CEO and founder Susan Tynan's customer focus may not bring down costs, but she cites it as the reason people trust her company with their treasured art.

Customers are key to any business, but the customer focus can often take a back seat when scale and profitability become the top concerns for growing businesses. Susan Tynan, CEO and founder of custom framing service Framebridge, has downgraded those key growth factors in the name of customer satisfaction, which she discussed Thursday during her keynote presentation at the Internet Retailer Conference and Exhibition @RetailX in Chicago.

“Because we set out to solve a customer problem, focus on the customer seems obvious,” she said. But it’s not always easy.

She points to the example of the coated hanging wire, used on some Framebridge products. While most custom framing shops use uncoated wire, Frambridge’s team was concerned about the marks it leaves on walls. But the coated wire costs more and is harder for its machines to work with.

“Every six months, someone from operations or finance says we should replace it,” Tynan said. “But it’s one thing I absolutely will not compromise on.”

She isn’t really responding to customer feedback though. Since starting Framebridge, Tynan said, “Zero people have complimented us on our coated wire.” But she still refuses to take the easier path.

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Taking that step would lead to other cost-cutting measures that consumers may take for granted, such as sticking the wall-protecting pads on frames at the factory instead of including them in the package and leaving it to the consumer to do at home, Tynan said.

“Business pressures always conspire against the consumer,” Tynan said. Another hurdle she faced when balancing costs and customers was the personalized thank-you notes in each item Framebridge frames.

Those notes were originally handwritten, and part of the hiring process when looking for workers in its factory was examining their handwriting to ensure the thank-you notes made an impact. But as growth took off, Framebridge developed a fulfillment process to make it easy for workers to type in a message about the art they’re framing. The moderate cost of developing the fulfillment process enabled Framebridge to scale to 400 employees at its Kentucky factory without shortchanging the customer focus.

“You have to build with the customer in mind and fiercely defend the customer as you grow,” Tynan said.

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