A recent trend in the service contract industry is the emergence of administrators attempting to create a strong brand identity with consumers. Many administrators are working diligently to create brand recognition for their organizations by branding the protection offerings they sell through retail partners. The question is often asked, “Is this new approach in the best interest of the retailers?”
AMT Warranty and its subsidiary Warrantech’s view is that the recent “brand building” business models employed by many administrators in the industry serve only to benefit the administrators and not their retail partners. This belief is derived from our core philosophy about the purpose of service contract programs. It’s indisputable that service contract programs should provide important incremental revenue for retailers. However, our view is that a well-designed and maintained service contract program should drive customer loyalty and retention for the retailers selling the service contracts.
We view each service contract claim as an opportunity to enhance the trust between a customer and our retail partner who sold the underlying product and associated service contract. Product failures happen. When they do, customers feel a level of frustration. While it’s true that the retailer is generally not the manufacturer of the product, customers often associate the product issue with the retailer who sold it to them. We believe that the solution to the product failure is best provided through a retailer-branded service contract in order to reestablish the trust that may have been diminished by the product failure. As a result of the service contract, retailers (through their administrator) are given the opportunity to engage in a highly personalized marketing campaign with a customer who at that moment may be their biggest detractor. We view this as micromarketing with macro effects.
In the emerging administrator-centric model, the solution is provided to the customer under the administrator’s brand. The positive customer interaction and goodwill generated from resolving the customer’s issue serves only to enhance the value of the provider’s brand. That goodwill is retained by the provider, even after their relationship with the provider has ended. Even more problematic is that the administrator may also be marketing service contracts directly to consumers, including the customers of their retail partners. In essence, by agreeing to market service contracts under the administrator’s brand, retailers could be promoting a competitor’s offering to their customers. Moreover, the retailer has established a new relationship between their customers and a potential competitor. We feel that the resulting consequences for permitting administrator-branded service contract programs will have long-term financial implications for retailers as the strength of their administrator’s brands increase in the eyes of the retailers’ customers.
While the desire of administrators to build their own brand value is understandable, retailers should be wary of the consequences.