At this year's CES I asked a number of exhibitors and show-goers what the phrase "Blue Chip Audio Company" meant to them. Their answers were illuminating, not only in defining what the term means, but also in determining how they felt about themselves, other companies, and business in general.
When confronted by the term "blue chip" many respondents used the words "reputation," "track record," and "history," when attempting to define it. This points toward the concept that a true high-end company must, by its very definition, deliver higher perceived value products than the mainstream. They also must have a history of making similar products in the past that satisfied their customers. Many respondents brought up the issue of resale value as part of being "blue chip." But resale value isn't so much a defined goal of a blue chip company as much as it is the result of that company's efforts to deliver consistently high-quality products and the brand recognition that this creates.
If high-end audio is truly high-end, every company in our little world should naturally aspire to being a "blue chip" company. But obviously not every company succeeds in achieving this goal. Why? I think the number one area where some companies miss the mark is in customer service and support. The experience of buying a high-end audio component needs to be as pleasurable as using it.
One of the primary differences between the high-end and mass-market is not only the intrinsic quality of the goods, but the complete system solution. To retain customers a high-end audio company must deliver a complete high-value and a value-added experience. This starts with dealers and the level of support they supply before, during, and after a sale. Carefully screening and educating retailers is an essential part of creating and cultivating the culture of a blue chip company.
The most successful retailers in any field realize that a sale is not the end, but merely the beginning of a relationship with a customer. By promising and delivering solutions, whether that consists of installing the ultimate full-range six-figure transducer or adding an extra zone of high definition audio to a home, dealers need to supply their customers with solutions that enrich their lives and musical experiences. This is what high-end customers expect and it's what blue chip companies, and their dealers, deliver.