This entry falls partly into the big gripe, Tom Peteresque – “why can’t companies be insanely great” or even try category. Having just spent a good hour trying to get someone to take a look at a Heat’n'glow fireplace (glowing so much you could heat Los Gatos) and an AO Smith water heater (glowing too little) my frustration cup overrunneth…
First, their web sites are visually OK. But if they would apply some basic rules they actually might fall into the barely working category (same category as their products):-
1. If I click contact, guess what, I might want to call you. So provide a phone number. I’m not interested in your stupid email forms and then sitting waiting for a response (it’s been six hours now). This same advice goes for all the phone companies – like duh! you think they’d want to encourage more voice and less data traffic… Also, categorize your contact information – not all dealers are ever the same so why should I have to do the leg-work to find one that will work for me.
2. Make sure your fields work. AO Smith’s warranty field just doesn’t work. And make sure they work on multiple browsers. And, don’t overdo them. Make them brain dead simple – like, “what’s your email”, and, “what’s your problem”.
3. Update your site. I mean really update it. Having called dealers listed on both sites only to find out they don’t either service the equipment or are no longer dealers, I can only assume that neither company has the most basic grasp of what is on their site.
Ongoing service needs to be viewed as integral to the brand experience. Post sales is where most of the brand experience happens. My experience of both companies product and service is now so tainted it’s unlikely I would recommend buying either their stock or products. Companies need to realize that while we buy a product we only borrow or rent the brand. I might have to keep what I either inherited or bought – but I don’t have to ever come back to the brand.
Moreover, the Participatory Communications Revolution means that we all now have a voice – the web has been turned into a massive recommendation engine. It’s time more companies focused on recommendation as a measure of success – it’s the metric that can really capture how good you are doing on total brand experience. These guys get an F so far and can have their brands back.