Apple’s New Laptops

pexels-photoWhat’s up with Apple? As a company they have always had a reputation for being out front and ahead of the curve. Up til now!
Their revently announced new laptops are the same as the old ones except for a few (seemingly pointless ) gizmos. Does it matter. I think it does because these are the laptops that creatives and fashion leaders use and it from them that Apple’s reputation has been built. The response from them has been underwhelming to say the least just at the same moment as the boring company Microsoft seems to be getting its shit together with the various iterations of the Surface line.

Branding and reputation are subtle and nuanced and the deterioration of a brand starts many years before it is really evident on the street. Over the past two years, it feels as though Apple have kept missing the bulls eye with their launches. The iPhones have been underwhelmingly received, the apple watch seems moribund – almost a joke in some circles and now the laptops seem forgettable.

Update:

see the cries of horror from the key constituency – designers, creatives and “makers” whose schutzpah drives the underlying meaning of the Apple brand!

New MacBook Pros and the State of the Mac

Skype Fails. Microsoft Blamed…

The widespread outage of the absolutely necessary Skype internet communicator that impacted most Windows users today could not have come at a worse time for Microsoft as the bloggers and tweeters of the world rose up to blame Microsoft rather than skype programmers. What is it with tech people that they so frequently hate Microsoft above all other technology companies. Why does MS have such a damaged and unloved reputation for messing things up?  Continue reading “Skype Fails. Microsoft Blamed…”

Bad Customer Service? 82% of customers will leave you!

Brand value is all about what people experience of the product and customer service. The Customer Experience Impact Report reveals that finally it boils down to customer service and 82% of customers will leave you because of bad customer service.

Continue reading “Bad Customer Service? 82% of customers will leave you!”

Marks & Spencers in Salad Salt Shocker

High street retailer Marks & Spencer must be hoping that all their excess salt will help preserve their image as recent reports have found that the retail behemoth sell 7 out of the 10 most salty salads in town.

Health conscious people of Britain who rely on high street supermarkets such as M&S for a healthier alternative to the masses of fast food outlets available, and are now learning that their “healthier option” might be anything but. The study of 270 salad dishes surveyed by Consensus Action on Salt and Health (Cash), found only six contained less salt than a packet of crisps. Results also suggested that one-tenth of all the salads had more salt than the 2.1g contained in a Big Mac burger.

This news will probably let the patrons of McDonalds feel a little smug, but what have Marks & Spencer have to say on the matter? Claire Hughes, M&S’s nutritionist, had the following to say…

The Cash study misleads consumers regarding the actual level of salt content in the salads. She added that all the different pack sizes are clearly labelled, and that M&S is committed to providing a range of choices for consumers when it comes to what they want to eat.

So Claire Hughes clearly doesn’t care what adverse effects their ‘healthy foods’ are having on their customers. How concerned should people be though? Cash campaign manager Katharine Jenner said: “Many choose salad as a healthy and convenient lunch, particularly when watching their waistline.

“Rather than feeling healthy, however, they often feel bloated and sluggish, symptoms of water retention which can be caused by the hidden salt in these salads.

“In the long term the health problems are more serious, as salt intake is linked to osteoporosis and high blood pressure. Given the healthy image of salads it’s surprising to find that they contain such high levels of unnecessary salt.”

So… osteoporosis? High blood pressure? These aren’t things that your customers should be worried about, Claire? Your ‘Taste of Asia’ salad has a salt level of 2.81g – that’s almost as much as 6 packets of crisps, and 0.71g more than a Big Mac burger. The Food Standards Agency (FSA) recommends adults eat no more than 6g of salt a day – about a teaspoonful – to minimise the risk of high blood pressure, stroke and heart disease. People eating an M&S salad are almost half-way there!

Also guilty of flogging high-salt content salads are usual suspects KFC, McDonalds and other supermarket chains Tesco and Waitrose, and the fact that of the 270 salads studied only 6 contained less salt than a packet of crisps, is bound to have customers thinking twice about their diet. As yet though, only M&S has responded with any official statement – and an extremely nonchalant one at that.

So attention, salad lovers. They’re not just salty; they’re M&S salty.

Seeing Red with Orange

Orange launched its brand as a soft fuzzy, the future is orange. Well, not with me after spending a morning on the phone trying to understand a bill that includes charges for phones lost two years ago, “orange care” for a handset that does not exist and payments made that have been lost… it is apparent that if the future is orange then it is pretty bleak.

What is clear from 90 minutes on the phone is that the Orange experience has changed substantially from those early optmistic days when they promised to look after you to becoming a large corporation with set in stone processes that we the customer have to follow.  The experience got me thinking about how a brand and a reputation interact and how the one can affect the other.

Trying to work out the meaning of an eight page statement is the first problem. The second problem I encountered is that I get phoned by Orange to try to upsell me, but they did nothing to save me money or warn me about charges being incurred that made absolutely no sense – for example having an insurance package for a handset that does not exist. I also realised that I had to follow their processes if I wanted to get things done. In other words they break the central tenet of being customer-centric: instead of folding their processes around me, I have to work around them. When you have been charged for two years for a phone that does not exist you would expect them to have documentation, but no they dont…. but this is my fault and not theirs. In other words I had to prove that I did not want the phone as they could not prove that I did want it.

Most reputation issues start with failing processes in a company and those processes most frequently fail as a company’s internal processes get structured around internal efficiencies and cost savings and increasingly not around the customer.  Some times it can more malicious than that as company’s deliberately processes to confuse customers (known in business theory as “confusion pricing”) such as when a company sends you an eight page statement which is difficult to understand or follow.  So I could be malevolent and say that Orange is running a business scam (aka headline Orange Mobile Phone Scam) but it is not that. It is simply a growing culture where customers as a group matter, but as an individual you don’t matter any more.  Of course as individuals we matter much more than the group, since it is not the group who complains but the individual as I am doing right now.

Few consumers believe brand advertising anymore and we rely on friends for advice. It is to our tech friends that we turn for advice on what we should buy or not buy. As one of those early adopter types, I often get asked what I think. Well, Orange does not get my vote now.

These experiences are wake up calls, so now I am studying my account online and also thinking about how I want to use mobiles in future. Of course like a lot of mobile users in the UK, I am signed into a long account (in my case 18 months!) which severely limits my leverage over the company.

What did Orange do wrong? They simply treated an issue as my problem and not theirs. Junior members of the team were responsible for managing the account and I had not way of speaking to anybody more senior ( an increasingly common problem with telecoms and contact centre based companies) and so there is no easy way for me to resolve the problem. Solution is to scale back my account and then actually close it at the first opportunity.  So in a few months time, it is is bye bye Orange and I will choose my new supplier carefully.

Some Companies Pay Attention… Land Rover & Quality

Do Land Rover fit together right?

Following the post of the weekend on Land Rover and the JD Powers IQS Survey, Jaguar Land Rover North America (the company name) responded with a more detailed rebuttal which I have quoted below in part (which I hope is okay with them). Two things interest me: they responded that fast which shows that they are paying attention to commentary and they responded in person. In other Jaguar Land Rover are reaching out to people who might be influencers.

I wanted to acknowledge reading your blog post on the J.D. Power quality ranking.  Given our ranking, I guess we deserve random shots from afar, so no argument from me.  I do want to share with you our position on the matter and give you some background on the survey itself.
The IQS survey measures customers’ reactions to how their vehicles’ function, such as in our case, the ease of closing and opening of a rear trunk, hatch and glove box, as well as items that require fixes, such as software updates for the Hands Free Communication System.  Issues raised by owners do not specifically indicate malfunctions or build quality issues, but do represent a concern or dislike.  There was no indication from J.D. Power that there were actual mechanical or driving problems, such as transmission failures.  Frankly, the issues that arose were more annoying, than impactful on their reliability.  Nothing to be proud of, but certainly the light-hearted imagery you portray of customers constantly driving to garages is misleading.

