Whatever happened to quality?

Great brands can be tarnished by poor quality products and poor after sales support.

We are careful shoppers; we investigate before we spend our hard earned money on almost everything. We use the principle of "buying the best you can with the resources you have at the time". Yet 2011 has been a bad year for big purchases. We've returned everything from suits to shirts to cameras.

For the most part these goods have been replaced or repaired smoothly and quickly (with the exception of my camera that I am still waiting to be fixed under warranty 45 days later).

But these are all items where there is an expectation of high quality and durability. Waiting for a faulty or damaged product to be fixed or replaced is a colossal waste of time – and in the case of the camera, there have been so many photo opportunities missed that will never happen again.

Will I buy another product from a manufacturer who has supplied a faulty product? Will I buy a product from a store that treats me, the customer, as the problem?

Probably not.

Now don't get me wrong, the customer is NOT always right. But if the customer has used a product for a while and knows how it behaves normally, when something does go wrong the expert is the customer – not the retailer or the manufacturer. To treat them otherwise demeans the customer, and erodes trust in not just the particular retail outlet but the entire brand.

It's difficult to make sure that every product is perfect in every way, but when things go wrong, they must be rectified quickly. If retail/manufacturer staff attitude towards the customer is lacking, it may be time to consider retraining them or closing the doors on your business – word of mouth travels quickly, and it's never been more true than in the age of social media.

Customer service is not just about "selling". It's about an ongoing relationship with your customer. Great after-sale service can turn a bad experience into a positive one for both the customer and the manufacturer. But it all comes down to the attitude of the staff dealing with the customer directly and the manufacturer providing technical support.

There are no substitutes or shortcuts for:

* Great products that people want (not what you want to sell them)
* Great quality control and quality assurance
* Qualified customer support team (knowledgeable, understanding and approachable)
* Great after-sales service and support

Get these simple steps right and you are well on your way to having happy customers.

Paul S Allen blogs at thewaterside.co.nz.