retail news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

Last Thursday, you may remember, FaceTime with the Content Guy was devoted to my recent experiences with Timex. My problem was simple - it was impossible to order a replacement watch band over the internet. The customer service was, to say the least, lacking - both from the company and the public relations firm that represents it.

And I wrote, in part:

"Companies these days have numerous potential touchpoints at which they can have an impact on the shopper experience. You have to exploit every one that you can, and manage the experiences to be the best they possibly can be. When you drop the ball, and I think that's what happened at Timex, the sound is a resounding 'thud,' and can be heard very clearly in a lot of places."

You can read - or watch, on video - the entire piece here.

But an interesting thing happened on Friday.

I got a call from a fellow named Gary Cohen, president/CEO of Timex. And he was not happy with how the company responded to my initial customer request (all I wanted was a watchband!), nor with the way the company dealt with me when I donned my pundit's hat and started making phone calls.

Good guy, Gary Cohen. We must've spent a good 20 minutes on the phone, and while he was upset that the company's shortcomings in this areas had been made so public, he recognized that this gave him the opportunity to light a fire under his troops and get them to be more e-commerce focused.

Cohen assured me that dragging Timex into the 21st century (my phrase, not his) had been a major project since he took the reins about two years ago. There are some natural obstacles, like the large number of SKUs made by the company ... but it also is my sense that there are some legacy/cultural issues that he's facing. (The company that is now Timex, after all, was founded back in 1854.)

One of the things I told Cohen is that my experience was not an isolated one - that I'd gotten numerous emails from MNB users suggesting that they'd had the same problem and that they believed it was part of the Timex master plan to make it so hard to get watchbands that people would just buy a new watch. He emphasized that this most assuredly is not the case - the company just hasn't gotten its act together in this area, though he expects the online interface to be a lot more consumer-friendly, with a lot more product available, in just a few months. So stay tuned.

Timex and Cohen have no choice but to be timely, of course. We live in a era when a lot of people use their smartphones as their timepieces, and every watch company has to find ways to be relevant to its target audience, and perhaps even redefine itself with new technologies, new functions and nee benefits. (I also got a lot of emails last week from MNB users who wondered exactly why I was wearing a watch in 2013. Why didn't I just use my iPhone? But the thing is, I've been wearing a watch for more than 50 years. I feel naked without one. And I love my Timex Intelligent Quartz .... I just wanted an easy way to order a watchband online.)

Cohen and I agreed that while Timex may have been unlucky enough to have run into someone like me who has both an attitude and a soapbox, the reality of competing in the 21st century is that everyone has a soapbox. Most of us have laptops or tablet computers or smartphones, and we're willing to use them. Which creates enormous pressure on every company to understand that when they please or displease just one customer, the odds are pretty good that the experience will be shared with hundreds, thousands, or even millions of people.

In the case of Timex, Cohen conceded, the movements had been running a little slow in this area. But I think he is the guy - with a background at Gillette, Procter & Gamble, and Playtex, and a strong understanding of the CPG business - to lead the company forward.

To steal from the company's old ad and paraphrase a bit, Timex may have taken an MNB licking...but hopefully, they'll learn from the experience and keep on ticking.

I'm glad that Gary Cohen and I had a chance to chat. It was an Eye-Opener. And I look forward to seeing how Timex continues to evolve in a timely fashion.
KC's View: