Last week, news broke that Audemars Piguet was parting ways with their CEO, Philippe Merk and replacing him (supposedly in interim) with François-Henry Bennahmias, formerly head of AP North America. AP is my favorite "big" brand. In fact, the watch I wear most often is an AP. They have great products, great history, and many great people who work there. They have the resources to do some amazing things. So I couldn't help but think: if they hired me to replace Francois, what would I do?
First, I would listen to the chime of the minute repeater that I made them give me as a signing bonus. Then I would get down to serious business.
My focus would be on service and value. The two are intricately related. I would push them to finally take the jump into online sales and create a technology platform that offered the best user/customer experience in the business. I would invest heavily in the US service center to the point that NO SERVICE SHOULD TAKE MORE THAN 4 WEEKS, with the eventual goal to turn out routine services and minor fixes in less than 2 weeks.
I would promote transparency and open dialogue. I, myself, would be available continuously through social media and email and also empower other employees to be as well. I would answer the tough questions honestly and make my positions very clear. I would be swift in rectifying any and all instances of poor service from us or our partners. Any customer willing to spend $10k+ on an archaic instrument deserves to be treated with utmost respect - not propitiation but true fairness. This has to be hammered into the culture from the top down.
Chris Dixon, tech entrepreneur and investor, posted a great piece over the weekend on how people are now focused on experience rather than product. Luxury brands have known this for a while, but have lost their way. They see people tire of the experience, and think they have to focus harder on selling the product. That's why you see all sorts of BS claims on materials, movements, complications, etc. What they're missing is that the experience is still what's important, they are simply selling the wrong experience. The typical arrogance and elitism of luxury is not as effective anymore. What people want is a company that is committed to doing things in the best possible way, with the utmost integrity, and that treats its fans and customers like family, not suckers.
There are plenty of other things to do, but I believe that if someone were to truly implement these few points with passion and integrity, the brand would rise head and shoulders above the rest and set a fantastic example for the industry as a whole. The US is different from the rest of the world. Customers are very savvy, status is much less important, etc. No watch company has gotten the message right here yet. It's not hard, but it can't be faked and there is no shortcut.
For a nominal (7 figure) salary and a brownstone in the West Village, I'd be happy to do it for them without breaking a sweat. But do you think they'd make me learn French?