Back Office: Service as the New SKU
Given the pressures facing both manufacturers and retailers in today’s CE environment, the search is on for solutions that maximize sales and strengthen margins, without taking on significant expense or overhead. The future of these revenue enhancements will be services, although they may not resemble the services that today’s customers are routinely offered.
Nobody doubts the value of “service” as a product; specialty retailers have been selling it for years in the way of consultation, installation and post-sale support. But at the mass-market level, true customer service has been problematic for the big-box stores that drive most CE purchase activity.
In particular, conceptions of post-sale services have been limited by overemphasis on the in-home visit. Best Buy’s Geek Squad and Circuit City’s Firedog are good first steps in providing needed customer assistance, but most people don’t want the inconvenience and cost of an in-home visit that is in many cases superfluous after the products have been installed. Customers with a problem don’t want to wait for a service appointment costing three figures, only to be shown a menu setting or wire change that easily fixes a simple problem.