Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Other Shoe Dropping - Redux

Okay, this had originally gone up in a slightly different format on Sunday, and because I wanted a bit more verification, I took it down for a bit, but today I was in communication with the nice folks at the Florida Attorney General's Office and feel that now there is sufficient fact that has sufficiently been checked.

So let's try this again, but with a few modifications.

Things used to be different.  It used to be that watches were made one at a time, by people who really cared about what they were doing.  And this was not down just to the watch maker.  People were fiercely proud of the watch brand that they worked for.  They IDENTIFIED with the company that they worked for, and it was downright shameful if the brand's reputation took a hit.

But it goes deeper than that - there used to be a deeper commitment - a stronger sense of responsibility to the CUSTOMER.  Someone who owns a pretty amazing jewelry store here in California whose opinion I hold quite highly was recounting a series of visits he made to Switzerland and the various factory tours to some of the most celebrated houses in the game.  It was always magical, exciting - a living press release.  Until they came to the after service department which nine times out of ten was a mere afterthought.  While a virtual army worked in R & D, haute horology, gem-setting, etc, after service was usually manned by one or two people, mountains of watches awaiting service - not unlike the shoemaker of the old children's story who was only saved by the elves who came in the middle of the night to complete his work.  I will not try to quote him because he is far more eloquent that I can hope to be, but the gist was:

"Stop worrying about and chasing after the customers you don't have.  Start worrying about taking care of the customers that YOU DO HAVE NOW!".

So back to my previous post and let's talk about YOU - let's talk about the CUSTOMER, let's talk about the way that things should be, and in many instances, sadly, the way that they are.

I'm going to reverse Clint Eastwood's title and we'll call this section the ugly, the bad - and we'll then talk about the good.

The Ugly & Bad (because in my eye they might as well be the same) - I'm sorry, but given the feedback I received today, Invicta - you are in the dog house.  That part is simply my opinion.  And personal opinion is barely worth the price of admission.  So I want to provide a simple, singular piece of  fact -

Invicta is currently under investigation by the Florida Attorney General's Office.  That is a pretty serious thing.  And without giving away too many details, let me boil down what the main thrust of the complaints are - on several documented occasions it is asserted by several consumers that Invicta delivered a defective product and then required their customers to not only pay to return the defective watch, but then made the customer wait what can only be considered unforgivable amounts of time for repairs to be completed.

Only going by what can be read online, and through some of the information I was provided with, I can say that at best Invicta is guilty of producing a sometimes poorly made watch.  But more and more it seemed to go much deeper than that.  Poor after sales support, customers chided, treated badly, hung up on, dismissed or ignored.  Repairs taking half of a year?  Repair costs exceeding the original purchase price of a watch?  And let's be clear, we are not talking about restoring a vintage Vacheron with parts needing to be fabricated, we are talking about large scale production of items of which we can assume hundreds, if not thousands were made and sold.

Let's talk about why.   As frequent readers will know (all 12 of you) I've worked just about every side of the counter in the watch game - retail, distribution, etc.  I've enjoyed the sweet aromatic pleasures of the roses of success, and I've choked on the stench emanating from the underbelly of underachievement and excuse making.  And I learned one important thing.  Taking care of your customers is not a question of winning or losing - although sadly many folks in the industry at the high end and the low end think that way.  It is not a question of winning or losing.  Want to know why?

As soon as you have an unhappy customer - you have lost.  Period.  End film, roll credits.

But you haven't COMPLETELY lost...

Now enter the good.  Jean-Claude Biver taught a MASTER CLASS on sales, marketing and public relations this past week - and he did it with ONE single online post on a watch forum.  In a post on a watch forum that took him maybe five minutes to write and post, he not only ensured that his customer was taken care of and satisfied, he ensured that anyone coming within a mile of that customer, or anyone else who read the post would know about it.  It is the rule of 3/33.  Have a great experience, you'll tell 3 friends about it.  Have a terrible experience - you'll tell 33.  Let's just say that my assumption is that a thousand more people know about this customer's bad experience.  But in fact, Hublot won the war!


Simple.  Customer said he was unhappy, Mr. Biver got online and without asking for:
1.  Retailer
2.  Date of purchase
3.  Blood type

simply said - I will take care of this.  You have my word.  You can BANK ON IT.  And in this instance, Mr. Biver proved that in losing - having a customer complain - you could actually WIN.  Hublot now has a customer for life, and moreover they have proven that they care and will do whatever it takes.

I would love to tell you that I am rich, powerful, and could own any watch I desired.  That would be the worst sort of prevarication.  By day I work in a university, making sure your kids have the funds they need to complete their college education.  By night and very early morning I write about watches and the people who make them.  One thing I do to make a living, one thing I do because I really enjoy it.  I will (unless the elves come in one night with a LOTTO ticket with the right 6 numbers) never own an Hublot.  And this didn't used to concern me.  But in all honestly now I'd really like to own one.  And it is not because the watch is made from "unobtainium".  It is not because the dial was varnished with the tears of "Arcadian nymphs".  It is because Mr. Biver has said that he will stand behind it, and I have his word on it.  That used to mean something.   Let's hope we get back to a time where it will again.

Enjoy your watches.

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