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Posts Tagged ‘customer understanding’

[picapp align=”center” wrap=”false” link=”term=iPhone+4&iid=9199086″ src=”http://view1.picapp.com/pictures.photo/image/9199086/customer-displays-iphone/customer-displays-iphone.jpg?size=500&imageId=9199086″ width=”380″ height=”253″ /]I really hope some undercover Apple agents were present yesterday around the retail stores of the phone company that officially released the iPhone 4 in Saudi.

The scene of customers, all types of them: technical savvy, young, mature, students, and employees, all waiting in lines for hours to have the chance to get their hands on that magical device called iPhone 4 is an indication that Apple products are having a good opportunity to grow even bigger in the Saudi market (read more about it in this Saudi Mac post).

So the logical question in such situation would be: how come that a central country in the region with a huge fan base (and huge disposal income!) does not have a direct presence  in the form of Apple Stores or at least a certified representative! To get an answer to such question, a one should be able to penetrate the Apple management minds, which is not a very wise nor save thing to do?!

By choosing not to be in the Saudi scene, Apple has allowed its products and its prices to be manipulated in the market and its fans to be taken advantage of (a friend told today that he knows someone who bought an iPhone4 before it was released in Saudi for about SAR7000 = $1866.5). And let’s not start talking about warranties and technical support.

Will Apple ever listen to its Saudi fans? lets wait and see …

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I believe that there are a lot of things we could learn from Google even when they take a wrong step and make a wrong decision!

About a year ago, Google introduced a new product called “Google Wave” which was presented as the new and revolutionary way to communicate online. It combined instant messaging, documents sharing, emails, and many other features that promised instant interaction on the network.

Few days ago, Google decided to stop developing “Wave” as a single product; simply, It did not accomplish its targeted goals!

Here are some Google lessons:

  • The company that does not fear innovation is the same company that does not fear setbacks. There is no doubt that Google spent a lot of resources on “Wave” and was, in a way or another, betting that it will change the online interactive scene. But the moment it felt that the product is not harmonious with customers, the company had the gut to stop it!
  • A message to customers; we are here to serve you. We thought that a new product will be beneficial to you all, but once we sensed that you did not like it, we stopped it and we are working on something else to meet (or exceed!) your expectations.
  • A message to employees; the company is ready to believe in and support your innovative ideas. We are ready to accept the risks to make a difference in our customers lives. And if that idea did not make it, we are ready to accept the consequences. Just go there and bring us some fresh and innovative ideas.

All in all, innovation management does not mean that all ideas should be introduced to the market without proper market analysis, but it certainly means that a company should know when to retreat and learn its lesson instead of being stubborn and start losing customers loyalty.

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Surprisingly enough, the day our fellow blogger Qusay published this post about the iPhone 4 and its antenna issues (The Truth About the iPhone4 Antenna Problems), I was going through a heated discussion, to say the least, with a number of friends about how Apple handled the aftermath of the whole antenna story.

I have to start by saying that as an engineer, I totally agree with all opinions stated that the whole issue has been really overblown and taken out of context. It would not get that much of attention if it was not for Apple. If you want to exercise your brain cells a bit and read about some engineering stuff, read this post discussing the issue in a very simple and direct way.

[picapp align=”right” wrap=”true” link=”term=iPhone+4&iid=9364152″ src=”http://view.picapp.com/pictures.photo/image/9364152/apple-holds-press/apple-holds-press.jpg?size=500&imageId=9364152″ width=”234″ height=”351″ /]As for Apple the brand, nothing new, it has always been controversial. From where I see it, Apple did a good job in its disaster recovery actions. Maybe I am saying this because I am an Apple fan, but even this should not be so surprising. Apple has always looked to its customers as a niche market, as a community, and Apple likes to play according to its own rules. Steve Jobs had acknowledged the antenna problems, he talked about what the company is doing to rectify it, how the company cares about its customers, and how the company understands its potentials, its competencies, and its mistakes. And guess what, I believed him, and most, if not all, Apple fans believed him as well. Maybe coming from another company or another CEO, we would doubt it. But this is the kind of relation Apple has built over the years with its customers, they trust each other! And this is a point that should not be taken so lightly, it is a lesson in the long term brand equity building, and how customers may react to a brand they value and believe in, especially in times of wrongdoings or disasters.

If there is anything I would say that Apple should’ve done better, then it is the timing of reaction. They kept silent for days without a response while the Internet was going mad over the issue. Steve Jobs himself admitted this point when he said that ‘If we could do this again, we would have tried to mitigate the problem.’

