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Monday, May 16, 2011

Lessons in customer role, from a chainsaw company.

In the summer months, I'll often throw my local Kansas City Royals baseball game on the TV to serve as background noise as I settle into my evening routine.

One of the advertisers on the local broadcast – Stihl – a chainsaw manufacturer, gets experience and customer role well enough to mention, even though I don’t own a Stihl chainsaw, nor am I likely to anytime soon.

The ad is for a dealership promotional period, but doesn’t offer a price discount. It doesn’t even offer suggestions on where they can be found beyond, "your local Stihl dealer".

Instead, it talks about the quality of the product, reinforces the quality of the product, and closes with the quality of the product. Somewhere in the middle, they mention that if a customer purchases a 6-pack of oil with the chainsaw, Stihl will double the warranty period.

Tremendous service marketing from a product company.

The logic is simple: If a customer buys the oil, they’ll either use it or they won’t.

Most people that buy a six pack of oil will likely use some, if not all of it. Doing so inherently lengthens the life of the chainsaw. So for those that use it, they get a customer who spends additional money upfront on a maintenance product and understands and accepts his or her role in maintaining the product.

The life of the chainsaw is extended by a well-maintained machine, the likelihood of needed repair decreases, and the customer’s perception of Stihl as a brand of high quality, (or at least long-lasting) chainsaws increases.

For those that don’t use it, the purchase of the oil at least partially offsets the warranty costs for repairs to the chainsaws that aren’t maintained.

As a side benefit – call it the Chris Zane corollary – any competitor that tries to match warranty terms without the added benefit of customer-provided maintenance may find themselves with a money-losing warranty.

The warranty is a service aspect of a product purchase. The customer role of maintenance is part of the product experience. Stihl may not be Zappos, but they know their service marketing. It’s a good promise. You do your part in maintaining the product, and we’ll guarantee that it will stay running for years.

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