ACK.com

It’s been a long 6 years but we’re finally able to celebrate a small victory — acquiring www.ack.com! Each May we were greeted with disappointment as the web address was always renewed, but things changed this year as we finally got a hold of what we now consider one of our most prized possessions, ACK.com.

It’s a small feat for what we consider a large victory, so what does that mean for you? We are now able to provide our customers 72% more time to do other things than typing a web address (the address is 72% shorter). ACK.com actually makes our current short link , http://yakr.us, not all that interesting any longer, but we will still use it as it helps identify which is a regular link as opposed to a shortened link.

As we begin our migration to the new URL you probably won’t notice many changes, other than seeing a shorter resolving web address in your browser window. You can already access our site via the new address at http://ack.com as we have a temporary redirection taking place.  For those that want to free up about 2 seconds of your life…assuming you type 60 words per minute, give it a spin.

Peter
ACK HQ

Kustomer Service

Sign Just Outside the ACK Kustomer Service Office

Our Kustomer Service team has recently grown again and with that came an idea. Our customers always say that at ACK our Kustomer Service is different and stands above the rest. That’s when I realized that we should be calling it Kustomer Service.  Why Kustomer service with a “K”?

Well aside from being different, it isn’t rare for people to replace a “C” with a “K” in a name. For instance, Tastykakes (Philly fans understand) does it, in college we had CampusKuts (hair cut place) and of course there is Krispy Kreme. Then there’s the obvious — we sell Kayaks, but there is another reason we could, and possibly should, spell our Kustomer Service with a “K”. In honor of our employees. Anyone that has been around longer than a year knows that Kate was the original face of our customer service team. Then, last year, we added Kyle (he’s also our unofficial product model) and just recently, we added Kyle. Yes, another Kyle — we’ll be highlighting him in a future issue of our newsletter.

So for all the reasons mentioned above, Kustomer Service it is!

Give a quick shout out to the ACK Kustomer Service team by commenting below — they certainly enjoy a little love.

Peter
ACK HQ

ACK Retailer of The Year 2010

Everyone at ACK is excited to have received 2010 Retailer of the Year from Canoe & Kayak Magazine.  This is our second year in a row on winning this industry award.

Thank you all of our customers, readers and  paddlers that helped to make this possible.  Without you all, and our fabulous employees, this would never have been possible.

Clearance / Closeout Kayaks

We have recently added a bunch of new Clearance and Closeout kayaks to our Outlet (you can see the full list here: http://bit.ly/bGr7fp

When looking at this list it made me think about something we are often asked, “What is the difference between Closeout and Clearance?”

I thought I would take a moment and define these terms as we use them as it can be confusing, as I am sure others use them quite differently.

Closeout: This is a discontinued kayak and/or kayak color.  We are selling off the remaining stock and the manufacturer is not making it either now, or in the future.
Clearance: This is a kayak and/or kayak color that we have chosen to no longer carry as a “stock” item.  It doesn’t mean that the manufacturer isn’t making it, we are just making room for something else.

Now, this brings up a second question we get.  Why don’t you carry product “X”.  I could dedicate an entire blog to this question, but, the short answer is that we have limited space in our stores and in our warehouse, we have to choose models and colors and if we want to pick up a model we may have to eliminate a less popular one.  Of course there are many other reasons that could drive a decision but like I said, that would take up an entire blog.

So, if you want to save quite a bit on some incredible kayaks, check out the outlet and act fast, in some cases we have just one left.

Peter

Blogging / Twitter / Facebook

We continue to evolve here at ACK and are continuing to add new technology and fancy Social Media things.

In case you are only a Facebook Fan, or a Twitter Follower we wanted to give you a way to connect to us in all the different areas.  Here you can find our Social Media links, please Like Us, Follow Us, Read Us.

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/austinkayak
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/austinkayak
Blog: http://www.austinkayak.com/blog
Flickr: Coming Soon, real soon

Peter

Kayaker Tries something other than Kayaking

Ever wonder what happens when a Kayaker attempts to do something other than kayaking?

