Total Contact Saddle Client Survey 2016/17 (July 2017)
The Total Contact Equine Solutions Client Survey is now in its third year. Feedback remains really important to us whether it’s concerning the Total Contact Saddle or the expanding interest, and offering, in herbal medicine for horses and equine track systems. We go out of our way to try and get it. We always try to act on it if we can – and if we can’t yet then we ‘store’ it away as we may be able to in the future. Some feedback just isn’t possible to act on and we just have to accept that it may not be possible to do so, however, we do try to explain why when I get it. The survey consists of a Survey Monkey 10 question survey that is sent out to clients and posted on our Facebook page. This year more people than ever replied and we introduced two new elements – what do people use their saddle for and how long have they had it. This is in response to a couple of comments received from the results of last years survey. Once again we are delighted with the feedback that we got and don’t take any of it for granted ! Read on ….
Ten questions were designed to be answered by existing clients focusing on the product and what/how we do things. This survey link was promoted through our Facebook page – Total Contact Equine Solutions – and via direct invitations to complete it from a randomly selected group of email addresses from existing clients. We had no control of the respondents answering the survey. All survey answers were anonymous but with an invitation to specifically email us if they wanted to discuss anything that we’d not covered in the survey or they wanted to expand on – two people did that this year and these will be followed up. In this way we hoped to get a valid range of answers from existing clients that would allow us to understand what they thought about our service and product offering. It was a sample of clients. As it turned out the number of responses was equivalent to about a quarter of a years purchases and those who expressed a comment on how long they’d had there saddle amounted to over half the survey responses and averaged 17 months suggesting that a good amount of use had been built up. We feel this can be taken as a representative sample making the answers valid and reliable. Of course in any survey the more the better and so the more valid/reliable, however, we think that an equivalent to a quarter of yearly sales is pretty good especially as this last year has been so much better than the last year. A possible limitation to the survey was that it was driven through the internet, however, for the first time clients from overseas were able to be included. The data was presented and stored via Survey Monkey and will be presented below in %’s of the total responses. Most questions were designed along a Likert scale system asking responders to rank their answer. One question asked for a free form response. The figures in brackets show the results from the same question last year as a comparison.
Q1: What do you use your saddle for ? (Clients were asked to tick a box for every use from a list provided as well as an ‘other’ box and to suggest competitions levels where applicable_
The most popular choice was ‘Recreational riding’ by far and then came Trail riding, Sponsored rides, show jumping, dressage, backing, hunting. The highest levels provided were show jumping at 90cms, Dressage at Novice, Endurance at 35km.
These answers were not unexpected. We know that our presence in the main three competitions disciplines (show jumping, dressage, eventing) is low and whilst we have tried to get governing bodies to change rules where applicable to allow the TCS the latter two bodies remain difficult and unresponsive. We did submit an application this year to British Riding Clubs (BRC) to change their rules to be told that it was up to each club to accept the TCS or not unless it was a regional qualifier – not much consistency there then ! The application to the Rules Committee was heard and refused. We’ll continue to make representations but if you can help that process then it would be appreciated !!
Q2: How likely is that that you would recommend this saddle to a friend or colleague ?
96% (92%) said they would be ‘happy’ or ‘very happy’ to recommend to a friend or colleague. One person said they would not and this accounted for the 4%.
Q3: How would you rate the value for money of our products ?
86% (96%) replied ‘above average’ or ‘excellent’. Our prices have been held during 2016/17 despite pressures on materials – leather and metal work. We’re a bit disappointed to see the figure drop from last year but maybe it’s not to be unexpected that figures will vary as we have more clients each year. Still, we’ll do what we can to make sure we keep as price relevant as we can.
Q4: How would you rate the quality of our products ?
100% (100%) replied ‘high quality’ or ‘very high quality’. The ‘Saddler Gnome’ (a UK Master Saddler) that makes our saddles prides himself on quality materials and workmanship – he won’t even let us have a slightly imperfect saddle with a slight leather imperfection to provide as a ‘second’ and we think that’s the type of Saddler Gnome we really want.
Q5: Overall how satisfied, or dissatisfied, are you with Total Contact Saddles ?
84% (96%) said ‘very satisfied’. Well, that’s another value variation that is disappointing but maybe not completely unexpected given the volumes we now deal with. Having said that client satisfaction and the personal service we do try to offer is valued by many and we’ll continue to try and give it. We do wonder if some of this was due to the ‘issues’ we had with our main supplier last year though ….
Q6: How responsive have we been about questions or concerns about our products ?
96% (95%) of those who had asked a question/query replied ‘very responsive’ or ‘extremely responsive’. One person wasn’t happy with our response but we don’t know why as it’s an anonymous survey.
Q7: How professional have you found Total Contact Saddles ?
96% (96%) replied ‘very professional’ or ‘extremely professional’. It’s that person above again ! *sigh*
Q8: Do you like Total Contact Saddles, neither like or dislike it or dislike it ?
90% (96%) said they ‘liked it a great deal’. Well that’s close anyway despite the person above ….
Q9: Overall how does our website meet your needs ?
