February 1, 2005

Who Are You?

Warranty Week reader profile provides some answers based on location, employer, and job title.

During the past several weeks, numerous Warranty Week readers have asked for information about readership. Last year, we used to refer them to an Aug. 25, 2003 article that provided some answers, but soon that article will be one and a half years old. Clearly it's time for a refresh.

Ever since Warranty Week began publishing in Nov. 2002, we've been guided by three principles: trust, respect, and privacy. Trust implies that when you allow this publication into your inbox it will not do any damage, which in an era of spyware and viruses is no small promise. Respect means taking the time to read and answer all emails, even if it takes a while. Privacy implies keeping those communications private unless they're understood to be for publication.

We're not going to break any of those rules, but today we are going to tell you a little about yourselves as a group. First of all, as of Jan. 31, 2005 there were 2,184 of you receiving the weekly email broadcasts on Tuesday evenings (Wednesdays during holiday weeks). But there were five new signups on Feb. 1, so this issue will go out to 2,189 recipients. Of those, 2,024 will receive the HTML Edition and 165 will receive the Plain Text Edition.

Web Site Traffic

The WarrantyWeek.com Web site has its own audience. We're not sure how much overlap there is between the email and the Web audience, but we suspect not much. When Warranty Week took a two-week break at the end of 2004, page requests dropped by roughly a third from their typical range of 6,000 pages a week to only 4,000 pages per week. After Warranty Week was mentioned in a Computerworld news story in early December, page requests spiked to 7,294 in one day, a new high.

The heaviest Web traffic was counted on Jan. 20, a Thursday, followed by Jan. 14, a Friday. While page requests per day are lowest on the weekends, they're hardly ever a day below 500 pages. For instance, Jan. 1 was 325 pages and Dec. 25 was 259 pages requested. If Web traffic was closely tied to newsletter distribution, Wednesday would more consistently be the day of highest Web traffic. It is not.

In other words, the Web audience seems to come and go independently of the weekly email newsletter, perhaps because people are finding the Web site through the search engines, through word of mouth, or through mentions of it on other Web sites. The emails sent out each Tuesday evening contain all the HTML graphics they will need, so for instance they can be read on a laptop that's not connected to the Internet. In and of themselves their distribution would not cause a spike in Web traffic.

Then there's the questions of how many visitors, how many unique visitors, and how many returning visitors. Without privacy-invading technology, those questions cannot be accurately answered. We're going to assume that 6,000 page requests equates to 3,000 visitors per week, but it could be less if people average more than two pages viewed per week. But we don't distribute cookies; we don't ask for user IDs (at least not yet); so we don't know much more than the IP address of our most frequent visitors.

This might be a good time to mention that in 2005 the Web site will grow to include links to a jobs database for both employers and job-seekers. It also will include a password-protected subscriber-only library of warranty statistics, and possibly a directory of warranty consultants and software providers. Another suggestion is to perform a warranty professional salary survey and post the results where only those who participated can see them. Additional suggestions are welcome.

Email Demographics

While the data on Warranty Week's Web traffic is sorely lacking in detail, we have a fairly good handle on who is receiving the email broadcasts. Of the 2,184 total recipients, 92% provided the name of their employer; 83% provided a postal address; 68% provided a phone number; and 58% provided their job title. Of course, 100% provided their email address.

What is astonishing is how far some of those emails travel. Warranty Week is delivered to people in at least 40 different countries. Although the vast majority are based in the U.S., nearly 18% of readers have identified themselves as being based outside the United States. The remaining 82% have either identified themselves as U.S. residents, or are using an email service known to be based in the U.S. Several multinational companies have readers in multiple countries. All readers for whom no location data was available were defaulted to be U.S.-based. This includes roughly 40 Hotmail and Yahoo webmail users who did not explicitly provide location information (and could conceivably be based outside the US) plus another 40 on other multinational email services. But those 80 guesses accounted for less than 4% of all readers.

Of the 39 other countries that receive Warranty Week, ten accounted for the vast majority of international subscribers. They are: Canada (97), UK (76), Germany (32), Netherlands (23), France (20), Australia (19), India (15), Spain (12), Finland (10), and Italy (9). An additional 71 subscribers were spread among Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, China, Colombia, Denmark, Greece, Indonesia, Ireland, Japan, Kenya, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, the U.A.E., and Vietnam. Our first subscribers in Greece, Saudi Arabia, Kenya, Belgium, and Switzerland arrived in the past two months. For most of last year we had one subscriber in Sri Lanka, but the address went bad in October.

