CEA Viewpoint: A Crucial Part of the Brand: Superior Customer Service
By Michelle Kohler On Jul 12 2006 - 3:48pm
In today’s world of rapid innovation, consumers are clamoring for the “latest and greatest” in cutting-edge technology. Manufacturers, in turn, must innovate at an increasingly fast pace to meet consumer demand for new products while also anticipating the next big thing.
The CE industry is now overrun with competing products, affording consumers unprecedented levels of choice. Along with this level of choice, however, comes an increased need for service.
According to the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), the CE industry is plagued by outrageously high return rates, with manufacturers and retailers witnessing thousands of product returns per year. In order for manufacturers to continue to satisfy their customers and win new ones, company leadership must realize that the onus is on them to deliver a level of customer service that’s less remedial and more value-enhancing.
This customer service extends beyond the consumer to the relationships that manufacturers hold with their retailers. Manufacturers should strive to deliver a white glove, “champagne in first class” feeling to their consumers and to their retail partners.
Gone are the days that products are easy to use out of the box or even easy to select at the point of purchase. This complexity can ultimately lead to higher post-purchase frustration rates and erode positive brand equity.
Retailers are being asked to educate, explain and instruct, but with thousands of sophisticated products on the market today, it’s nearly impossible to deliver the same intimate product knowledge and brand experience as the manufacturer.
The consumer wants “value,” not just with respect to cost, but with respect to the entire experience of purchasing and owning a product. It’s critical for manufacturers to assume responsibility for delivering value to both the consumer and the retailer at every step of the buying process, from purchase to technical support to product returns.
For example, at Shure we work with retailers to provide point-of-purchase solutions and retail sales personnel training. We also offer customers interactive online instructions and an 800-number allowing them to speak with an expertly staffed customer service center.
With this simple initiative, we feel that Shure has been able to save its retailers thousands of dollars in returned products and operational costs. Just as important, we manage to make our target consumers feel taken care of and informed, driving them to purchase Shure products in the future without leaving the burden of educating consumers entirely on the retailer. In order to sustain consumer trust in Shure’s products with our retail partners, Shure also spearheaded a major effort to track consumer feedback and educate salespeople in each retail outlet about the technological nuances of the company’s products.
The time is now for manufacturers to take a new oath to deliver superior customer service, implementing new procedures to satisfy the customer and keep him from returning products to the retailer. With this simple guiding principle, manufacturers can not only help consumers to make the right choices when it comes to the products they purchase, they can increase customer loyalty and dramatically impact their brand perception in the marketplace. In today’s CE market, bringing to life a brand attribute associated with first-rate customer service is undoubtedly key to driving the long-term success of a business. o
Michelle Kohler is global marketing communications director for Shure, a provider of high end-audio accessories. She is also a board member of CEA’s accessories division.