Who's qualified to speak for you?
Make sure those who represent your product or service know about them.
By Marc Gordon
Many forward thinking companies know the value and importance of offering a
strong warranty on their products and services. They understand that
customers who feel confident in the company's desire to back up their
products will be more likely to purchase from them.
But for many manufacturers, it is not always possible to have direct contact
with the people who purchase their products. This is especially true for
companies who's products are sold through retailers.
I recently had an experience with this type of situation. I purchased a
license plate cover a few years ago from an automotive parts retailer. This
retailer has hundreds of locations across the country, so I would assume
they would have some pretty established internal policies regarding product
The plate cover was made by an outside company and came with a life time
warranty. The warranty did not specify any limitations or conditions. I
confirmed this checking out the packaging of the same plate cover currently
sold at the same retailer.
I spoke to the girl at the customer service counter and explained the
situation. She said all I needed to do was bring back the old damaged cover
and they would replace it with a new one of the same type. "Now that's what
I call great service!" I said to myself.
The next day I came back to the store with the damaged plate cover. There
was a different girl at the customer service counter. She told me that
unless I had the receipt there was nothing she could do. "You could have
bought the cover anywhere." she said. Although that statement is totally
true, the fact is that regardless of where I originally purchased it, the
manufacturer would still have credited the retailer for the cost of the
replacement cover. I ended up leaving the store with my broken cover.
Beyond not receiving what I believed to be good customer service, what
really bothered me was the fact that first I was told I was able to make an
exchange, then that I was not buy two people who both worked for the same
store. Was there not a set policy? And is there was, which girl knew what
that policy was? I called the retailer's customer service line to find out
more about how a lifetime warranty claim is handled.
The representative told me that the lifetime warranty only covered
workmanship and materials, not damage due to normal use. I asked how
workmanship and materials could apply to a product that was made from a
single piece of plastic with no moving parts? She said that if I happen to
notice that the product was cracked for no reason, then that would entitle
me to a replacement. Needless to say I was shocked to hear that plastic
could crack for no reason and that she knew the conditions of the warranty
when those conditions were not even printed on the product's original
packaging. After a long and pointless conversation, I called the
It turns out that the lifetime warranty covers any form of structural damage
regardless of cause. In fact all I needed to do was fax over my receipt and
they would replace it for me right away. As I did not have the warranty,
they said I could send them the damaged cover and it would be replaced.
So here we have a manufacturer that provides a no hassle lifetime warranty
on their product making it a worry free experience to purchase. And yet the
retailer negated the warranty by not supporting it. My guess is that this
was due to a lack of product knowledge by both the service representative at
the store and the one on the phone. Regardless of the reason, the
manufacturer, having put in the effort of creating a life time warranty
policy, did not experience the benefits associated with such a policy. And
since their brand of plate covers is almost double that of other brands not
offering life time warranties, it could be argued that there is no point in
spending the extra money of the warranty is not honored anyway.
There are two lessons to be learned here. First, that the product knowledge
of the seller is essential in being able to differentiate your product from
another. As a manufacturer, you must ensure that everyone who communicates
to potential buyers on your behalf understands all the features and benefits
of your products as well as your company's customer service policies.
Second, make sure that all pertinent warranty information is included with
the product. It should detail what is covered and the process involved in
making a warranty claim.
About the Author:
Marc Gordon is a professional speaker and marketing consultant based in
Toronto, Ontario. His firm, Fourword Marketing, specializes in helping
businesses create a brand identity and developing effective marketing
campaigns. Marc can be reached at (416) 238-7811 or visit