Premium express delivery company City Link helps Jane Gordon to make very special deliveries to schools all around the country …. of "virtual Babies".
Designed to introduce teenagers to the demands of parenthood, the life-size replicas are programmed to cry, fret and feed just like a real baby.
Students take their Baby home for a weekend and sophisticated software inside the baby records how well they feed, change, comfort and cuddle it. Jane started her business in 1999 while at home in Cheshire on maternity leave and has used City Link from the outset.
Today her focus is on hiring, rather than selling, the American-made virtual Babies and the Life Choice Baby Hire Company sends out more than 100 every week to schools and colleges during term-time.
City Link delivers batches of virtual Babies to schools on a Wednesday or Thursday on next day delivery and collects them again early the next week in time for the Babies to be re-programmed for their next weekend assignments.
Jane said: "City Link is an integral part of what we do: we couldn’t be a company without a carrier like City Link.
"Right from the beginning they were really enthusiastic about what we do and they have gone out of their way to help us. "I have never chosen suppliers simply because they offered the cheapest possible price, although City Link is competitive.
"I’ve done it on service levels and commitment. For me it’s very much the relationship that has been the most important thing."
When Life Choice encountered difficulties with the packages that virtual Babies were sent out in, City Link’s local Depot General Manager found alternative boxes that were robust enough to withstand the constant to-ing and fro-ing.
"The virtual Babies are more expensive than a laptop – they average about £550.00 and we did have some issues because we needed very strong containers to put the Babies in. What City Link did was give us a huge number of its own internal, very special boxes and it has been great, very convenient."
Through a separate company, Life Choice Ltd, Jane also sells virtual Babies, along with a range of equipment such as car seats and changing bags as well as training DVDs, direct to institutions that teach youngsters about childcare. City Link delivers all these orders.
"City Link is friendly and local," she said. "When we were looking for a carrier years before, I phoned a couple of people up and the person who came out from City Link was fascinated by what we were doing, really enthusiastic.
"Then they just did what we wanted them to do. We have never had any major problems with City Link and any minor issues have been quickly resolved.
"We are not City Link’s biggest customer by any stretch of the imagination, but they have never treated us any differently from any of their other customers no matter how large.
"It is an excellent relationship and one which serves us extremely well."