88% (88%) replied ‘very well’ or ‘extremely well’. In the free form comments area we did get asked about the possible use of videos on the website to illustrate the riding and better quality images. Whilst this does present some challenges – not least how to ‘show’ how to ride a horse with balance so that others can see without ‘over showing’ and so affecting the movement – but we’ll see what we can do. New images will be uploaded more frequently to the various galleries though – who doesn’t like to see another ‘orse ? ! A completely new website is currently under construction (August 2017) and will be ready for launching soon. We hope this will provide a more visual, informative web experience.
Q10: How could we improve either our products or our future service delivery for our clients ?
We got some great responses here and fully ¾’s of those taking the survey did so. The vast majority of them praised the saddle, the effects it’s had on horses and riding ability as well as how it may have helped clients physically – back pain alleviated and better core control. However, some did make suggestions for change and this year we’d like to focus on these a bit more and try to explain how we’re taking that forward – or why it’s hard to do so. This is a summary grouping of them with comments in bold where needed:
Could you make a sheepskin nummnah/ your own stirrup leathers like Webbers? This is a tricky one. Whilst it would be lovely to expand the product range I think we just have to be cognoscente that there are a wide range of client preferences as well as an even wider range of suppliers. It’s just not possible for us, as a small supplier, to keep all of the options available and there are many great value web suppliers that can, in some instances provide things cheaper than we could buy them wholesale for. We’ll build the brand range with things that are difficult to buy elsewhere when we can get good deals for our clients and reliable suppliers. This year we introduced the TC saddle pad with extra hooks for water bottles etc and that’s had a good response so far.
Can you reduce the thickness of the stirrup bar / make the girth straps less stiff / the leather marks easily / how about more colours ?
I’ve bulked these comments together as they relate to materials. We have our own design of stirrup bar in final testing for strength (August 2017) and hope to have it available soon now. It’s taken us ages to get this far as we need to make sure the strength is there but have it slightly thinner. It’s always going to be a compromise but we must have the strength for client safety. The new ones will be made in stainless steel not alu-bronze to try and keep strength. We use rawhide for our girth straps as this is the hardest working part of the saddle and rawhide is a tough leather. It may be stiff to start with but it does soften with use but again we need the strength and robustness in this part of the product and so it will be ‘stiff’ or it will just wear and snap. The leather we use has to have a softness to it unlike that used in normal saddles as it has to ‘wrap around the horse’. This does mean that harsh treatment may cause it to scuff. However, a bit of leather balm or even boot polish replenishes the colour and retain the shine.
Can you make a saddle with a suede area for those that need a bit more ‘stickyness’ and to stop rubbing / how about a buckle guard ?
We have made saddles for clients with a suede area on the top panel and this might be something we could make more available. Clients would need to be aware though that suede does wear more than leather and so it won’t be as durable – that compromise thing again ! I can understand the buckle/girth guard thing. We’ve trialled several thicknesses of leather in making one for clients and just feel that it may add more ‘bulk’ as well as some protection – flippin’ compromises eh We’ll think on some more but these can be purchased from most good tack shops if needed.
How about some different colours ?
This is one of those things that come up from time to time ! Can I have a pink one ? is the request that mostly comes in. The simple answer is that the tannery will make different colours – “You get it for shoes” some say – yes, of course you do but we need leather that’s 4mm thick and that doesn’t come in too many colours. Having said that if there’s a solid demand then we can ask the tannery to do it – at a price !! The price would change as it’s more expensive to make colours. Oh how I hate compromises L We’ll have to see ….
Is a synthetic saddle possible?.It's the only improvement I can think of.
We tried most of last year to get a synthetic saddle made. Oh how we tried and the expense involved – even with the help of PETA. We did find a supplier of a material strong enough (that was the problem) in Italy but they wanted a huge amount of money to make it and even with the support of the UK’s biggest saddler component suppliers we couldn’t justify it. It’s something that we know many people want and we will try to re-visit this, however, the whole experience has left us emotionally drained – and a bit poorer too ! We’ll keep looking out for suitable material though ….
Could you have a group of people in different countries who could offer trials ?
This is possible but it would need those people to have available a small stock of saddles to offer out. We’re happy to supply them – but not for free – and to provide a rebate on the normal price for your efforts so if you want to talk about this then let’s do that. We want to grow the business at the end of the day.
Firstly, a BIG thank you to those who took five minutes to answer the survey and help us help future clients (and their horses !). We didn’t seek to ask ‘halo questions’ and, as with all things Total Contact, we’ve provided results in an honest and open way. We know from anecdotal feedback that we get that the product is well received by horses and riders. We know there’s a way to go to convince the doubters and we’re not naive enough to ever think that we’ll win over all owners and riders but we ‘chip’ away when and where we can. We know that some will never the TCS, however, the more that are ‘out there’ and seen, used, trialled with the benefits obvious, even to the casual observer, then the more will accept it Many, many clients and their horses that happily use the saddle every single day in lots of different ways show their satisfaction by recommending us to others - In a representative sample of existing clients 96% said they would recommend us to a friend and 90% said they liked it a great deal. I wonder how many other saddle companies can claim that sort of client satisfaction ? We’ll continue to improve what we do and how we do it ….