The iPhone 4 is the most successful product launch in the whole history of Apple; isn’t that enough to realize the kind of a relationship Apple has with its customers??

I am willing to buy the iPhone4 once released in my country … are you?

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[picapp align=”center” wrap=”false” link=”term=Angry+woman&iid=100553″ src=”http://view.picapp.com/pictures.photo/image/100553/woman-sticking-her-tongue/woman-sticking-her-tongue.jpg?size=500&imageId=100553″ width=”380″ height=”253″ /]

This is a true story; a true story of customer care … ohh sorry … I mean a true story of customer ‘we don’t’ care!!

While waiting for the customer care representative in one of the most popular bookstores (it is not only a bookstore!) in the Kingdom to help me with something that should not take more than 2 minuets (it actually took about 20 minuets!!), a couple of expatriates stood by with an item they just bought in one hand and the invoice in the other hand. As far as I can tell, they were Americans, at least from what I caught from the husband’s accent. I was standing right there, so I could not help but hearing this conversation:

“The price tag on ‘X’ is saying that it worths 55 SAR, but according to this invoice, the cashier just charged us 69 SAR!!” said Mr. Customer.

Mr. We-do-not-care responded after taking a quick look at the invoice without even care to have a look at the price tag “Yeah … yeah … the computer is correct.”

The couple looked into each other eyes and then the husband continued “but this is misleading, you should’ve changed the price tags”

Without even looking at them, Mr. We-do-not-care said “Yes, we should.”

The wife put her hand on her husband shoulder urging him to leave, and without words she said “Let’s go, let’s just not waste our time.”

If I am analyzing this situation correctly, the customer was expecting nothing but some respect. It is like saying “I am paying you money here, could you please respect me enough and stop telling me lies with your price tags.” Yes, 14 SAR difference is not that big of a deal, but there is the principle! Will this customer trust this place again? I doubt it! Will he tell his friends and his wife tell hers? I have no doubt they will!

There is no need to comment on the customer-do-not-care response. It is obvious that although there is something clearly wrong with their pricing system, they just do not care!! A simple apology and showing interest in the customer complain could’ve saved the whole situation and that customer could’ve left the place satisfied.

Small things matter and distinguish the elite brand from those who only care about money! Mistakenly convincing themselves that this could last forever. Once an alternative is available in the market; I can guarantee that this place will suffer … a lot!

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[picapp align=”center” wrap=”false” link=”term=a+woman+driving&iid=5287638″ src=”f/a/0/8/CloseUp_of_a_9842.jpg?adImageId=12843106&imageId=5287638″ width=”380″ height=”380″ /]

For those not familiar with Saudi Arabia; It is unfortunate to say YES, Saudis are still debating the idea of allowing women to drive!

Anyway, this is not what this post is about, but I felt it was a mandatory introduction!

Now, let’s assume that the decision popped up and women are suddenly allowed to drive. From business and marketing points of view, what kind of change or new opportunities that could come up as a result of the new situation? Here are some points I thought of:

  • Automobiles Selling Tactics: Car dealers should really change, or at least introduce new selling tactics and marketing campaigns targeting women. Many researchers have argued that the way men and women approach the final purchasing decision is remarkably different. For that, ways to target segments divided based on gender should be different as well. And believe it or not, such studies have already started to take place in Saudi Arabia once the driving debate started to heat up few years ago, at least this is what a marketing manager in one of a prominent Saudi car dealer told me.
  • Car Accessories Shops: Women, at least of a younger age, will be definitely looking to have distinguished cars; exactly like their counterparts males. So I won’t be surprised to see car accessories shops opening whole sections specifically for ladies. Or even better, complete new accessories shops for ladies only, operated by ladies only!
  • Pimp-her-Ride: This could be related to the pervious point, but with those who have some extra cash to spoil themselves, and their cars!!
  • Segregated Car Service: Whether we are talking mechanic shops, car cleaning, oil change, etc, There is a huge opportunity to create women-only shops. If someone would argue here that allowing women to drive will ease the segregation between men and women we are currently seeing in the society, I would respond by saying yes but still. At least at the beginning, such women-only shops could flourish because it would give women a sense of freedom freedom they are enjoying in their closed communities. You know, taking off their Abbayas and enjoying chit-chat with friends in a closed area while their car is serviced. That will definitely be much better than waiting in line in most-of-the-time dirty oil change shops! So it could turn out to be a good idea after all! Even further, the existence of such shops could be a factor of helping some conservative families to make the decision of allowing their wives and daughters to drive. They will be dealing with women most of the time, right!

