedules can become disrupted by even the slightest hiccup. You yourself are working within a very large organization comparatively and within one of the largest industries in the world, with nearly unlimited resources and much backup should a problem in scheduling or materials handling arise. Businesses within the hang gliding industry? Wills Wing and North Wing are two of the largest manufacturers in this tiny industry, and they would be considered mom-and-pop shops by most others.
Then you look at businesses like Mosquito NRG, who are lucky to produce and sell perhaps 20 - 50 units per year with plenty of overhead, liability, one or two employees to do all the engineering,manufacturing, ordering,scheduling, books, etc., all for a very small profit on each unit. These guys do it for the love of it. And I'm bettin' that love is wearing thin for them.
I'm very happy that Mosquito NRG is still around after all but one other powered harness manufacturers have faded away.
I can certainly understand your impatience, wanting to get into the air under your own power. I'm sure you've made plans that depend on you being able to safely use that unit. But until the HG industry out-produces the PG industry because of superior demand, we all are gonna have to wait. :(
If it was 1 order with 1 company, I'd completely understand. I'm not griping about 1 specific instance, it's the fact that it seems to be considered the norm.

I know all about things not going according to plan and taking longer than expected. I usually give my customers the worst case scenario that I can think of. If I think it's going to take 3 days and $1000, I'll tell you 6 days and $1500. Then when I come in ahead of schedule and under budget, you're happy. But, if things happen, I can still keep my promise time. I think that's a better way to do business than to give you a best case scenario and run the risk of disappointing you. It's a little thing called "margin of error" and it's something we should be familiar with in aviation.

Again, my frustration has nothing to do with how long things take. It has everything to do with what I was told up front. And again, I'm not just talking about 1 specific company.

Customer service means meeting or exceeding your customers expectations. I've had plenty of difficult customers who had unrealistic expectations, but when the customer initiates the transaction by asking "What should I expect?"...
User avatar
By DMarley
Robert, I fully agree with you.
The HG industry is merely a cottage industry, and some of those people that are employed within the industry probably have not had the kind of people-relations training, nor exhibit the courtesy, professionalism, and discipline that typically takes place in large industries. Most of us likely have been aware of this.
A person has to have a lot of patience in the HG community, and it is to some extent similar in the GA community, which is far larger than HG, FLPHG, PG, and PPG combined. But you don't have to like it, and there are always other activities you can do to burn off steam, have fun, or prepare for in the meantime. I guess I could joke and say that they don't call it 'hang waiting' for merely waiting around for the weather conditions to improve.
Frustrating sometimes for sure!
DMarley wrote:
Tue Jul 18, 2017 11:02 am
some of those people that are employed within the industry probably have not had the kind of people-relations training,
That was kind of the original intent of this thread, and why I posted it in this sub-forum, and why I didn't mention specific businesses. I can easily imagine a new pilot getting frustrated in this business culture. Frustration is a negative emotion, but we do this for fun. Who wants to have their fun tainted with that kind of negative emotion? I think this may cause some new pilots to give up and look elsewhere for their fun.

It may have come off as venting and griping, but my intent was constructive criticism. I think it may be conducive to the growth of hang gliding if some of our cottage industry entrepreneurs saw this thread and realized that under-promising can be far better than over-promising, even when what you deliver is exactly the same in both cases.
Having been in the industry as both a manufacturer and a dealer and on the other end of the phone when things went south, I have two thoughts for you.

First, because of the relatively small amounts of raw materials needed, the flakiness of suppliers who don't care that much about the HG manufacturer because of said small amounts and the realities of the world, delays are sadly common. The number of times I answered the phone to hear "your box of tubing got flattened, do you still want it?" or "sorry but we're not selling you stuff any more because our lawyers won't let us" or "we sent you cable that's sorta like what you ordered but not exactly but that's okay, right?" is staggering. Thanks to the joys of lawyers and liability a large percentage of what's needed to build a hang glider can't be purchased in the US and, since you're not going to send a 21-foot box via FedEx, the whole thing is also a slave to the shipping schedule. Container ships stay put until they're full so if your stuff is on it first then you get to wait.

On the flip side of things, however, is the communication needed to keep people in the loop. When things took a crap we always tried to contact the dealer to let him or her know that there was a delay and give a best guess as to when delivery would really happen. THAT was a direct reflection of the owner and the way he built relationships and I know that not every business (in HG or not) doesn't necessarily have that same sort of style. If the people at the top of the company are too busy doing whatever they do to worry about an individual customer than that's going to lag. The only way to influence that is by telling them they're coming up short via both your dealer and direct contact to the supplier. A well-crafted message about your issues copied to both can work wonders AND maybe remind them that it's soarable at your site and you're sitting on the ground.

