The Changing Customer
Recently, I received a call from a custom retailer in the Midwest. He commented that there was no conversation on how customers are changing. This dealer believes his customers are changing, and not necessarily for the good. To paraphrase his comments, he said: I have not seen any mention by you or anyone else on the changes of how customers are dealing with custom retailers.
Customers are not the same as they were years ago. They are abusive, they lie, they try and take advantage of every possible situation that may or may not be the result of anything a dealer has sold or service performed in the customer’s home.
This dealer was clearly upset over the changing customer. He said customers were buying used products on Internet sites like eBay, and when the customers had problems, they expected their local dealer to take care of them.
In speaking with other custom retailers, everyone acknowledged that the customer is changing in many fundamental aspects of how they purchase products and the service they expect from their dealers. One dealer lamented that customers no longer had the same moral standards and integrity they had years ago.
Any of this sound familiar? Here are some consistent remarks made by almost all the dealers I spoke with: Expectations are higher. Customers have less patience in working through problems. They certainly don’t want to pay for a finished job when the product is not working to their satisfaction.
According to some dealers, there are also customers that will never be satisfied. If there is any issue at all, they continue to negotiate the bill down. In fact, one dealer believes that some customers negotiate downward before the product is even delivered.
The integration of systems is far more complex. HDMI didn’t exist with its associated connectivity issues years ago; the old reliable component video connection was the hookup of choice. Today, there are more choices in how all of this is connected. Different remotes, automation, cable boxes, different resolutions on displays, different aspect ratios, even the use of sources such as iPods, Internet radio, networking, phone, etc.
Products are commodities. For a few brief years, we had the luxury of selling new technology at historically high prices. 42” plasmas at $8,000-$10,000 was rarefied air for video displays of that size for a customer. The traditional 32”-36” cathode ray tube set at $2,500 was not the norm for these customers. These plasmas were being sold by specialists—not by Wal-Mart, Costco or Target. That bubble of being “the place” where you got the flat-screen TV has now spread to virtually anyone capable of selling a $1,000 product.