Nothing Good!

It was my wife’s birthday, we are heading to go and ‘float’ the Guadalupe (any of your Texas folks know what this means….for the rest, well, it is just plain FUN).

Three days before our ‘float’ New Braunfels gets 10 inches of rain, the River goes from 4ft to 14ft in 10 minutes (from 400cfs to 14,000 cfs)….the River is back down to normal within 48 hours, but unfortunately the outfitter for the float trip is gone, their building is gone, their tubes are gone, their buses are gone. (WARNING: do not store your valuable business assets in a flood plain).

Plan B is enacted immediately, we cannot ‘float’ but we are going to get on the water. My neighbor calls around and finds the last two pontoon boats available for rent on Lake Travis, it isn’t floating but it is still on the water.

Twelve of us split up on the two pontoon boats and off we go, we are prepared, we have enough liquids to last a week. Pontoon A, driven by me, stalls five times getting out of the cove but now all seems good. Pontoon B, driven by James looks good…we cruise across the lake trying to find a good place to drop anchor and ‘float’. It is windy, it is not a good calm day, we are struggling to find a good spot, we decide that we are heading to the party cove and off we steam ahead. 5 minutes into our new plan I look back, Pontoon B is no where to be seen…we turn around and head back, they are bobbing, they have stalled and cannot get started. We call the boat people and tell them that the boat is a POS and to come get it, we all get aboard Pontoon A, the boat people come to their broken boat and we are off….1 hour of our 3 trip…GONE. We steam ahead to our party cove plan, we round the corner and hit the wind and the chop. Twelve full sized (some fuller than others) adults on board, the bow of the boat buries into a wave, under she goes….everyone up front runs to the back, weight is now in the back, all is better, sort of….now water is coming up in the back…the women are screaming that we are sinking (forgetting that there are two giant pontoons floating and it is merely a weight distribution issue.

In the midst of the screams is my dear wife. She is a calm lady (not really) that is now on a mission that we are going back, getting all of our money back and we are going to Carlos and Charlies on the lake. I try to soothe her and tell her it is fine, but I know better, we turn around, we head home.

On the return voyage my neighbor says, “look at those party barges docked over there, let’s go”…I think about what my wife said and say “I’ll sneak us in and see if it is calm”….within 2.1 seconds my Wife’s neck snaps around and she barks “the Hell you will, we are going in”….mind you, she is on the other side of a 23 ft pontoon with a motor running and heard me like she was on my lap (it’s a wife thing). But I am not going to give up that easily, we steam across and into a cliff area, it is calm….we throw the anchor….

….as if you thought this was the end….the anchor line is not long enough, it is roughly 30 feet of line, we are in 31 feet of water….how do I know it is 1 foot more, well, we have our line we brought and we connect the two, get anchored…..ahhhh….boating…this is fun!

The story has a happy ending, my wife had a  fun birthday, we floated in the cove not 5 minutes from where we rented the boat, drank our liquids, jumped off the cliff,  no one drowned and I was reminded why power boats are just not kayaks!

On a side note, we tested our some of the water guns we sell, highly recommend them!  http://www.austinkayak.com/products/2989/Stream-Machine-Water-Gun.html

–Peter

Summer!

Summer is not officially here for a couple more weeks but don’t tell anyone in our warehouse that.   They are enduring some hot and humid days already.  But really, summer for me means VACATION.  Sure, I take vacations at the worst possible time but I have little choice with my wife’s work, summer is the only chance we get.  So, in 13 days I will get to Mexico, I plan to do a lot of fishing, some kayaking and a ton of sleeping.

I will post some pictures of my ‘catch’ should that happen (I fish just fine, I am not a good catcher).

After my too short (is any vacation long enough) we are off to Atlanta for a manufacturer conference and then that is followed by the huge Outdoor Retailer conference.  What does this all mean, well, newly announced products are just around the corner.

