Showing posts with label CDIT. Show all posts
Showing posts with label CDIT. Show all posts

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Service expectations while purchasing durables or electronics

A few years ago when we went to purchase a fridge I recall the comic confusion that the various sales persons standing at the durables store created. There were three or four salesmen standing around and when we pointed to a fridge and asked them to show us the features, first they were reluctant. Then one person reluctantly explained how the concerned salesman had gone for his tea break. While I was wondering on the absurdity of having individual salesmen for each product, another elaborated that I was enquiring about brand A while all those present were representing Brand B or C or D. Finally one person did try to at least engage us till the time that the concerned salesman returned!

I am sure most of you would have had this experience.

Later on when I was handling the marketing for a durables store, such similar experiences prompted the team to relook at the way the store staff interacted with customers and went on to become a key differentiator.

It might definitely help the durable retailers if they were cognizant of this dissonance being created by what is called company promoters as also internalize that the consumers are changing.

Typically the various brand manufacturers agree to place these salesmen or promoters as they are called. Hence, most are briefed and trained only with details of a particular brand. Of course there is a fair amount of churn within this group and it would not be uncommon to see a person be a salesman for Brand A and a few weeks or months later for Brand B. Although this and the fact that they all work together makes them all aware of the various brands, the tendency is to constantly steer the customer towards one’s brand. From a customer point of view, this is not only confusing but extremely annoying too.

Today the reality is that youngsters are emerging or rather have emerged as a significant consuming class, especially of Electronics. These consumers are well informed and usually have done some homework with regards to the products, brands, features, etc. In such a context having to face a virtual race amongst the salesmen is not the best thing that a store can do.

Secondly, there is a large group of educated consumers who are older and who typically indulge in high- end electronics and durables. Such consumers again do not appreciate pushy selling because they are looking for additional inputs, details and explanations with regards to the various features of a product.

And then you have the average consumer who is looking for functional benefits and is often technologically challenged. Yet again, not a good choice to practice hard sell. They look for some information and lots of reassurance!

So, essentially the purchasing pattern for this category of products is fast moving towards informed and knowledgeable decision making by the consumer instead of being hustled into a sale.

Most modern durables chains are aware of this shift in consumer behavior and they have the store staff to offer nonpartisan inputs and help in the purchase. However, the larger universe of small operators still relies on the company promoter route, simply because it helps defray the man power costs. What they seem to be missing out is that if the customers dry up, there would be no store and no costs left to defray!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

An interesting differentiator

In most consumer electronics stores the focus would be on range, pricing and of late it has been on in-store service and customer interaction. In that context, it was a pleasant surprise to see an advertisement of a store which has highlighted a latent consumer need and has used that as an USP.

Usually most such stores have one unit for display and either one more for purchase or not even that in the case of larger products, especially those which require installation. In the Indian context most products do require installation barring maybe things like the mixie, toaster or the hair dryer!

So, typically after a customer puts down, what is often an obscenely large sum of money the machinery swings into action. The store informs the delivery/ distribution centre of the purchase and they then schedule the delivery. But what if they don’t have any stock? Frantic calls to the company or distributor and hopefully the product is delivered to the retailers distribution point. The product then is received into the system (physically and in the IT system) of the retailer and then it is ready to be sent out for delivery. Phew! Imagine if just reading about this was so long, how long the actual process would take.

A shortcut would be to ask the distributor to deliver directly to the customer and then manage the paperwork to bring it into the retailer’s system to adjust it against the sale. But, that has issues and is not a preferred action plan.

So, as a consumer what do you experience? After paying the money and not hearing the door bell ring, you wonder why? Calls to the store give you vague answers as they are also usually not very clear when this whole process will be completed. If you are lucky you would have got the product without this hassle or just when your fuse is about to blow, the product arrives. Or you give up and when the product arrives, it is usually a mild surprise!

Now this chain has taken the entire fun out of this Russian roulette by promising a 98.9% same day delivery. But hey, hang on. The statement is just a statement. One does not know if it is a promise or a mention of their track record. And there are no little asterisks to indicate hidden meanings. So, it is up to the customer to interpret it the way they want.

Let’s come back to the customer’s mind. You see this advertisement. Notice this, but move on to check some of the prices mentioned. You find it interesting and you are also looking to buy a LCD TV or a walk in fridge or whatever. You also have memories of the previous time you purchased something and you got it almost on the first anniversary of the purchase. Suddenly, the 98.9% becomes a powerful hook. An excellent differentiator.

In a segment where promotions can also not be entirely at the discretion of the retailers and market Operating Price rules (MOP – Will explain in another post) and most stores rapidly changing their looks to offer an experience, this is a true differentiator.

Hats off to whoever thought of this idea. I would have liked to have done this first. But, I admire this innovative and subtle differentiator. This store is now redefining the rules of the game and drawing customers away from a pure pricing play platform.