We continue our survey of the best and worst of customer services as experienced by the customer-facing retailers with the second part of the article that started in Europa Star April/May issue.
Jeremy Oster, owner (Denver, Colorado, USA):
- Melissa and Jeremy Oster
“After-sales service is extremely important to us. We will not carry a brand that does not value their customers or do not invest in superior service.” Jeremy Oster
After-sales service is so important and it can even turn a negative into a positive. I have been fortunate to work with exceptional companies who really care about their clients. A couple of years ago we sold a freshly received Audemars Piguet Offshore Rubberclad. The customer had only enjoyed the watch for one day when a problem occurred. Of course, we were highly embarrassed.
We sent the watch overnight to AP and received it back within three days with the problem resolved!!! You can’t ask for better than that. The customer was thrilled with not just Audemars Piguet but also us for making the right phone calls to make this happen.
One time we had an issue with a brand new, ultra complicated watch. After waiting months for delivery the watch arrived and was not working. There was a loose component floating in the movement, visible through the sapphire back. We sent it back and the company wanted to charge us to send it to Switzerland to have it repaired! The customer hadn’t even seen the watch yet and they were trying to charge us to fix their problem!
Finally, the watch came back to us and one of the numerals had fallen off the dial!! Of course, I advised the client not to accept this piece and to cancel the order. The customer was appreciative.
This was not a small or obscure brand. However, the lesson is simple: be very careful with cutting-edge complications. For high complications there is a reason why brands such as Audemars Piguet are in such high demand. You can count on the quality and the testing that has taken place before deliveries begin. Our customers enjoy the superior level of service and better attention to timeliness and clear communication. Our service experience tends to be a positive for our clients.
We mostly work with independent watch brands as opposed to the massive groups. As a result, we have had excellent experiences and far more personal service. After-sales service is extremely important to us. We will not carry a brand that does not value their customers or do not invest in superior service. We will absolutely stop carrying a brand if we do not have 100% confidence in their after sales service.
Hakan Ulucan, technical service director (Turkey):
One of our customer’s watches had been repaired three times but it was broken again due to the same reason, and he wanted to return the watch. But, the service technician indicated that the malfunction was due to mishandling by the customer.
Unfortunately, the customer wasn’t convinced. I decided to meet him at our head office to show him our after-sales service department, which is a lab where timepiece experts examine all defects and repair them. After the tour, he was very impressed. Then, I explained how to handle his watch to avoid problems in the future. He understood very well, received his repaired timepiece and never complained again. He even bought a gift for his wife from a Saat&Saat store two days later. We gained his trust and loyalty thanks to our quick response and face-to-face communication.
- Saat&Saat (Turkey)
“After-sales service is the most important thing that ensures our customers’ loyalty.” Hakan Ulucan
A good after-sales experience can increase brand loyalty, customer confidence and brand awareness. Excellent service doesn’t only reinforce the relationships with customers who already feel loyal to a retailer; it can also defuse ill will and dissatisfaction. After-sales service is the most important thing that ensures our customers’ loyalty; selling something once is not important in our business, we must ensure permanent customers.
Allison Newbauer Strongin, Vice President (Miami, Florida, USA):
- Allison Newbauer Strongin
“Ultimately a good experience or a bad experience reflects on our store more than the brand itself.” Allison Newbauer Strongin
One of the biggest challenges we are facing is to keep our customers happy, as they often expect their timepieces back from repair or service within a few days.
We have to educate our clients to understand why quality requires patience. All the Swiss companies certainly adhere to the philosophy ‘haste makes waste’ and they take the necessary time for disassembling, cleaning, reassembling and thoroughly testing the movements before they are sent back to us.
In addition to the required time, it’s also a matter of resources: Patek Philippe for example has a limited number of certified watchmakers on staff here in the US, yet they are able to deliver on the high expectations. To mitigate possible frustrations we constantly update our clients about the progress of the service.
The after-sales experience is one of the most important factors in retaining our customers as well as gaining new ones. For the client who has purchased at our store, knowing you will be well taken care of for servicing, warranty issues, and any other issue that may arise, is a huge incentive to return to do future business with us. It is what helps set us apart from our competition. When people have a great experience at a business, they typically share this with friends and family. Word of mouth is one of the most powerful vehicles that drives new business to our store.
Clients place the responsibility for the after-sales experience in the store’s hands, so it is imperative that the companies we represent offer the same level of service when we have to send products to them for servicing and warranty issues. Ultimately a good experience or a bad experience reflects on our store more than the brand itself.
Paul Sheeran (Dublin,Ireland):
- Paul Sheeran
“My worst experience wins hands down: a 150,000 euro watch was back in the brand’s service department for 10 of the first 12 months the customer had it.” Paul Sheeran
I would have to pay compliments to three brands IWC, Breitling and TAG Heuer, for appreciating and understanding the annoyance of our customers in the event that they had a problem under warranty.
They have always dealt with these at speed and looked at it as both of our problem to solve rather than just my problem!
- Sheeran Jewelers (Dublin, Ireland)
My worst experience wins hands down: a 150,000 euro watch was back in the brand’s service department for 10 of the first 12 months the customer had it. We had to do a refund to satisfy our client and were told by the brand representative that it’s our problem, sell it to someone else! They still couldn’t find what was wrong with the watch! How can you expect a retailer to take that sort of money off people with that attitude? It’s just wrong!
