- A top-loading fully automatic washing machine is available for `16,000 while a front-load washing machine costs around `30,000. Price for a semi-automatic can start from `8000 onwards, but it is not the acquisition cost alone that a consumer cares about. The educated and experienced buyer includes in his assessment of an electronics product the life time cost as well. Given that the average life of a washing machine is 7–8 years, and the initial warranty offered by most manufacturers is in the range of 1–2 years, the customer needs to plan for the remaining 5–6 years of its life time.
To sweeten the deal, a few manufacturers provide extended warranty for different lengths of time. There are also third parties providing extended warranty and annual maintenance contracts (AMCs). The AMC price includes cost of the parts and services.
In the initial 1–2 years of purchase cushioned by the manufacturer warranty, the customer relationship is in its honeymoon phase, readily forgiving and forgetting the weaknesses of one another. It is when the product enters its third or fourth year that the trouble begins, as the gadget with the wear and tear and environmental impact begins to get more demanding. Only the brand which is able to rise to the occasion is in for a long-term nuptial bond.
So, how can the brands deliver this seamless, disruption-free experience to their customers during the realistic lifetime of the gadget?
- Lean on the modern technologies of artificial intelligence and predictive modeling for providing remote diagnostics. Achieve first time fix! The introduction of technology could start from machine understanding of the fabric and level of dirtiness of clothes to a washing machine bot understanding enough to pick it from the laundry bag to keep it back stashed in the shelves in near future.
- Smart spares management to enable the right visibility and real-time updates of spares movement will win you the brownie points! A single platform, say a fully integrated CRM with most of the courier companies, should be able to give the current status of the movement in just one click to all the stakeholders including the brand, service centers, dealers, and customers as well.
- Communication is the key!
The consumer is buying convenience and you cannot let operational deficiencies and system inefficiencies, or lack of service standardization, come in the way of your relationship with your most important stakeholder! A service partner who has proven record of providing great service for washing machines should be partnered with. The brand must actively manage the services with them, which will create a lasting image in the minds of the customers.
- Time to modernize not only the manufacturing part of your business but also the after-sales services, the phase that touches your customers most. A great product with a superior customer service retains the customers and creates word of mouth, ultimately resulting in higher sales. It may ultimately lead to consistent exponential growth. Timely reviews of the product and problems in the machines should be identified and improved in the next batch or version of the products.
- The human interface. Do not keep your best people in the R&D alone! There is nothing like a team of well-informed, trained, and skilled resources who will be the brand’s face when the customer comes to look you up. An expert in the appliance could be placed well to handle the queries and services related to it. Aspiring team members should be equipped with manuals, training pictures and videos for possible problems and their solutions so they can help the other team members and customers well.
Remember machines will fail; what you can do is minimize the downtime which will eventually make or mar the brand’s reputation in the after-sales services dimension.
The author is Area Service Head – Delhi, Rajasthan, Haryana, 247around