A caveat: we weren't a massive company and so customer service was not as hard for us as it might be for one that had maybe grown past some sort of tipping point.
kukailimoku2 wrote:
Tue Jul 18, 2017 1:34 pm
Having been in the industry as both a manufacturer and a dealer and on the other end of the phone ...
And sometimes all that's required to dramatically improve customer service is to have everyone involved (from office staff to shipping staff) simply come together and *decide* that they wish to be known for good service rather than poor service and then act accordingly.

From back of the pack to the front ... merely through choice and then effort. Yeah, that happened. :)

Funny how that works, isn't it? My current employer decided years ago that being on time was the first, best way to build and keep a customer base. That message runs through every department up and down the line and anything that can affect the schedule is addressed. We even changed the definition of "on time" to be much more strict than the industry standard (their requirement is "within 15 minutes", ours is "not one second late or it's no good"). On time percentage has a (small) affect on our bonuses. We got good at it because we decided to and have been the best at it for something like 14 years, by a lot. If everybody decides service is the most important thing then you get good at it.

Ah, JMB, good memories!
One final thought and I'll (probably) shut up. I seem to remember at some point we put a solid policy in place that changed our little world. BubbleBoy, I bet you remember; feel free to chime in. Boss-man passed a law throughout the land that every part order from the prior day be filled and boxed before gliders started getting built that morning. A lot of them were one-off pieces of leading edge or cable or whatever that could potentially take some extra time but that was the process. Made for very happy dealers and pilots and, once we got the rhythm of it, didn't have much of an effect on the production schedule.

It also kept our boxing guy busy until lunchtime some days. Great kid, that one. Started in high school doing all the grunt work and ended up years later building gliders while growing a family. Interestingly, he never learned to fly.
User avatar
By raquo
Hey kukailimoku2, I'm curious, what's the deal with lawyers preventing sales of supplies to HG manufacturers? Potential liability because aerospace? Is that a US thing? Is that typically the case for the most important components like sailcloth / tubing / cables?

I'm sitting here in Canada planning to build some experimental gliders in ~10 years or so, so I'm curious.
With a caveat that this was a long time ago, yup. Fear of litigation. We had our US sailcloth supplier cut us off completely with no notice at all and had to scramble to keep production going so we ended up getting a contract with a Japan-based company. There was also some batten tubing we had to get in France and have shipped in crates monthly; we could get the 6061 from a US-based company but they didn't make the other stuff. Spendy (and great fun meeting the boat at 4:00 am to avoid storage charges). We did a lot of custom fittings for tubing junctions and luckily had a local guy that could produce them.

We learned just how this sort of thing progresses when I got served as part of an ongoing lawsuit. Some kid had bought an ultralight (after lying about his years of experience...he had none), tried to fly it out of his back yard and made a crater. The attorneys for his family basically took every name in the rolodex (you kids can ask your parents what that is) and put them in the lawsuit AND left 50 empty spaces to add more. Nothing came of it but it was an education.

If you're doing one-off stuff you might want to check in with companies that make Light Sport Aircraft. The LSA guys make kits for experimentals and might be able to hook you up.

A funny thing in the other direction, when we got bought and had to do new paperwork and the like, we had to get a new corporate insurance policy so the sales rep came to visit. We sat down with him to fill out forms and when we got to the "type of business" list there was of course no selection for "build hang gliders". He asked about the actual process of building a glider and we told him that, at its most basic, we created a frame and stretched fabric over it.

And THAT is how we became insured as an umbrella factory. I swear to God, I'm not making that up.
kukailimoku2 wrote:
Tue Jul 18, 2017 1:34 pm
Having been in the industry as both a manufacturer and a dealer and on the other end of the phone when things went south
He speaks truth. I was there. When he wasn't getting those phone calls, I was.

The company we worked for was one of the few that gave a "guaranteed delivery date," in that if the glider was going to be late, we gave the dealer a discount. (At least, that was true at the beginning, when we were trying to build trust in our new company.I don't know if that was still the policy when kukailimoku came aboard) because I had briefly left the company at that time.) We very seldom had to do that, though, because we were always quoting very conservative delivery times.

Kukailimoku has already given a few reasons for why a shipment might be delayed. I'll give one more: there were times when we had weeks and weeks of shitty flying weather, and simply could not give the gliders a proper test flight, and we wouldn't ship a glider without one. This usually happened in the winter, when our usual coastal site had nothing but off-shore winds and the inland sites were closed for various reasons, usually bad roads.. In almost all cases, the dealers understood, because you can't be in this sport for long without running into the same stretch of unflyable weather from time to time.

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