Attention to detail always pays off, says Will Butler-Adams.
The secret of Brompton Bikes’ success in business is down to creating a high-quality product and supporting it with great customer service, says Will Butler-Adams OBE, Managing Director of Brompton Bikes.
Speaking to Nadim Sadek on the ProQuo Provokes Podcast, he said: “We're interested in making a fantastic product that lasts a long time and looking after the customer for the entire life of the product.”
Brompton Bikes specialises in making high quality folding pedal bikes and e-bikes for commuters and urban areas and has built up a strong and loyal following amongst its customers, many of whom have formed dedicated bike riding groups and communities around the world.
The business was started in London in 1975 by Andrew Ritchie and now has stores in major cities around the world including New York and Milan, selling more than 50,000 bikes a year.
Will says that in general, the products that people love are the ones that make their lives better and are well-made, a view that has shaped the thinking behind Brompton Bikes from the very beginning.
It’s this focus on product innovation instead of marketing campaigns that Will considers pivotal to the success of a business. Describing himself as “virtually anti-brand”, he argues that it’s how you keep innovating, communicate with your staff, and look after the customer – that’s the brand.
Nadim suggests that what Will is describing is in fact, the importance of brand, the values that you express, the excellence of products, fulfilling the promises that you make to customers, and how the aggregation of these elements could be regarded as brand management.
Discussing the secret to making a high-quality product, Will explains that the attention to detail his team puts into making every bike.
He says: “If you want to make something delightful, you need to care about many, many levels of detail. And that is what we do. The detail in the bike is mind boggling. There are about 10,000 drawings to describe the bike. That doesn't include the fixtures, the tooling, the instructions; it's insane.”
Even though the customer doesn’t know about the level of detail that is put into creating each bike, they will appreciate the quality every time they ride it, he says.
“It's like the wave of a butterfly's wing. If you care about detail, individually, none of those details matter. But if you bring them all together, when you get on it, you feel it, you don't know why, but you feel it, and you feel it after five years and after ten years and your friends feel it.”
It takes an enormous amount of effort to get the quality right every time, but it is worth it, Will says. “To get 80% of the way is relatively straightforward, but that last 20% is a huge amount of care, attention, experience, knowledge, dedication, and that moves you from being just a product to being something that's absolutely delightful.”
But creating a good quality product is not enough on its own; it also needs to be supported by great customer service, Will says.
Indeed, he says that Brompton Bike’s marketing budget is mostly spent on customer service. “The first pound I would spend every time is on looking after customers I've already got, because if they're happy, you don't spend so much money on persuading people, because your friends and customers will do it for you.”