On a positive note from this year’s survey, the Range Rover model was actually honored as a top rated quality vehicle in its segment.  And in 2009, Jaguar placed tops in the industry for J.D. Power three year reliability (VDS).  Also, our brands generally score well on J.D. Power’s APEAL survey, as well as overall sales and customer satisfaction surveys.  Which basically means that while our vehicles might have some issues that pop up on this survey, those are strongly overshadowed by their overall great performance and design, as well as the desirability of the ownership experience.  Nonetheless, we strive to do better.

In terms of the actual issues reported in this IQS survey, be assured actions are being taken.  We have measures in place through the dealers to address most of the “fix” issues highlighted in the survey.  In relation to the design issues, our team is committed to analyzing the comments and flowing these into future product considerations. Some criticized design items are already scheduled for improvement.

Delivering wonderful automobiles and ownership experiences is our top commitment. We can do better, but we also know that our customers generally love their automobiles and the service they recieve.

Please feel free to let me know if you have any questions about our company. …

There is some sense of humour in the opening which is great as so many companies respond to criticism with a blank denial or a no comment. (Given our ranking, I guess we deserve random shots from afar, so no argument from me.) They also have a positive take on the survey and a rebuttal in terms of quality as in top rated quality vehicle in its segment.

What can we understand from the two sides? The IQS reveals that Land Rover owners are affected by lots of little niggles with their vehicle which LandRover assures are being addressed with a proviso that underlying design faults or mechanical faults are few are far between. Do Land Rover buyers expect too much from their vehicles? Interesting that Porsche was at the top of the survey when they have never been considered especially reliable, but then owners expect the car to be a bit of handful. Is there an issue with build quality or is this dealer delivery for Land Rover?

Is it coincidence that Jaguar and Land Rover are at the bottom (with Mini and Mitsubishi)? Remember that this is a consumer survey so Land Rover Reputation Managers will be aware that this is their customers’ doing the talking which suggests that maybe they need to reach out to them more and shape their perceptions more.  If the faults are small and nebulous, how can Land Rover ensure that their owners are unconcerned by them. Furthermore the issue is critical for Land Rover: the design is excellent, cachet undoubted, brand positioning spot on, but continued issues with quality will undermine all that excellent work.  Land Rover has been plagued by issues of mechanical failure and poor dealer and service (see landroverhell.com for an especially angry example from continental Europe, my business partner experienced some of this as well in Scotland.)

End of Term Report for Land Rover: your communications team is on the spot, but service and customer perception needs work.

Land Rover’s Quality – Not an Issue!

J.D.Power’s 2010 US Initial Quality Study does make not bedtime reading for Land Rover Executives as their cars perform worst of all surveyed cars. (see graphic) Not just worse a little worse but substantially worse than their next rival Mitsubishi. Is this a problem for Land Rover? Not necessarily as there are two types of Land Rover owner: those who buy for prestige and those who buy for performance. Those who buy for prestige and who opt for Range Rovers do not seem to care about the quality and love the Columbian Cartel chic. There is another type of owner who buys the Discovery because it is practical for shopping and the kids (these are the people who think the streets are a mini Beirut where driving a tank is your only hope of survival) and for them, the constant gearbox failures and wonky electronics will turn them off the brand for life. Bad news for new owner Tata.

JD Power 2010 IQS Survey

A quick glance tells you something else: British car manufacturers still don’t get quality with Jaguar and Mini in the bottom five. That makes three out of five for British cars: enviable, NOT. The interesting thing to note is that these are prestige cars without an awesome reputation for design and style (except maybe for the Jaguar). They are bought for looks and possibly not for reliability. However, we have been here before with English cars… poor mechanics impacting long term sales. The Japanese built their market on reliability and service and the British lost their for the same reason.

What does the survey tell us: that owners of Land Rovers are more pissed off than other owners after 90 days!  Closely followed by Mini. One reason may be that there is a perception in the market of quality which is not experienced. Bad news: early problems are predictors of long term problems with a car. Next time a Range Rover Vogue with darkened windows swooshes past you, remember, he is probably just driving to the garage!