Speaking of which, over the life of Warranty Week, 103 people have asked to be taken off the email distribution list, and 186 people were taken off the list after their addresses went bad (changed jobs, changed addresses, installed over-aggressive spam filters, etc.). That means over the past 27 months fully 88% of all those who signed up are still subscribers today. Of course, there's no annual renewal required and sponsors pay for the cost of publication. But still, this is significantly higher than the 65% annual retention rate seen by most publications.

Doubling Every Year

Readership was at 160 after the first three months of publication, had doubled by June 1, 2003, and doubled again by the end of 2003. The thousand reader mark was crossed in November 2003 and the 2,000 reader mark was reached in Dec. 2004. Of the current base of 2,184 readers, 674 signups date back to 2003 or 2002. During several months in 2004, upwards of 100 new subscribers arrived. But the most signups occurred in the just-completed month of January 2005, with the count topping 144 by Monday night.

Within the U.S., there are currently exactly 1,800 email recipients. Location data, including at the very least a state and frequently a full postal address, was available for 1,560 of those. A total of 240 readers did not provide any physical location data for themselves. All of these were assumed to be based in the U.S., although we suspect some are not. These included 80 users of multinational webmail services for whom guesses were made, plus 166 readers who either identified their employer as a U.S.-based company, or identified their ISP as a U.S.-based cable or phone company.

Looking at just the 1,560 U.S.-based readers who provided location data, there are readers in at least 46 states plus Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. The states with the most readers are California (223), Texas (133), Michigan (128), Illinois (104), Georgia (79), Virginia (79), Florida (71), New York (68), Indiana (60), and Ohio (55). An additional 560 readers are in the 35 other states, DC, or Puerto Rico.

Warranty Week Readers by State,
Jan. 31, 2005


Source: Warranty Week

In Canada, only seven readers provided no additional location data. Of the 89 who did, 52 were in Ontario, 15 were in Québec, 14 were in British Columbia, and eight were spread among three other provinces. In the UK, there were clusters of readers in London, Bristol, Reading, and Glasgow. In Germany the clusters were in Munich, Wolfsburg, Walldorf, Heidelberg, and Düsseldorf. But we'll stop there, because further down the list some of the cities are closely identified with a single manufacturer.

Warranty Job Titles

In terms of job titles, only 15% of readers who provided this information used the word warranty somewhere within their job titles. There were only four executives (vice president or above) with the word warranty in their titles. More readers used the words quality, reliability, service, supply, or supplier in some permutation. But then again, a job title is not necessarily indicative of an interest in warranty. Indeed, if 85% of all warranty professionals (or at least all Warranty Week readers) don't use the word warranty in their job titles, there must be a reason. As with so much about warranty, we'd suggest it's been overlooked.

We collected a total of 1,447 job titles from our 2,184 readers, and sorted them into three groups. At the top of the pyramid are all the chairmen, presidents, founders, owners, CEOs, managing directors, and principals. There were 134 of these. Next are all the other top-level executives, vice president or above. There were 179 of these. And finally, we counted 582 managers or directors. In percentage terms, that's 9.3% chairmen, 12.4% VP, and 40.2% managerial. It would be interesting to see if these figures can be extrapolated to all Warranty Week subscribers. But we don't know the job titles of more than a third of them, so we'll stop here.

Readers who wish to receive an alphabetical list of all 1,447 job titles (with no names or companies attached) can notify the editor. It may be of no interest to anybody, but we have a hunch that finding the right person in charge of warranty is a significant hurdle for many consulting, software, and professional service providers. Before they can find the warranty professionals, they need to know what warranty professionals are calling themselves these days.

We don't want to break privacy promises by revealing the names of either individual subscribers or the companies they work for. But it's a different story for their job titles and the industries that their employers are part of. So we can tell you that the most common job title is Warranty Manager, the most common location is California, and the most common industry is computer manufacturing. So if you're a warranty manager for a computer manufacturer located in Cupertino, Palo Alto, or Irvine, you're smack in the thickest part of the bell curve.

We would have expected the automotive sector to win out, but only 4.3% of current readers work for a passenger car manufacturer; 3.3% work for a truck, bus, or recreational vehicle manufacturer, and 5.2% work for an auto parts manufacturer. An additional 4% work for a manufacturer of farm, mining, or construction vehicles, for a grand total of 16.8% in the "automotive" industry using the widest possible definition. Back in August 2003, fully 23% of the readership was in the automotive business and only 11% was in computer or telecom equipment. So things have changed noticeably in the past 18 months as the readership has more than tripled.

