Total Contact Saddle Annual Client Survey: 2017/2018 results (July 2018)

The Total Contact Equine Solutions Client Survey is now in its fourth 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 and personal emails sent to clients on a randomised number basis using heir order references. This year more people than ever replied - I had to upgrade the Survey Monkey account to accommodate them all. Clients are also asked how long they've had their saddle to try and overcome a few negative comments from viewers a few years ago that 'we only took comments from new users'. This makes the survey even more representative, valid and reliable as results can be seen over time. It must also be pointed out that surveys are a recognised method of gathering data on topics providing the questions are fair and consistent. This qualitative data is often turned into quantitative data, as in the case of this survey, to provide numerical comparisons with previous surveys on a like for like basis. Once again we are delighted with the feedback that we got and don’t take any of it for granted ! Some of the values have changed a little from last year and I don't think that, as time goes on and purchases increase year on year, I can expect to see the very high values of a few years ago. There are now more TCS clients than ever before and the product is supplied across some 18 countries. Read on ….

Survey method

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 using a web random number generator. 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 – no-one did that this year. 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 65% of a years purchases  (up from 25% last year) and those who expressed a comment on how long they’d had their saddles showed a mean of 25 months (median 21 months and range 1 to 96 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 65% 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.

Results

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 (136 ticks) and then came Trail riding (47 ticks), Sponsored rides (15 ticks), show jumping (15 ticks), dressage (14 ticks) then came Endurance, XC, backing, hunting, Trec, Horse Back Archery. The highest levels provided were show jumping at 90cms, Dressage at Novice, Endurance at 50km. 

This is largely in line with last year and these answers were not unexpected. We know that our presence in the main three competitions disciplines (show jumping, dressage, eventing) is not high 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. However, heart has been taken by a client sending in the relevant pages of the BD Rule book for 2018 stating that treeless saddles are allowed and she's competed, and won, at Affiliated Novice !

Q2: How likely is that that you would recommend this saddle to a friend or colleague ?

97% (96%) said they would be ‘happy’ or ‘very happy’ to recommend to a friend or colleague. 

Q3: How would you rate the value for money of our products ?

86% (86%) replied ‘above average’ or ‘excellent’. Our prices have been held during 2017/18 despite pressures on materials – leather and metal work. We’ll do what we can to make sure we keep as price relevant as we can but there will always be pressures on this.

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. This figure has remained the same now for TREE years in a row ! 

Q5: Overall how satisfied, or dissatisfied, are you with Total Contact Saddles ?

87% (84%) said ‘very satisfied’. Well, that’s another value variation that is similar to last year and is consistent year to year despite providing more saddles each year. Client satisfaction and the personal service we do try to offer is valued by many and we’ll continue to try and give it. 

Q6: How responsive have we been about questions or concerns about our products ?

91% (96%) of those who had asked a question/query replied ‘very responsive’ or ‘extremely responsive’. A return of 'not applicable' came from the other 9%.

Q7: How professional have you found Total Contact Saddles ?

97% (96%) replied ‘very professional’ or ‘extremely professional’. Well, 1% + is still an increase !

Q8: Do you like Total Contact Saddles, neither like or dislike it or dislike it ?

90% (90%) said they ‘liked it a great deal’. 'Liked a moderate amount' was signalled by 9%. With purchases up some 25% year on year and across more countries than before this is a very rewarding result to get

Q9: Overall how does our website meet your needs ?

92% (88%) replied ‘very well’ or ‘extremely well’. Last August a new website was launched - at some cost - with new features, more images, videos, blogs etc - and so it's good to see that this has been recognised as having some value to clients.

Q10: How could we improve either our products or our future service delivery for our clients ?

We got some great responses here. 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:

Can you provide a mark of some sort in the centre of the saddle to help with lining it up central on the horse ?

Yes, we can and I'll sort something out. It may be some sort of stitching or a logo stamp. I did get this comment in the year from a lady with a 17.2hh horse and she said that she couldn't see over it. Well I'm not sure how it can help folk that are short with very tall horses but we'll do what we can :-)

The stirrup bar slants sometimes and I'm worried about losing a stirrup.

A year ago, or so, we angled the stirrup bar more acutely  towards the open end and this does seem to have helped this situation. However, over time the strap that attaches the stirrup bar to the saddle may stretch and wear causing some slippage of the bar. This may not be helped if the rider is asymmetrical in their riding position (no offence meant) as more pressure is then placed on one side than the other. If clients do contact us about this then we do re-site the bar/strap and this is not a hard job to do - you may find that a good local saddler who takes on repairs could also do it - and we only charge the actual cost of labour to do it (about £25 incl postage back). It's not unreasonable to expect some wear over time and we'll do what we can to resolve 'issues' if we can. We now have our own stirrup bar made just for us in stainless steel which is much stronger than the older alu-bronze ones and this is also slightly thinner which may also help some riders.

 

 Is a synthetic saddle possible?.It's the only improvement I can think of.

We tried most of last year and the year before 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 two years ago (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 …. I've contacted a number of possible suppliers that deal in 'normal' synthetic materials as well as those made from mushroom and pineapple with no success - yet !

Can there be more info on pads and videos on fitting ? 

In the User Guide, which is now on the website and is in addition to the PDF sent out with each order by email, there are suggestions on pads that can be used as well as a short fitting video. Clients do use a wide variety of padding solutions from Western pads to simple nummnahs and the one that is 'right' is the one that is 'right for the needs of your horse'. I am currently trialing a reindeer hide pad with my horse - in studies they have the highest level of compressiveness - with a view to possibly providing these. They won't suit everyone for ethical and practical purposes (I know that) but as with other options they are an option for some. More info will follow on the main Facebook page as and when.

Can you put knee rolls or similar on the saddle ?

Well, I don't think we can. Sorry. The saddle design is that way for a reason and whilst i understand the need of some to have knee rolls for balance they are, at the end of the day, an artificial aid to achieve this and it's far better if core strength and real balance are developed by using the TCS than relying on something to 'jam' yourself against ....

Can you show the prices of the saddle in US$ ?

The prices in the web shop are all shown in GBP and we don't have the facility to show it in differing currencies. Even if we did the fluctuation in currencies right now can be large and we work on fairly tight margins so that a change in value against us would cause problems. We have introduced the use of cards as well as Paypal with the new website shop and this is now used about 40% of the time. Payment methods are always under review as the charges are so high - especially Paypal right now. If a client form overseas pays locally then the card, or Paypal, always shows the cost in the local currency but the exchange rate they use is not the 'tourist' rate but an inter-bank charge rate which will be different. There's no way round this one - sorry overseas folks - especially as clients from overseas are an increasing % of our business.

Summary/reflection

Firstly, a BIG thank you to those who took four 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 - maybe we need to sell 'Brave Pants' for some eh ! - 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 be part of the TCS Family, 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 97% 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 ? How many would even ask ? How many would publish the results ? We’ll continue to improve what we do and how we do it 

 

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