It does not matter how strange, funny, or shocking, these ideas might sound to some of you, because such a decision will definitely takes its toll on the society. New challenges, new obstacles, and new opportunities usually come out as results of change. Taking all that and blend it with the Saudi market status and the Saudi consumer behavior, I am sure interesting outcomes will be generated.

what do you think?

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Today I am bringing you a guest post from my friend Omar Bamahdi in which he will be talking to us about the Blackberry … or what he likes to call, the Crackberry!! Mr. Omar, to say the least, is a multitalented gentleman. He does not have a blog yet; but let’s hope he will start one soon. Along with opening a blog wish, I really hope he will go back and finish his PhD degree that he was about to finish few years ago … I told you he is multitalented!

As we are continuing to monitor the power game between RIM (the blackberry manufacturer) and the Saudi CITC in regulating the service; the consumer behavior toward these addictive devices should not be out of the picture. After reading this post, many questions descended to my mind and they might interest you as well. Are these devices really taking us out of the reality and throwing us in the virtual world? Should we be concerned about that? Who should take an action against the addictive nature of such devices? Is it part of the companies’ social responsibility to educate its users about the potential addictive nature of such devices? And … what is the reason that makes a 7 years old kid asks for a blackberry? … Read Omar post …

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[picapp align=”left” wrap=”true” link=”term=Blackberry+phone&iid=3469769″ src=”6/3/3/b/12.jpg?adImageId=12728431&imageId=3469769″ width=”234″ height=”355″ /]Ever had your head in a sack for the past few years, then all the sudden you realize how the next generations are abusing or misusing, literally speaking, almost any new technology!  As stunning as it may sound, Saudi youngsters are getting exposed to many technologies supposedly without any parental or whatsoever kind of supervision.

Forget about old days fooling around with Bluetooth technology, exchanging photos, broadcasting phone numbers, etc…  Two weeks ago, I had to visit the clinic with my family, and once I entered the waiting room, almost five youngsters were posing in concentration with their head glued into the screen and fingers searching for the little buttons of their CrackBerry.  It is true without exaggeration; for God’s sake they were on crack with a lil berry on their palm!  They didn’t even notice that someone has entered the waiting room.

Nowadays, this mobile device, so-called BlackBerry, is a must-buy tool that all youngsters MUST have!  I can see them almost everywhere in the malls, cars, coffee shops, hospitals, grocery stores; not to mention my sister’s house keeper had one, too! Moreover and like is it not enough to pay 1200 SAR for this device, devices with VIP BB numbers are sold for 2000 SAR plus its original prices.  I am sadden with a pity toward our society for having such ridiculous mentality.

It is a triggering phenomenon, believe it or not even my seven years old daughter asked me once … to buy her a blackberry when she pass second grade!  Such hype must be discussed in our schools to enlighten the youngsters, specially, children about the necessity of this device and its original use for business needs rather than a toy for joy.

What do you think? Take a second to express your point of view and how should we educate our children on dealing with new technologies productively!

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So Saudi Airlines just signed five privatization agreements (link); I do not know why I am not impressed by this!

As a summary, these are the five agreements:

  1. Privatizing the core aviation unit.
  2. Establish a new ground service company.
  3. Financing its new fleet of Aircrafts.
  4. Manage its IPO (initial public offering) of its catering company.
  5. Developing aircraft maintenance at KAIA.

Now, none of the agreements above seem to address Saudia long, lasting, and main problem of poor customer service performance. None of these agreements, arguably, would directly impact the final customers (passengers) except the one ending with a new fleet of aircrafts. In addition to that, these headlines or projects’ titles do not disclose much about their true value or how they are related to Saudia strategic goals (I am assuming they have strategic goals here!!). Take the project number two for example, my understanding is that Saudia has always been subcontracting its ground services to several companies; so what is the point now of forming a company with one of them, how that will enhance the service?

Moreover, one of the interesting parts in this piece of news is the gesture towards Saudia’s revenue which, in 2009, reached SAR 18.5 billions. For a company that is working in a near monopoly status, that should not be so surprising. Nevertheless, the revenue figure itself is not of a much importance here because we do not know their operational costs, and hence we do not know their net profit!

All in all, privatization in itself should not be looked at as a step toward open and modern market mentality. Lack of competition, clear understanding of the market and its needs, and the well to be different and competent at the first place cannot be compensated by the mere move from being ‘public’ to ‘private.’

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