Tuesday, February 3, 2015

What we Want to Believe...

So I just finished reading the latest blog entry from the well-respected CEO of a smaller, independent Swiss watch brand.  While a fair bit of what he had to say was spot on, a lot of it just didn't ring true for me.  This is not to imply that what he said was false, because no doubt he truly believes what he is saying.  It is to say, however, that coming from a certain perspective we tend to believe what we want to believe.

As the freshly minted owner of my own brand, I can agree that there is nothing easy in this choice of business.  But having worked for and with a few brands as well as in other industries (including coffee), I can also say that the challenges are in fact no different than those faced in just about any other industry.

I will share with you what I think is wrong with the industry - our industry, and I encourage reader participation here!

Today's topic is:

1.  Unrealistic Expectations -
These exist on several levels and with several "shareholders".

The watch customer believes that "that right watch" is going to change everything!  He'll lose weight. That promotion he's been after will fall into place.  His kids will grow into normal functioning adolescents who can sit still in the same area code for more than 1 minute.  In short, he will be that good looking fellow in the Patek Philippe ad.  Beautiful chronograph on his wrist, tow-headed young scamp by his side actually listing to ANYTHING he has to say.   Essentially the life that we all felt sure we would have, that we now see rapidly disappearing down the lobby of broken dreams.  But more importantly, the customer believes that the watch (regardless of price point) is going to work flawlessly, is impervious to any sort of manufacturing defect or real-life damage.  The customer has oftentimes lost sight of the reality that it is an imperfect world, and sometimes things happen.  This disillusionment can fan into downright frustration, anger and agitation when a service issue rears its ugly head.  Remember the watch store that called you once a week until you bought that moon-phase chronograph?  Now they are avoiding your call like the boyfriend/girlfriend that they just broke up with.  You are a "service" concern now and not their problem.  And to be clear, expecting the retail partner to take care of you after you bought something from them is NOT an unrealistic or unfair expectation.  It is, however, unrealistic in the current business climate of sales first, service when we get around to it.

The watch salesperson - who let's face it, might have a tow-headed young scamp of his/her own that they want to make sure doesn't end up in reform school.  They need to make the sale.  Moreover, chances are quite good that in fact, your watch salesperson knows about as much about a perpetual calendar as your Cocker Spaniel (and point of full disclosure, me).  I'm right there with your Cocker Spaniel - I am no authority about complications, etc.  No offense to the dog, she works for kibble.

There are a handful of TRULY AMAZING watch sales people out there.  But this is more of a calling for them than a way to pay the rent.  Those who are good and whose talents are recognized can do very, very well.  Those who are phoning it in (and sadly it is likely those are the folks who you might be dealing with) will manage to hit every "frustration button" that you own.  But in fairness, this was not their calling, it is not their "vocation".  It is a job. The point being that the good old days when you could count on your salesperson actually knowing everything that you do (and more) are probably gone.  But in fairness - that is merely an indication that your passion and interest are highly attuned.  The Internet, watch magazines, interest groups, etc. have empowered you as a customer to know A LOT about a potential purchase.  But it is also important that we then align our expectations with reality.   Take what a typical salesperson will be paid, multiply it by your highly developed knowledge, then divide that by the store overhead... you can see where I'm going with this.  As I said, there are some truly amazing sales people out there.  You just might not get the opportunity to meet them.  I worked for Tourneau and enjoyed my time, but realized that it was, at best, a hustle to make your sales goals.  I would like to see the truly exceptional sales people be recognized.  Maybe some day...

The watch brand who wants you to believe that there is this unbelievably close relationship between you and them... but let's face facts.  You are a number.  They are not here to hold your hand and make you feel "empowered" or "fulfilled" by your purchase AFTER you buy the watch.  The only exception to that I have seen is Jean-Claude Biver's participation in the various Hublot fora.  He is the "exceptional exception".  Sadly, he is truly one of a kind in this sense.

Otherwise, those "affirmations" were provided for you during the "courtship" phase when you saw each other across a crowded room.    the honeymoon is over.  You bought the idea of the watch and what the watch represented.  Sorry, but there typically isn't "couples therapy" for watch & dissatisfied watch buyer.

The REAL OWNERS of the watch brand think a brand is making all of the decisions?  Think again!  The real people calling the shots (albeit sometimes indirectly) the various boards of directors who are responding to the stock.  Wonder why a seemingly very famous brand with very expensive watches has a "boat-load" of them for sale through grey-market channels?  Simple - produce more, therefore you sell more.  Not always.  But the beauty of the grey-market is that it still counts as a sale!  The board is happy because the CEO listened to their plan.  The CEO is happy because he/she manufactured and sold the watches.  The Brand Manager is happy because he/she hit their sales targets.  The independent retail partner who is dealing fairly - ordering, paying co-op advertising fees, and NOT dumping their watches at 30 - 40% off - well, that's their problem.  And the customer who paid full retail?  Perhaps the less said the better.

But there is a solution!  Stay tuned!

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