RLDubbya wrote: MichaelScott wrote:
RLDubbya wrote:One thing I've learned from running support organizations: support is a black hole, taking all the resources you give it, and looking for more.
Perhaps there is room in a business model for an independent company with whom Spyderco can contract to provide warranty repair, sharpening, etc. Spyderco could provide documentation on it's products to this third party; the 3rd party would agree to a rate structure, and this would (a) fix the cost of service for Spyderco and (b) provide more techs for customers. Perhaps there are particular ranges of knives that give most of the problems - that 20% causing 80% of the problem. Perhaps Spyderco can keep all the collector stuff in house.
I would rather look at this ongoing conversation as a conversation about opportunity rather than a conversation about failure. I know the answers are not simple, but somebody once said "Opportunity knocked on my door and I slammed the door on its face because it looked a lot like hard work to me."
I don’t think I would buy off on the “black hole” assertion without some solid evidence to support it. I too spent a number of years running “support organizations” for a large company and I don’t recall it being near a “black hole.” I could be wrong in general since I have only my own experiences to support my view.
Responding to your 3rd party idea. I don’t know that Spyderco has problems with their warranty process and infrastructure in general. That may be working fine. What I have heard in the forum is the issue with non-warranty eligible knives being returned as “new”, or warranty-eligible is the cause of time and expense and some agitation on the forums. If their own warranty program is running fine, I would see no need to change that.
Some issues with turning over one’s support functions to a third party (a vendor) are that it requires another layer of management on Spyderco’s part. Some people have to be hired and trained to manage the vendor relationship. One also has to look at what incentives the vendor has to take on that business, like, how are they measured and how do they make money? Would Spyderco be only one client among many? How would the high standards of CQI and basic quality control be enforced with the vendor? Could the vendor meet Spyderco’s quality and cost requirements? What kind of customer satisfaction process would the vendor have and would it be up to Spyderco’s standards? How would Spyderco continually mananage that? If the relationship failed (pick your reason - degraded customer satisfaction with Spyderco would be the most damaging) how would Spyderco bring those functions back in-house? How long would that take? How much would that cost and how would Spyderco repair their damaged image in the knife community.
In my opinion, one of the things that sets Spyderco apart from other knife markers is their connection with and relationship with their customers. That’s something that is hard won, and you have to treat as a major company asset.
Not to say that your idea is bad, but it requires a lot of thought and study and business goes on all the while. Thanks for posting it. I hope it gets more discussion.
We might have to agree to leave the question of "black hole" evidence as falling in the realm of anecdotal evidence. My beliefs are founded based on experience in the hardware and software world.
There are several companies, but perhaps most well known is Unisys, which perform the majority of desktop, laptop, etc., repair for Dell and other major computer manufacturers. Dell keeps their enterprise branding in-house, but pretty much everything else gets you a Unisys tech. It works, and it works fairly well, IMO. That's more specifically where I was coming from with my post.
I also fully agree that this is not a trivial move. I'm not sure that it requires an "another layer of management on Spyderco's part." I would agree that it requires a different
layer of management on their part. I think it's clear that companies like Dell have identified a cost savings with such a structure, and I would think that at least a portion of that cost savings would fall on the management side of the house.
In short, I agree with most of your points: this would not be a trivial move to make. I am a bit confused by at least one of your questions, to wit: "How would the high standards of CQI and basic quality control...". Perhaps I am betraying my ignorance (more than likely I am) but I thought that CQI revolved around material objects, not people - so we talk about the Millie having a CQI release, and we mean that it gets new liners, a tweaked lock, better standoffs, and other physical changes.
I think that, again, we should flip things around and look at opportunity: rather than simply stating that Sypderco's connection with customers can/will be damaged by such a business reorg, I'd prefer to look at how this opens doors for stronger connections. I have in mind (admittedly half-baked) that if Spyderco is no longer expending its collective brain power worrying about bad returns and their impact on the bottom line, perhaps they can expend more brain power on, oh, customer education on a series of topics which have been identified as having the largest statistical impact on the bottom line.
I've always viewed the sum total of product delivery as being comprised of 3 "legs" if you will: product development, including in this case CQI; technical / customer support; and customer education. If any of those three legs is significantly shorter than the other two, you end up with a wobbly tripod (product delivery).
Great thoughts, sir. Thank you for making the time to reply to me, I am flattered.
You are welcome, and you posed some interesting ideas. I will confess to have spent a number of years working with a very large high-tech corporation primarily in the areas of project and program management which included vendor and customer satisfaction relationships and processes. You seem to have a lot of experience in this general area as well. Now, to your response.
Yes, the “black hole” question will resolve with enough hard evidence. And, it may depend upon how the 3rd party support organization works and is managed by it’s own customers (i.e. a Spyderco). I think it is variable but I also think it is a process that needs to be constantly monitored and managed so that it does not begin to reflect poorly on the primary organization being supported. That’s why I think another layer of management would have to be created because, if the situation was serious enough to enter into such a 3rd party support agreement, someone would need to ride herd on it constantly. A third party vendor would not have the same corporate culture as Spyderco. Their mission and means of making money would be very different, so to protect Spyderco, their customer satisfaction and relationships would have to be managed very closely, especially if Spyderco was not their sole client..
I think the big question is whether Spyderco is suffering enough in cost and customer satisfaction to justify such a move. I would be very cautious given that a significant part of Spyderco’s value in the market is their commitments to their customers and their community. Lose that, and you won’t get it back.
You are correct about my use of CQI. I should have said Spyderco’s perceived, and real, level of quality and commitment to that. CQI is the functional outgrowth of that philosophy. I’m not that well versed in knife business, but from what I have learned, Spyderco has the best reputation for quality combined with a willingness to innovate and integrate new materials and design into their products. Take that away and you’ve got an over priced CRKT.
I like your tripod analogy. I think you will agree that even with that working on all cylinders, not all of the people can be satisfied. Any business will have its percentage of unsatifiable customers. One if the things I learned in my business years was never to offer a guarantee based on the customer’s undefined satisfaction. Some people, fortunately a small percentage, are never satisfied. If you don’t set up objective criteria to be satisfied, you’ll never reach that goal since the goal posts are owned by the customer and can be moved at any time for any reason.
For the people not interested in this discussion, my apologies for such a long thread. For anyone else, please chime in. Your thoughts are valuable.