History and heritage. This shows credibility and experience right off the bat. The customer should be able to pull plenty of information about the organization on the internet
Their philosophies and core values. Check out their website and see what they are about.
Cleanliness and organization. Visiting the factory not only ensures that they are not brokers themselves, but also allows the customer the ability to check out their organization. We know that all wood shops are dirty or dusty, but not to a point that it looks like stuff is just thrown everywhere
Customer Service. Customer service should be a top priority. Are they taking the time to really meet your needs, or do they just want to take your money?
The desire to work with the customer. A great wood shop would sit you down, ask you questions, and be upfront with you about everything verbally and most importantly, in writing, so there are no discrepancies
Over promises. An experienced wood shop would under promise, and maintain their timeline ( usually between 4 to 6 weeks). Most of the time, they finish the job before then.
The woodshop’s opinion and/or advice. Yes, both parties need to make money. A great wood shop would give their opinion and/ or advice without telling one what to do, hopefully resulting in a production-friendly, quality product. There are no perfect wood shops; they do run into snags and it is to be expected. But make sure that the wood shop communicates this back to you. They should be giving you facts, answers, and solutions…not excuses.
A great wood shop would also let you know that certain processes would be better done by you rather than the wood shop, so you can save money and time. The attitude of the wood shop should be like what’s someone once said , “ We are here to make your life as easy as possible, and help you be successful at the same time.”
How to best handle references?
Great wood shops will not reveal their customers. It’s like a code of ethics to keep their OEM customers at secret. Most likely, a great wood shop will already have a great reputation by simple “word of mouth”. Remember that good references should not only be on the quality of the product, but also on timelines, and especially customer service.
What are some alarm bells that should trigger “RUN AWAY!” ?
This is a tough one, since every wood shop looks great at first even with great references, but do your RESEARCH! If you are caught in the middle of a dilemma, you should look at signs of multiple promises not delivered, and multiple excuses….THIS IS A WARNING SIGN….by the second promise not fulfilled or second excuse….you should start thinking of your exit strategy.
What’s the best way to handle disputes?
Disputes are easy to handle if everything was placed in writing before the start of production. Write everything down, and you as the OEM customer and the wood shop should review the terms. Once agreed to, both parties should sign off on it
Recap e-mails are a must, just in case there were details that needed more attention or were missed. There’s a saying that the customer is always right. That is true most of the time, but if you have everything in writing…there should be no question who made the mistake…it’s either the customer or the manufacturer.