As preposterous as might have once sounded, Sony is struggling to make customers happy.
There was a time, not so long ago in fact, when the Japanese electronics giant reigned supreme over many of the markets it operated within.
Prime amongst those markets was games consoles. With the PlayStation and PlayStation2, Sony left rivals floundering. The “battle” for sales and customer loyalty was so one-sided it was embarrassing at times.
And then Sony made the fatal mistake that so many other businesses have been guilty of in the past. It got complacent.
Sony felt PlayStation3 simply had to hit the shops and it would maintain its standing in the market. But it forgot one crucial point – its rivals have been playing catch-up and the likes of Nintendo and Microsoft have actually stolen a march on Sony.
The next generation consoles from Nintendo and Microsoft have put Sony in the unfamiliar position of having to ensure that everything to do with the PS3 has been spot on.
But it has failed, miserably so at times.
The PS3 was hit by delays and technical issues. Then it was only released in small batches. Now, finally, the PS3 has been unleashed on Europe.
Yet amid all the fanfares, the hype and long, snaking queues of gamers eager to snap up their console, Sony is well aware of the challenge it faces. It needs to crank up the multi-national marketing, PR and sales machinery in order to reclaim the ground it has lost to the Wii and the XBox 360.
It is a salutory lesson in making sure you never become complacent. It also a big kick up the corporate backside of many of our leading businesses that they can never take customer loyalty for granted.
Sony has a massive, loyal customer base. But Sony has antagonised and irritated that customer base to such an extent that the PS3 is not the sure-fire hit of its two predecessors.
Perhaps that is why Sony and the stores distributing the PS3 have been so generous in their incentives. Free HDD televisions will appease the lucky few who have snapped them up, but it will take a lot more for Sony to win back the kind of loyalty the PS1 and PS2 enjoyed.
Throw in a few other local difficulties – primarily the overheating laptop battery debacle – and Sony’s standing has taken a huge jolt.
It will win back a certain degree of loyalty with the PS3, but it has lost credibility and respect.
The Sony brand has suffered as a result and these days no business can afford such a damaging hit to its core identity.