Creating a trusted, safe consumer experience is the foundation for both reputation management and brand loyalty, and it is nearly impossible to maintain a position as an industry leader without it.
Here are some considerations to help inform your strategic decision-making — regardless of industry.
Governments and regulators do not always initiate critical safety and testing measures.
Rather than waiting for the government to impose regulations, companies that implement safety and quality measures from the start can ensure the industry's and their brand's health by establishing consumer trust, especially with emerging technologies that are unknown entities to the end user. Such is the case with e-bikes, the most recent mobility solution to gain mainstream acceptance. Despite being a powerful mode of transportation, the e-bike industry, like other industries, does not require rigorous testing and safety standards.
Testing and safety are time-consuming and, in the short term, an impediment to capitalizing on demand. However, rushing to market with a flashy new gadget is not always a sustainable business strategy. To establish a long-term foundation of trust with quality-conscious customers, a company must pause to consider the variables that will ensure long-term satisfaction, even if it means taking longer to market.
If a company is rushing to meet demand, it should never sacrifice quality.
Simply put, taking shortcuts will cost you more money if a repair or recall is required. Companies will obviously want to capitalize on unexpected market demand, but never sacrifice ethics in the race to meet need. If quality issues tarnish your brand, the payoff won't be worth it.
For example, the recent pandemic resulted in a significant increase in supply and demand for the e-bike and bike industry: retail sales of eBikes increased by 85 percent in 2020 when compared to 2019. A spike in the first quarter of 2020 put a strain on existing inventories at the same time that Covid-19 affected production supply chains. Bike retailers were forced to scramble as a result of this.
Those who can meet this unexpected demand will undoubtedly come out on top. But how long would they stay if the products they brought to market were of poor quality? Rather than rushing to bring components from our manufacturing partners that did not meet our quality standards, Bosch e-bike Systems took a different approach: collaboration.
We were able to find innovative solutions with our customers, demonstrating a strong commitment to both product excellence and customer satisfaction. "How can we be a good partner?" we wondered. For us, that meant shifting our certification process to live, virtual classrooms in order to assist bike dealers in meeting increased demand. This enabled us to educate and equip bike mechanics with the skills and knowledge required to meet the needs of consumers.
Outside of the actual product, customer service is the single most important way to convey quality.
A strong school of thought in psychology holds that people are more likely to remember negative experiences than positive ones. As a result, it should come as no surprise that a single negative customer service interaction can have a significant impact on brand loyalty. Customer service is an essential component of conveying quality, especially with word-of-mouth promotion being extremely valuable and online reviews being an important aspect of the decision-making process.
Whatever your organization's customer service looks like, whether it's live or online, remember the memorable positive and negative experiences you've had with other companies in the past and consider what you liked and didn't like. Were they attentive, proactive, compassionate, and well-informed? Or are you dismissive and unavailable? All of these factors can influence a person's perception of your organization and product, regardless of how good it is. Quality is more than just a tangible good.
Build trust by making a significant difference in communities centered on product usage.
Aside from producing a safe, high-quality product that will benefit your customers, businesses should help drive change that encourages consumer usage and, as a result, strengthens the industry. To encourage female ridership, for example, it is critical to make biking more comfortable and appealing. Portland and San Francisco have gone above and beyond to make bicycling more appealing, and they have some of the highest rates of female cyclists.
Look at the consumer's emotional barriers if you want to help make changes that will help foster usage. As we considered how we could encourage more riders to ride e-bikes, we discovered that only a small percentage of riders feel comfortable riding in traffic, and for many, the fear of being harassed by drivers is an even greater deterrent. That meant we had to play a role in improving bike lanes and paths, giving more people the confidence to get out there and ride.
As a member of the PeopleForBikes Coalition and Foundation boards of directors, we work with other organizations to help cities plan, build, and promote great places to ride all types of bikes — faster. Making meaningful differences in cities, no matter how big or small, has a ripple effect on the community as a whole. By engaging in meaningful work that improves biking infrastructure in cities of all sizes, Bosch demonstrates that it is a caring leader.
The cornerstone of considerations should be brand ethic.
At the end of the day, brand ethics can be what truly distinguishes you from competitors and propels your business forward. Setting the tone that your company will never compromise on safety or quality through rigorous testing and control measures, and then following through with exceptional customer service, is just the first step in cementing a reputation as being a cut above the rest.
Being an ally to the communities that your product serves not only strengthens the industry, but it also strengthens your position as an industry leader. As you frame your organization's approach to safety and quality, keep in mind that it entails much more than ensuring the technology's merit.