–Peter

Keeping the door shut!

Last week was a very interesting week and it has caused me a bit of reflection.  You see, much like our customers (you) deal with us we have vendors where we are their Customers.  The roles are reversed for us, we go from the typical role of Retailer with Customers to Customer relying on Vendors.

This reversal in roles this week has reminded me a good lesson, keeping the door shut.  This is more of a mythical door than a real door.  You see, every day we provide service to our Customers, when that service is good and what they expect they are happy, but when you do something wrong or treat them wrong then they start looking around, they start seeking alternatives.

Thus, when we do something wrong we open the door to losing the customer.  It reminded me that we have to stay on our toes and remember everything we do could have a major negative consequence.  It was an important reminder for me and the ACK approach must always been the customer first and always be ready to move the ship where ever it needs to go, no matter what it takes.

–Peter

Why ACK? Product Reviews

This past weekend I was attending a conference with small business leaders and I was asked repeatedly why someone would shop at ACK as opposed to any other larger retailer.   This question is easy to answer, Customer Service.  But it really got me thinking.  Why do people love ACK?  Customer Service is definitely it but what goes into Customer Service that makes us so much different.

So, I set out pondering how/why we are so different and one item that came to mind instantly was our product reviews.   While I write this we are advertising 1,506 products on our website, that isn’t really a secret, you can see a counter here: http://www.austinkayak.com/ourselection.php

So what, we have 1,506 products, that isn’t all that unique.  But what is unique is that we have 4,673 reviews, that means we have close to 3.1 reviews for every product (that is an average of course).   This really does make me proud!  This isn’t something that ACK is doing, this is what you, the customer is doing for our customers.

So, if you step back and ask, “Why ACK?”, well, it is really our customers that make us, us.  You shop with us, you share your experiences and thus make the shopping that much better.  So, from all of us at ACK, this is a great big thanks for all those that have click the product follow email links and wrote a product review!

Since I was so excited to see how many reviews we have we have added a counter to our home page.

— Peter

How One Penny Excited Customers

When we set out to make a more secure and robust payment system we embarked on what is known as Reference Transactions (see prior blog for full details).  This system is the most secure and safest data storing system you can have for Credit Card data.  In order to get the full advantage we needed to make sure that all the current Credit Card numbers we had matched to the correct accounts and to have the most recent transaction saved.

Along with our processor we came up with a great migration method, we decided that we would run a $0.01 authorization (not a charge) and immediate void against all Credit Cards stored in customer’s accounts.  If the card is valid we will get back a confirmation, if it is invalid, well, we can just delete it from their account.

Unfortunately this ‘brilliant’  idea created quite a bit of excitement.  Now, this isn’t the excited state we wanted our customer’s in.  Early in the morning on Tuesday our phones lit up, emails started to flood us.  It seems that way more people than we ever thought check their accounts daily or have alerts set up.  Really it was an issue with Debit card holders who’s checking accounts were immediately impacted by the authorization.  While it is not a charge it does show up as “pending” until the void is processed by the bank.  Ironically, authorizations occur immediately, voids, not so much.

Realizing we made a giant mistake in not sending out notification prior and alerting customers we crafted an email explaining the situation.  As if first angering customer’s that we validated their accounts, accounts they specifically saved on our site, we then got a flood of emails in regards to our explanation email.

It seems that 80% of the customers were appreciative of our system enhancement and let us know in kind gentle manner that they were thrilled.  Then there is the 20%, these customers through out words like “phishing”, “scam”, “fraud”.  They called for my job, wanted accountability to the person that devised the “marketing scam”, the guy that “tapped their accounts”.  Personally it was a tough pill to swallow, after all, I made the ‘brilliant‘ decision in the first place and now they hated me.

I will admit now, the whole “penny for your thought” is alive and well, I am sorry we had to find out this way and we definitely will approach a conversion of this nature much differently in the future.  Interestingly this issue has caused our processor to take a step back and evaluate how they handle the situation we encountered.

–Peter