I have a very solid sense of right and wrong and believe it is my duty to be fair. But ultimately I can’t see my business suffer due to a lack of front line understanding by some brands. So sometimes I have to take it for the team rather than see my store’sname tarnished. Generally an unhappy customer is no longer your customer and ultimately bad after-sales service does affect how you sell.
Good after sales service is vital to a successful sales business and we have regularly turned negatives in to profitable situations.
Armen Darakjian (Birmingham, Michigan, USA):
- Armen Darakjian
“We are all intertwined from the manufacturer all the way down to the end user. Like the old saying goes: you’re only as strong as your weakest link.” Armen Darakjian
The key to service in all aspects of this business is the effectiveness of the deliverable. We are all intertwined from the manufacturer all the way down to the end user. Like the old saying goes: you’re only as strong as your weakest link.” The luxury timepiece business is exactly that; luxury.
My BEST after sales service experience is as follows: I was selling a mid-range ($12,000), not mainstream timepiece to a client. Committed to delivering the story of the brand and presenting the piece in all of its glory with all its attributes, and answering any questions the client has about “why this brand over that brand” – everything was going perfectly. It was the client’s first time in our store and the process was not only getting him comfortable with the brand but also with Darakjian Jewelers as the local expert on fine timepieces. We believe there needs to be at least a cursory knowledge of all brands comparable or how else can you service the client fully with their questions.
That being said, the client was excited, felt comfortable and made the purchase. Unfortunately, soon after the purchase, approximately 2 weeks later the watch was running extremely fast and the crown came off. The hiccup was the client bought this as his wife’s early anniversary gift to him and they were leaving town for the celebration in two days. She would be crushed if he didn’t wear it on the trip. I told the brand the issue not in a negotiating format but just informational. To my surprise the brand wanted to make this couple’s anniversary that much more special and sent a replacement piece, an extra strap and two hats and golf shirts. This blew me away and eventually blew my client away! Made a client for life and so did the brand. Not that every repair needs a replacement watch at all.
There just needs to be some accountability from the brand for their pieces in an expeditious way. And this is a great example of that responsibility be taken. The worst after-sales service doesn’t have to be isolated to higher end products in our business. We’re a business that trains and effectively implements the process of add-on sales. It’s a service to the client and we believe that forecasting the needs of the client by asking the right questions allows for a better experience for the end-user. From inexpensive brands to the best of the best, the most contagious inefficiency plagues many. Let’s start first with straps.
When a client has to wait months for a strap, for example, the joy of buying the new piece is slowly diminished. I’ve waited up to three months for a long strap for a $15,000+ timepiece. In all that time, the client couldn’t even wear his new purchase.
The retailer’s responsibly is to the client just as the brand’s responsibility should be to the retailer promoting their brand. The BEST experiences definitely gain clients on both levels. The retailer shines as the ambassador of the brand and the brand shines as a brand that is conscious of the end-user and cares about their experience and their integrity. No one buys a watch and doesn’t care if it works, even a watch for a few hundred dollars.
Every client no matter what the budget wants and needs to feel special. It’s our responsibility to make sure that happens. You never know when the person buying a watch for $150 will be in next buying a watch for $5,000+, for example. We don’t judge and we don’t assume.
Jack “Jacky” Gomberoff (Peru):
- Jack Gomberoff
“Customer service should be the most natural part of any business.” Jack Gomberoff
We have had a lot of great experiences, most of the brands are trying to do right by the customers – we have witnessed a lot of improvement. Once, a watch presented a problem after three months, so we went to the owner of this family-owned brand and explained the importance of the customer and she authorized the immediate replacement.
That afternoon a new watch was already on its way, including a beautiful pen with a personal note from the owner. That customer sold his company a year later to a multinational for several million dollars and he bought himself a watch from the same brand for almost half a million dollars.
Our worst experience was with a quartz watch from a very prestigious brand. The watch came back three times in one year: the first time we replaced the battery; the second time we replaced the mechanism; the third time we replaced the watch.
Four months later, the new watch stopped again.
The customer wanted her money back so we upgraded her to the same watch in an automatic version. Six months later, the watch was running slow, so she brought back the watch and asked for her money back.
We refunded her money and swore never to buy this brand again.
An excellent customer service experience can create loyal customers for life who are willing to refer your business to friends, family, and colleagues. We had a client that wanted to discredit us in social media with negative comments, because she had a bad experience with watch service, but her comment was immediately offset by the good comments of different clients that had experienced great service at G&G Joyeros.
We didn’t know we had our own natural ambassadors explaining the procedures to the client. We felt really relieved knowing that 11 years making good service a pillar in our company had built great long-term relationships.
- G&G Joyeros (Peru)
Customer service should be the most natural part of any business. You offer a product that people want, and you do your best to keep them happy so that they become lifetime customers. Nowadays, competition is spreading across borders and with great service you can make a difference. Providing customer service starts with a genuine desire by us to delight our customers, but you also have to think beyond selling your product or service. You need to consider the cumulative experience your customers have when they visit your store, what they think and feel, and what you can do to make it better. Providing exceptional after-sales service is just one of the pillars of G&G Joyeros.
Many thanks to the retailers around the world who took the time to answers our questions and to share their experiences with the Europa Star readership. If you have an interesting after-sales service experience for editorial consideration, either very good or very bad, please email: [email protected]
Source: Europa Star August - September 2014 Magazine Issue