Warranty Industry Sectors

In the pie chart below, we're trying to cram 16 different types of employers into one screen. There are of course more than 16 kinds of employers. So perhaps a little explanation is needed for the labels used. Computers and telecom equipment is perhaps self-explanatory. There were 441 readers who worked for such an employer. But the people who sell them and the people who fix them were counted under the retail/service heading. The same goes for cars and trucks. Those who work for companies that make them are listed under the heading for cars or trucks. Those who sell them are listed under retail/service.

Warranty Week Readers
by Industry Sectors,
Jan. 31, 2005


Source: Warranty Week

The chart was created in response to a question: what motivates a given person to subscribe to Warranty Week? Put another way, what role does a given employee and a given company have within the warranty industry? Are they a manufacturer that issues product warranties? Are they selling the product or performing warranty work? Are they selling or administering extended warranties for those products? Or perhaps they are selling software tools to manufacturers, dealers, retailers, and/or administrators.

Manufacturers Dominate

It turns out that all manufacturers, counted together, comprise roughly 47.5% of the Warranty Week readership. Extended warranty retailers, administrators, and underwriters comprise another 25.2%. Most of the remainder provide professional services to these businesses. Only a very small number of readers are what one would call end users or customers, although this segment continues to grow as municipal and airline fleet managers continue to sign up. There also are a handful of professors and students who use EDU email addresses to receive their subscriptions. However, most of the people thrown into the "other" category simply didn't provide any relevant information about their job or their employer.

Our hunch is that plain old consumers might visit the Web site while doing their pre-purchase research, where they read a few pages about claims rates and then move on. But they don't generally sign up for a newsletter aimed squarely at warranty professionals. There's just nothing here aimed at consumers. However, there have been numerous instances where dissatisfied customers write a letter to the Warranty Week editor about their denied claims or their disappearing administrators. Inevitably, we ask them which state they're in and point them to their attorneys general or their local consumer protection agencies.

Interestingly, 171 readers are warranty consultants of one sort or another, though the line between consultant and software provider might more appropriately be dotted (or absent entirely). Many of the consultants sell warranty software as well as their own expertise, and warranty software is rarely sold without accompanying consulting services. Either way, the target customers of these consultants and software developers are usually the companies who actually provide the warranties and extended warranties.

Venture Capital Interest

A small but significant slice of the readership works for either an investment house or a law firm. They're professionals, but they're fairly new to warranty. This suggests that warranty is increasingly coming to the attention of people who are in a position to make deals. Whether this is an outcome of the publicity surrounding investments made recently in NEW Customer Services Companies Inc., or whether that deal was itself part of the larger trend remains to be seen. All we can say is these people weren't subscribing a year and a half ago.

The universe of manufacturers was chopped up into eight different segments. The largest is computers and telecom equipment, followed by something we're calling home/office. This is a collection of manufacturers of everything from office furniture to gardening tools -- anything used to build or furnish a home or office. Also included in this slice are all the manufacturers of major appliances, heating systems, air conditioning, and building materials.

Next come the segments labeled auto parts, cars, heavy equipment, and trucks. The first includes manufacturers of just the parts, engines, and components that go into a vehicle. The latter three include the final manufacturers of the vehicles. As mentioned, those who sell or fix the vehicles are included in the retail/service segment.

Finally, there is a slice for aerospace manufacturers, and there's a slice for readers who work for all other types of manufacturers. And there are a few of everything in that slice: from golf equipment to meter reading technology. We're still waiting for signups from the people warranting the weather in Florida or the health of puppies in Denver. Then we'll add a new category for things you didn't think could carry warranties.

Warranty Chain Management Conference Approaches Capacity

It may sound far off, but the opening night for the Warranty Chain Management Conference in San Francisco is only four weeks away. More importantly, 170 people have now registered for the event and capacity is only 200, so there's a very real possibility that procrastinators could be turned away at the door. Registration forms may be downloaded via the following link: www.warrantyconference.com/previous-conferences/wcm-2005.html.

Discount conference rates also are available in advance for hotel rooms occupied between Feb. 27 and March 4, 2005, for a conference scheduled to take place on March 2 and 3 (with an evening reception on March 1). Registrants who need overnight accommodations are strongly urged to make their hotel reservations as soon as possible with the Hyatt at Fisherman�s Wharf, the conference venue, via the following link: fishermanswharf.hyatt.com/groupbooking/alga. Reservations are subject to availability and will be secured on a first-come, first-served basis.

The conference agenda also is now available on the Web page: www.warrantyconference.com/previous-conferences/wcm-2005.html. As several readers have noted, the agenda is quite extensive. Because of an overwhelming amount of speaker proposals, there will now be three tracks to choose from during most of the event.

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