copycats

“They are not just copying our products; they are copying our way of doing business.”

This was a comment recently made by a colleague in the lighting industry, referring to the endless small startups attacking the lighting business.
It was an astute comment.  In one quick phrase he summed up why the lighting industry desperately needs service innovation.
LEDs are cool, and there are several other technologies driving change in the industry.  But nowadays, any technology is easily copied by any hack company.  Customer service on the other hand, particularly excellent customer service, is a very, very difficult thing to compete on.  Even if some new company manages to copy a successful customer service strategy, the first mover has already won the brand advantage.
End customers are routinely and systematically ignored by the lighting industry.  Lighting reps, lighting designers, distributors, installers:  They all want a piece of the pie but they don’t want any actual responsibility for ensuring the customer is ultimately satisfied.  So even though project customers pay big, fat mark-ups on antiquated lighting products, they still get an ancient specification process, ridiculously stupid installation and commissioning challenges for anything more advanced then a light bulb with a switch, and ultimately lighting systems that barely function as promised, if at all.
So if the industry is starting with such poor levels of service to begin with, how difficult is it for new competitors to spring up and match the status quo?  Not very hard at all.  The bizarre thing to me is that most of these competitors look at this industry from the outside and then still jump right into the snake-pit of the existing industry middlemen.  Why???  Why don’t they try to compete with service innovation just as much as with technology innovation?
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About Brad Koerner

Venture Manager - Luminous Patterns Philips Lighting
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