Wanted: Knowledgable, friendly, empowered brand representatives with the sole job of interacting and problem solving directly with the consumer.
The power of the internet and social media has changed business forever. Gone are the days of hiding behind clever marketing campaigns and rebate incentives. Consumers are no longer scattered and anonymous. They have Facebook, Twitter, and countless online forums to converse about their purchases. Often, the consumers know before the manufacturers do that there is a fatal design flaw in a product. Even more often, they found a makeshift solution.
And yet, manufacturers (for the most part) still don’t listen to their customers.
This will change – and the first few manufacturers brave enough to act on this sea change will cash in big time. It would seem that, for whatever reason, those who run these large, often multi-national appliance companies have completely forgotten what it’s like to be a consumer. They have forgotten that good business, down to its core, is about relationships.
Consumers enter into relationships with the brands they buy into. No different than a relationship between person to person. There is the initial meeting, the over (and sometimes under) selling of the different sides, there’s courtship, crisis’s (usually not just one) and resolutions (or lack thereof), and sometimes even a breakup. Yet many appliance manufacturers treat the consumer more like a slave than a partner.
Take a look at these top of the line brands from a couple of different sectors: Apple Inc., Samsung, Grey Goose, Hyundai, Amazon, and Avis. Each of these brands have some of the highest customer loyalty rankings in the U.S. and it’s not by dumb luck.
Apple is a perfect example for me to use, since I myself have been a loyal customer for years: I am a fan of Apple. My last 10 computer purchases have been through them. I watch their product launches with anticipation. When something goes wrong (and many things have over the years) they are always quick to offer their support. If I’m not satisfied, they have bent over backwards to make me happy. I’m not a fan of Apple because they make perfect products. I’m a fan of Apple because Apple is a fan of me. My experience matters to them. And that’s the key.
No one is expecting you to create the perfect product. No one is expecting you to give away your profit. We only expect you to care about our experience with your product. When there is a problem, we want you to address it – fix it. We want to see you actually care enough about our experience with your product to ask about our experiences with it. We want to know your company is like us, human. When we see that we will stay loyal to your brand.
Currently, appliance manufacturers trade customers on a daily basis. For every new customer in the front door, one walks out the back. It’s a zero sum game and nobody is winning. There is no large movement of fans clamoring over a single brand. There is no passion.
And this can be changed.
Game Changers: Brand Ambassadors
Brand Ambassadors are the key to starting a movement within the industry and yet nobody is utilizing them. Brand Ambassadors ignite passion. They are a breed of appliance reps we desperately need. Reps focused solely on working with the consumers.
These people should be fans first, employees second. In fact, they should be recruited directly from the small group of fans a brand already has. These have to be people from outside the corporate system. People who are, in-effect, “empowered” consumer fans. People who genuinely believe in the products and want to make other people believe in them to.
A small group of brand ambassadors is worth 10x the same cost spent on advertising. These people would interact with your customers through product education, encouragement, and problem solving. Every person they interact with has a high potential of becoming a fan. They are the face of your company. They show your customers you care, that you are human, and that your working to improve yourself every day.
Having the best product in the industry wont keep you on top if the support needs of your customers is left unattended. If build-quality and feature-set is Queen, customer service is King. This industry is primed for a sea change. Somebody is going to get it sooner or later.
Will it be LG, Bosch, Wolf? Some are already on the right track. Some are going in the opposite direction.
Who will start a movement?