Give Them What They Pay For: Support

The old saying that “you get what you pay for” can be read a few different ways:

  -  A description of the way life works
  -  A motto for merchants to reassure their customers
  -  A consumer demand

If you’re selling a high-end or advanced product that’s more expensive than the alternatives, you’d better make this your promise to customers.

In today’s market, when people pay more, they believe they're buying more than just a better product: they feel the price includes manufacturer support.  They expect customer service they can talk to.  They believe that they’ve paid for technical support they can reach easily, understand, and get useful answers from.  They want confidence that the high-end performance of the product is assured by the price they’ve paid, and support is an integral part of that assurance.

If I buy a bag of ordinary portland cement and I have a problem with it, I figure I’m pretty much on my own.  If I buy a high-end specialty cement, I expect the manufacturer’s Technical Support will help get me out of any problems I have with the product.

A reputation for good customer support is valuable.  It supports the high price of your product.  It's not that easy to establish, but in today's hyperconnected society, it's very easy to destroy.  You need to get your support operation in top shape, and you need to monitor and manage your reputation online in the social media sphere.

Sometimes you have to go the extra mile to establish that rep.  The most impressive example I’ve seen recently is Apple Computer.  Apple sells the top end of personal computers, smartphones and music players.  They charge a pretty big buck, but they have a reputation for well-designed, well made products and killer customer service.

In November, 2011, Apple issued a recall of the 1st generation iPod Nano, a device they stopped making in 2006.  The recall was based on a (rare) problem with the battery overheating.  They promsied to replace the old Nanos.

I sent my old Nano in, and about a month later, I received a replacement: a new 6th generation Nano, a far more advanced gadget with 4X the memory, a radio and a voice recorder built in, and all in a package 1/3 the size of my old one.

Now, I know incontrovertibly that Apple stands behind their stuff.  I know that if I pay more for an Apple product, I won’t get a piece of crap, and I won’t be on my own if it fails because of something Apple did wrong.  If I’m a value shopper, I know that Apple’s high price is also high value.

All high-end manufacturers need to convert their potential customers into value shoppers.  Educating them about the value of the product (i.e. sales & marketing) is one way.  Creating the confidence that the company will support that value in the future is the other.

Thanks, Apple, both for the Nano and the marketing lesson.



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Michael Chusid has been a consultant to over 100 successful organizations in the building products industry. He serves an international clientele from offices in Los Angeles, California.
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