Preparing for the Spectacular
by Stefan Happe, Customer Service Manager
Robert Schuller once said, “Spectacular achievement is always preceded by unspectacular preparation.”
The luxury consumer, perhaps more than any other consumer segment, demands the spectacular; this is true of both the performance of their products and the expertise of the dealers from whom they purchase them.
Today’s technology is evolving and advancing more rapidly than at any time in history. This means more new products with more features and farther advanced tech are hitting the market at a faster rate than ever before. Being consistently on the forefront of advanced acoustic science and technology, this holds true for Harman Luxury Audio’s family of brands as well.
This means that we in Customer Service have more products than ever to become experts at, and learn every function, feature, nook and cranny of. How do we confront and embrace the challenge of becoming experts in every highly anticipated product before hits the showrooms of our valued dealer partners? What do we do to learn everything about the product before it is released into the wild?
The answer is the “unspectacular” and unglamorous behind-the-scenes nitty gritty work of preparation. At Harman Luxury Audio Customer Service, preparation is an obsession.
We subscribe to the philosophy that Customer Service is more than just repairing something. It is the process that cares for a product from the birth of the idea to its last day on Earth. The people involved in the development of a product share this philosophy with us. The Customer Service department is getting full inclusion from Day One - and not just an emergency call once brand reputation has been irreparably damaged. We fully understand that the better we care for the customer and his product, the higher his loyalty to us will be.
Long before there is ever a tangible product, Customer Service and Research & Development work closely together. Trust built over time, working on challenges and solutions has evolved into true team spirit. Part of this close connection between R&D and Customer Service is the reason why our Harman Luxury Audio Customer Service team is based in the three main R&D locations. The information flow within the teams is facilitated by inclusive meetings, collaboration on shared documents (Google Docs), videos and social media.
This collaboration of ideas eventually takes form, more concrete ideas are passed back and forth, and ultimately the NPI (New Product Introduction) process starts, and with it, the training of the Customer Service department begins. This includes:
- Regular process updates, gate statuses and launch plans
- Preliminary Operators Manuals to study
- Hands on physical training from the NPI team
- Sample allocation for the Customer Service team to use as a learning tool
- Consistent interaction with the development engineers. (CS acts here as the Voice of the Field and provides a ‘reality check’ for features and solutions)
- Sales training to understand the point of sale and unique selling propositions for a product better
Understanding how a product is marketed will help us prepare for the questions coming in from the customers.
As soon as production is reaching the planning stage, Customer Service will:
- Request the Bill of Material (BOM) and the “exploded views” of the products to determine spare parts. This way we can make sure to include all necessary components and assemblies, without wasting time, money and inventory space on parts and components we don’t need
- Work with our sales teams on forecast numbers to make sure we order just the right amount of spares
- Collaborate with the Harman Materials Team to get all parts setup in the operating system
- We place the first purchase order
At this point, we are ready to be the expert VIP service resource for our dealers and distributors, our custom installers and end-user clients.
But this is not the point where we are done learning and preparing. New features and software releases will be tested and inspected by us. New formats the market brings up will demand long and intensive hours of testing and ‘playing around.’
And then there is always the next generation of industry-leading products already taking form in the minds of the R&D department…
Lastly, none of this preparation and expertise means anything without accessibility to you. When you email CSupport@Harman.com , you will get a prompt and courteous response every time. And if you’re ever feeling like your expectations were not met, you can email me directly at Stefan.Happe@Harman.com .