Thursday, February 08, 2007

What Happened to Business Pride?

There was a time when a business would stand behind it's products and service. They would give guarantee's to entice customers. But those guarantee's were based on their confidence in their products and service, not in just getting the most out of customers.

Recently, my wife and I noticed that one of the tire's on our car probably needed to be replaced because of possible damage. We checked our warranty and saw that at least three of the tires were still under warranty, including the damaged one. So we took it to National Tire and Battery (NTB) to get them to look at it, and replace the damaged tire, and the worn tires.

They said the the warranty was only to repair damaged tires. If the tire can not be repaired, then they would replace with a comparable tire. We reexamined our warranty and showed the guy where it said that NTB will replace any damaged or worn tires that are under this warranty—which we had purchased as a special warranty-plus package.

The man went to the manager at this point. Then the manager came out explaining that they can't honor the warranty. We said, "Why not?" And his response was that when they were owned by Sears they were using the Sears warranty. But now they are no longer with Sears, so they don't use that warranty anymore.

We said, "So. Why can't you honor your own warranty?" They went on to say that we must pay for new tires, and the damaged tire looked fine to them—it was only surface damage.

I responded that I thought that they couldn't do that legally. The manager paused and thought about it. Then he decided to comply with our request to honor the warranty, even though he didn't want to.

My wife and I discussed this which each other later. It didn't make sense to penalize us for their business decisions. We paid for the extra warranty, and we saw no reason to refuse to honor it. A warranty is a covenant promise we made with NTB, not with Sears—even if Sears had owned them or not. We as customers don't care about the organizational structure. We were dealing with the NTB brand.

A good brand delivers on its promises. Why do we even have to purchase warranties in the first place? Why don't companies have confidence in their own products and simply stand behind them? What makes it a good idea to view the customer as the adversary? Customers do not exist to simply make businesses rich. A potential customer is a person who exists and lives for purposes higher than an any company's goals. Therefore, businesses exists to solve people's problems, not the other way around.

A good brand is a promise of value to a potential customer, client, or other business. A good brand is a reputation of trust and quality. A good brand is reliable. A good brand is "worth" communicated through actions.

The business goals need to reflect these things before anything else. Yes, businesses need to make money. But when making the money becomes the reason for existence, that business has already lost their value in the eyes of their potential customers. Making money is the result of a good brand, not of out-maneuvering customers.

This is one of the main reasons logos are not branding. Logos reflect a brand, like a signature reflects a person.
A logo's equity is built on the reputation of what it represents. If you have a dishonest person, their signature isn't worth much. If you have a business that no longer serves its core function, their logo is either meaningless or an object of scorn. Remember Enron?

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