18 February 2010

A Few Notes on Understanding Your Consumers

Recently we had an interesting experience with an electronics company that we will just call “Pony” for the sake of this post.

Long story short we purchased a baby monitor made by “Pony” and it had to get mailed in for either repair or replacement. The process went something like this:
  • Call “Pony” and find out we need to mail it in.
  • Call “Pony” back to convince them that they should really be paying for shipping.
  • Wait for mailing label.
  • Box up monitor and mail out with mailing label via UPS.
  • Wait for it to be delivered.
  • Wait for the techs to evaluate it and get back to us.
  • Hear back that it has been repaired and will be mailed back to us.
  • Wait for UPS to ship it here.
  • Arrange complex meet up with UPS guy since “Pony” data entry is almost as good as TRICARE’s and our address was incorrect on the package.
  • Discover that “Pony” did not repair our old one, but sent us a new one, in an upgraded model.
This whole process took about 6 weeks. That seemed like an awfully long time to be without a baby monitor. Thankfully I could still use the old crappy one and just deal with the static, we called it “white noise” to soothe my tired neurons, but it got me thinking. While it was completely unacceptable, in my opinion, to make a parent go without an item that some might consider a safety necessity for this amount of time, it is a completely acceptable process for most of “Pony’s” other products.

The bottom line is that level of customer service that is acceptable in most cases is very different from the level required when dealing with that dreaded consumer group: Parents. Here is a prime example what happens when a company tries to get in on the very lucrative business of parenting, but does not fully understand the requirements to do so. Many would be fine getting their laptop or DVD player fixed on this time-line, but not a parent. Oh no. When you depend on an item for your peace of mind as you watch over your precious miracle(s), you want it yesterday. If this item had been one of my Britax car seats, the wheel on my Baby Jogger or the clip on my Ergo, the required fix would have been in the mail, ready to be overnight delivered, before the call to customer service was even over. There is, apparently, a reason why companies that make kids stuff make kids stuff and companies that make everything else should stick with making everything else.

On an end note: the monitor they sent worked perfectly right out of the box and has all the wonderful amenities I desired. Additionally, the replacement they sent us is the “two receivers” version versus the single we sent in. Whether it was an intentional upgrade or just another example of how “Pony” has no clue what they are doing…I don’t really care. In this particular case, all’s well that ends well. However, I will probably not be buying any more “Pony” products in the near future, especially not if said products fall into the category of “kid crap.”

Lessons learned for businesses:

  1. Know your target audience, and their expectations, because they pay you.
  2. Don’t try and break into markets you cannot properly support, no matter how lucrative they may be.
  3. The devil really is in the details. Date entry matters.
  4. And last but not least:
  5. Don’t get into Baby/Kid stuff unless you are prepared to deal with a whole new breed of demanding, neurotic and self-entitled consumers known as parents.