Saturday 1 November 2008

Customers Pay the Price for Quality and Service

I had some push back on my article "The customer is always right (unless they’re wrong)" where I commented that I felt price ceased to be a major reason for churn for existing customers. It was pointed out to me that although this may be true to a point, brands still needed to reassure their customers that they were receiving a fair price, even if they wouldn’t really know either way. This is evidenced by brands such as Tesco continuing to provide messages on "value" and comparisons to other retailers.

I was then reading an article on Retail Week by Mark Price, MD of Waitrose with the title "Cash-strapped shoppers might be chasing after value, but they can still appreciate quality". He raised the question that in these challenging times and the sudden need to realign around price, how a brand such as Waitrose, with a tradition of quality for over 100 years can reassure about price (and real value) without losing their quality credentials.

He then went on to outline how Waitrose is meeting this challenge by actually investing in their products rather than cutting back and cutting costs. They have invested in the quality of their own brand lines meaning these now stand up well against other own-brand and branded products. This has then been backed up with advertising saying that if you don't enjoy your Waitrose product they will refund and replace it.

To fight the challenge that consumers will naturally think that a "quality" product is automatically going to be more expensive they have introduced subtle ticketing in-store to communicate that they are the same price.

Most interestingly they are also investing in their staff - an area many businesses actually cut back on in hard times, reducing training and staff numbers. By investing in customer service training they are now seeing a 10 percentage point gap on mystery shopping scores between themselves and their closest competitor.

Mark finished of his article stating that they have improved their quality, value and price perceptions over recent months and are holding on to their customers. Waitrose it would seem are doing a good job of retaining their customers by building on the things that customers value – good quality and service – whilst reminding customers that they are still competitive on price.

I still maintain that price is not the number 1 reason for churn despite what customer research may say - but it would seem all brands in these more trying times need to consistently reassure customers that the price paid is fair for the quality and service delivered.

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