It's been an exciting and of course challenging 6 years here at Überoom. Not to sound brash (like that ever happens) but when I started the company I was well aware of the obstacles. We have a unique business model, and the reason copycat companies exist, typically, is because they serve a large enough market. Case studies noted that it would be slow going for non-venture capital funded, combined product and service company like ours. While my generation starts software companies that must grab a loyal client base and, typically, hopes to sell out before time and money run out, we decided to be a little different. There are zero companies that operate quite like we do. This lack of copycat companies has its pros and cons. Every day, many times a day, we explain how we work with hotels to have rooms decorated for our customers. We've come a long way from when I actually lived out of the tiny office warehouse on the East side of Austin, Texas, making sure we were as conservative as possible and saved as much money as possible to ensure we had these years to learn and to improve. I consider myself fortunate to understand the odds, and what it would take to hone our business model, let alone survive or grow.
Along with utilizing great, knowledgeable contractors to fuel our expansion, we've made changes to almost everything we do. Before the company was founded, we actually considered having employees or contractors in each of the larger US cities. I can thank a good friend for convincing me not to because it turns out, hotels actually enjoy making their guests happy. Employees enjoy doing things that are outside their typical daily duties too. The key is to keep our packages simple and quick to set-up, and yet also create a unique, beautiful experience.
But how do people hear about us? Well, we've tried every type of marketing under the sun. We knew that partnering was going to be essential, and it still is the best way for customers to find us. Now our independent marketing efforts are almost 100% online. Our sales partnerships are founded primarily on a try us before we get too far along in explaining strategy, simply because sometimes the explaining often takes longer than setting-up a room and seeing it for themselves. For each package, we would create the single-page directions in multiple languages by hand. Since then we have developed a directions creation program, unique and automatically created for each order. Our customer service processes started great and continue to get better through standardization, training, and above all, putting our customers first. It's not every day I would celebrate a wedding, so I expect the bridal suites for which we coordinate the decoration are appropriately special!
Now when new customers find us, they go through the process of asking “Is this real?” and “What hotels do you work with?” All we can do is tell them we don't have contractual partnerships with all 40,000 hotels or B&Bs in the US, but that 98% of the new hotels we approach are happy to hear that we are different and agree to work with us. If they know how everything is tailored to ensure an efficient set-up, designed to be safe for their carpet and linens, that average set-up time is 12 minutes, and we compensate them as if, in those 12 minutes, they just performed open-heart surgery, then there is a good chance we just gained a new partner. Customers need to know we deliver every package to arrive the day before, which is why we try to get orders in early to avoid rush fees. In fact, instead of just providing free shipping, we are even toying with the idea of paying our customers to order early! Why? Because, albeit rarely, there are shipping delays, and we always want to make sure your special celebration goes smoother than a hot knife through butter. From very early on, we chose having all our packages be set-up on time was better than saving money on shipping. Sure the rush charges cover some of these costs, but when it's up to us to verify every detail with the right people at a customer's hotel, it doesn't matter if the order was in on time, we will end up paying for expedited shipping. On top of building in a day buffer, we also implemented a 110% Guarantee from very early on. This 110% Guarantee states if our package does not arrive on time to get your room decorated, we will pay you back all your money AND 10% more, as well as insist you keep the contents of your package. All this amounts to less risk than ordering flowers to be delivered from your nearby corner florist that uses paper orders or a gift basket company with stale cookies on their shelves. Does this garner trust? We know it's up to the individual. But we help our customers rest assured by keeping them updated every step of the way. We also call into each and every hotel the morning the set-up is scheduled, and sometimes in the afternoons as well, just to make sure any questions are answered, the room is in fact finished, and it is decorated to our highest of standards. Have there been mistakes, shortcomings, or even confusion? Of course there has, and we know well enough to correct and improve from them. But guess what? The number of happy customers we serve grows each year, the number of happy anniversaries we serve with loved ones calling each other cute nicknames in their cards or with a message of rose petals on the bed grows each year, the number of times we hear a hotel employee had fun decorating the room grows each year, and even the number of times a room is decorated for a proposal and we get a reply email saying “They said yes!” grows each year. It should be no surprise to us then, that the number of times we get a little teary-eyed while working, also grows each year.
I think I can say that my co-workers and contractors have a hard time finding a more rewarding business to be a part of. Sure there are historically more rewarding professions that involve saving people's lives, teaching children to read, or maybe making people laugh by putting on a good show, right? Well, for every special request that comes in, we intend to put on a good show. Our customers trust this moment in their lives to be perfect. Making sure we improve in handling our customers and their special requests in an efficient, effective manner is a constant exercise in greatness, but when we get the engagement proposal request for the girlfriend of 4 years or the package order for a parent's 40th Anniversary, it's so incredibly easy for us to stop, smile, and reflect on why Überoom was created. We know nearly everyone is busy with the daily grind. We are too. We're all trying to make it, to provide for our children, our families, ourselves, and even just to prove to ourselves what we are made of. That takes time, and in an increasingly competitive world that demand for time often makes it difficult to say thank you to the people that are important in your life. The great thing about Überoom and why it makes us so happy is that it maximizes our customers' time while they make some pretty sweet plans, creating an experience that stays in their minds and dear to their hearts.
Our customers may or may not think about it, but every time they trust us to make sure their experience is special, we wish they understood that the reason we were founded, our history, our systems, and our people work hard not just to make their experience great, but special enough to be once in a lifetime. For giving us that level of trust, we thank you.