How Alex Fourie Mastered Word-Of-Mouth Marketing

How Alex Fourie Mastered Word-Of-Mouth Marketing


Vital Stats

  • Company: iFix
  • Founder: Alex Fourie
  • Est: 2007
  • Footprint: 14 stores nationwide

iFix was a business started by Alex Fourie in a dorm room in 2006 out of plain need to fix his broken iPod. It so happens he’d struck on a market that had yet to be tapped, and his theory was soon validated when customers beyond friends and family came knocking to have their smartphones, tablets and iPods repaired.

We-recommend-tickRecommended: The Secret To Three Years of Successive 180%+ Growth For iFix

Fast forward nine years and iFix is a hugely successful premium repair business enjoying explosive growth, and has 14 stores around the country. This didn’t just happen by luck, but some very smart brand-building.

Fourie explains how he did it.

How have you kept ahead of the competition?

The market has grown hugely and that brings competition. We’ve always positioned ourselves as a premium service with a focus on convenience, great customer service and fast turnaround time as we understand the frustration of having a technology issue or not being connected.

I’ve read The Innovator’s Dilemma by Clayton Christensen, and we understand implicitly that you’ve got to constantly innovate because the minute you stop, the company dies. So as more competition appears and customers’ needs evolve, we focus on anticipating and meeting those needs.

How has your company changed in the last four years?

We’ve invested time and resources systematising and streamlining everything in the business for the best customer experience. We’ve become vertically integrated and created our own internal supply chain that is centralised and tracked.

Compared to 2010 when repairs could take up to 72 hours, 95% of our repairs are done the same day. We also provide spin-off offerings linked to our core ethos, like out-of-warranty insurance, primarily because networks focus on selling airtime and data, and manufacturers focus on selling product, but there’s a gap for quality repair services that don’t cost a fortune.

What goes into an impactful brand experience?

We hire A+ players even though the systematising means we could technically hire B players and the business would still function. However, maintaining a premium customer experience requires people who are self-motivated and always five steps ahead.

Our managers are empowered to solve problems without having to ask permission first, we have a system that notifies managers of potential issues before they happen – like a phone being at the store for more than 24 hours – and we ‘reverse train’ our technicians.

We hire our technicians based on their skills, but very often they come from a network background where the philosophy is to save costs first, and the customer comes second.

We enforce our culture of customer first through substantial on-the-job training.

How much business is from referrals?

We average about 10 000 customers monthly, 75% of which is from word-of-mouth.

What’s the secret sauce that’s made the iFix brand as successful as it is?

Prior to launching iFix I was very involved in the music industry and marketing bands and their tours. I learnt that the industry is subjective and driven by marketing.

You can have a great song from band A and band B, but one will be successful while the other is not, based on the way you package and present it.

I use that same ethos for iFix. We have a great website, amazing looking stores, brand ambassadors, and we focus a lot of our marketing on social media as branding creates confidence and trust when you’re dealing with people’s prized possessions.

Disgruntled customers can damage a brand. What’s your fix?

We have a complaints/issue ratio of less than 2% and a heavily pissed off ratio of less than 0,5%. That’s extremely good for the service industry but on 10 000 customers per month that’s still 50 unhappy people.

We have a built-in customer metric that doesn’t waste people’s time with a 1 to 10 rating, but just three: Awesome, average, or terrible.

If anything is below awesome the manager is notified and 90% of the time the issue is resolved before the customer leaves the store, or they immediately phone the customer.

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We’re often able to pre-empt issues before they arise or know the possible reasons for a customer being unhappy. It’s taken time, effort and diligence to build up a track record, but our trusted brand allows us to keep growing.

Tracy Lee Nicol
Tracy-Lee Nicol is an experienced business writer and magazine editor. She was awarded a Masters degree with distinction from Rhodes university in 2010, and in the time since has honed her business acumen and writing skills profiling some of South Africa's most successful entrepreneurs, CEOs, franchisees and franchisors.Find her on Google+.