Mattress warranties have been a very popular subject at the Furniture Today Bedding Conferences thanks to my good buddy, Dave Perry, who continues to put that subject on the front burner. Due to the nature of the issue, it does not seem that this exposure on the subject with top executives is really getting us anywhere. And for good reason – it is a very tough problem to tackle. In a recent LinkedIn discussion thread in our group Mattress Industry Executives, there was a lot of talk about the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to warranties. So I thought I would weigh in as well.
The problem, as I see it, is that consumers don’t really believe the long warranties that we place on our products. Is it logical to a consumer that a product they will use every night for 6-8 hours is really going to last 20 years? We also tell them they should replace their mattress every 7-8 years but the warranty supports a much longer life??!!
I get that the warranty is not really saying a mattress is going to feel good for 20 years, but isn’t that what the consumers believe to be the case? In having a warranty like this, aren’t we also making a very bold statement of confidence that our products are incredibly durable? Right there we have established the product promise, so the question is how do we live up to it?
William Lee makes the comment on LinkedIn that if you read the online reviews, the industry takes a beating from consumers on how we break that promise by not living up to the warranty. If for some reason the product fails, we tend to put the consumer through a difficult process to make a claim on the warranty and put the products through, in some cases, a very subjective line of testing. (In part, because it is hard to apply science to this kind of thing unless you bring the product back for a full evaluation, which would be cost-prohibitive.) Have you ever had a problem with a product, an insurance claim, or something else where the company made you jump through hurdles just to get what you are supposed to have coming to you? How did you feel at the end of that?
Is the answer to shorten the warranty and sell extended warranties? Jacqueline Flores from Mattress Industry Executives doesn’t think so because RSAs’ credibility is already in question. Should we expect a strong bedding brand to lead the way and just shorten their warranty, taking HUGE risk that their competitors won’t follow them, creating a significant disadvantage for them on retail floors? Maybe the retailer should lead, demanding that bedding brands shorten warranties if they want to continue to sell products on their floor. Don’t they run the same risk as the bedding brand if their retail competitors don’t follow? Barrie Brown and Allen Platek don’t think the retailer should have to make that call.
Until we get to a long-term solution, consider the following:
- If you are a bedding brand, make sure your claims process is consumer friendly. Most of you work your butts off making sure to produce great products. Remember that EVERYTHING counts these days, so if you fail on one or two (which you will; everyone does) and the consumer has a bad experience with you because you are not attentive to them in the warranty process, the negative word of mouth is very damaging and could hurt you much more than the cost to handle it right in the first place. Make sure your warranty process is one you would want your mother to go through. How is that for a filter?
- If you are a retailer, be clear in your training process that warranty does not translate to comfort life. Also, to close a sale based on a warranty is what weak RSAs do, and should be avoided. If you level set the consumer on the front end, there will be less disappointment later on should a problem occur.
- Suppliers – you must make good components. Be clear with the bedding brands about how long your materials will last, and feel comfortable to the consumer. If you are part of the body impression problem, then step up!
I am sure I missed a thing or two, but I had to stop as I am well over my self-imposed 500-word limit. I am counting on you to fill in what I have missed, so leave your comments for me to share with the rest of the industry.
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