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Leica M
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Dec 26, 2020

Something Bose needs to learn (and sadly they wont)

TL;DR - I recently was told by a customer service person that I was only one complaint among hundreds of happy customers - that got me thinking: Why is Bose rapidly losing market share in the headphone market and why has Sony become a "premium" brand over Bose. Did Bose lose its luster, and why?

After my 4th replacement pair of the Limited Edition Eclipse NC700 (5th headset now) and reading the long threads of people with issues with the latest firmware and the long threads with people with crackling problems and other ongoing issues with the NC700 is that, while the posts represent only a small fraction of users compared to the amount they have sold, I realise one thing - we on the community are actually big big big fans of Bose. We love the brand and we want the products to not only work but be the best and to (ultimately) be what Sony and Apple are doing right now: Making the Headphone world excited about sound and NC wireless headsets.

 

What I see is that while we are the big flag-bearing fans, we have enough energy and wherewithal to come to the forums and not only complain but to inform Bose of what needs to improve, change or fix to make our (very expensive) purchases worthwhile. Some of us are up to our 3rd, 4th, or in one case, 8th replacement pair. But what about poor Miss Smith who doesn't really understand much about headphones and the Bose was recommended to her because it suited her needs by the salesperson or family member - and she is sitting there with crackling or dropouts and accepts this as part of the experience. Or Mr. Jones who gave them as presents to his kid and is none-the-wiser about the experience, and their kid says that the headphones are rubbish. These people will turn around and move on to another brand without making their grievances known. They may just return it and move on, or worse, just live ignorantly with the purchase.

 

So what does this mean for us as the Bose community on this forum? It means that Bose is choosing not to listen to us, the ones who actually care enough to come to the table and explain the issues. Imagine if we chose not to come, Bose would start losing market share and take the occasional guess that it's because their headset isn't stylish enough, or doesn't have a great app. The real issue is that the die-hard fans here on this forum just want a technology that works that is on paper. We bought the headphones knowing what we were getting - we got something else in return. We KNEW we were buying an app that has fewer features, we KNEW we bought NC that was not "the best" and we KNEW it cost more. What we got was crackling, hardware faults, firmware breaks, app issues, and silence.

 

And the silence can heard the loudest from their customer service team - lowly paid and understaffed, they type out textbook replies to quell the growing dissatisfaction. Meanwhile, Sony within only one generation leap (from the XM3 to the XM4) has taken over from Bose - Apple has taken the crown in terms of straight-up technology with one release; Plantronics is taking over the low-end market and Microsoft Surface Headphones 2 has won over the mid-market for office users and the innovative use of physical dials.

 

So what does this all mean? It means that Bose, in its silence and reticence, Bose loses more silent customers for every upset post there is here. When I spoke to customer service, they said that I was only one upset phone call among many happy customers. Yes, that is true, but it does NOT mean that that "happy customer" is going to buy Bose again. Miss Smith might put on her daughter's cheap beats and realise that she made a mistake one day. Mr. Jones will wonder why his kid didn't like the really expensive present and get something else on his next birthday. And for every disgruntled Bose community poster here, we would turn around to our own family and say "Get the Sony XM4 instead" or "Get the Jabras if you need such and such feature." When I told my friends about my experience getting my 5th pair of headphones, three out of my six of them asked "Aren't they supposed to be the best?" and several weeks later, they started asking about my recent purchase of XM4 headphones and are now thinking of getting a pair, all because I explained my experience - that's 6 people that will be avoiding Bose, buying Sony and when they are in the market again, they will remember their Sony experience as being normal to amazing, and remember my experience as being very far below normal.

 

This is something Bose needs to learn, and after 2 years, they sadly haven't and I doubt they will any time soon.

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joelirwin
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Jun 15, 2018

Re: Something Bose needs to learn (and sadly they wont)

@Leica M(I do not work for Bose)

 

I want to let you know, I did read your whole post here.  I wish it were as simple as Bose does not listen and hence has lost market share.

Consider other electronics.  Take for example, TVs - we purchase our TVs based on the functionality at purchase.  We do not expect and most of us don't even care if the TV company such as samsung (which I own) updates their firmware.   For other products such as operating system or smart device - some of them by default update silently in the background and some of them require a manual request.  I know quite a few people whose iphones never got updated since they were set to manual.

And take my latest technology a $2k+ Bowflex M9 Maxclimber. Like Bose, they have a diverse product line and many FB groups, general twitter account, etc.  But nothing at all for the M9. No community as Bose.

Now I have been in the community here for 2+ years and while like you I have all sorts of issues, had many exchanges (in the last two years - 5 Revolves and 2 QC35s), and question the expertise of an offshored support center (I used to supervise a corporate technical support call center), I can say that I know for a fact that not only are there moderators/support people that read every single post in all the communities, but there are engineers and engineering supervisors from corporate in Framingham, MA, who read the posts here as well. I know Framingham reads these posts - they told me themselves.

We will never hear from anyone at Bose other than the front line moderators - that is their policy.  And we also never hear about their ongoing projects and what changes are planned and are under implementation for their current projects (until these changes are put into production). You and I may not like that but this is totally usual corporate behavior -  not just for technology products but for most products produced by mid to large/giant sized corporations.

Things are just not as simple as listening to us and making changes based upon our input.  We don't know what/who else Bose uses as input to their engineering projects, design changes, and new product designs/implementations.

What concerns me as you eloquently stated is 'branding'.  I suspect, like you, that over time, the Bose brand has lost its eminence and that customers are not as likely to place a branding premium on its products as they have been in the past, but like you - it's a guess.  There are marketing information companies that specialize in the industry(s) that Bose competes in that I am certain Bose pays a lot of money to, to help them navigate the markets and compete.

Bose is a for profit corporation.  We as customers vote with our dollars and our opinions (especially on social media).  Bose makes development, support and marketing decisions based on varied inputs including us - but we are just one of many.

Leica M
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Re: Something Bose needs to learn (and sadly they wont)

I get your point - but my original point is that customers have voted with their feet and wallets. Sony has more sales in the NC market now, and it simply came down to a cheaper option that just worked. The press, youtube and reviews have been nothing but positive about it. And the more Bose stays silent as their product gets more bad press, word of mouth, then it really comes down to two things: Mr Jones and Ms Smith choosing not to buy. It's as simple as that. And while your points are valid - thats how Bose IS thinking. They have forgotten about the customer, and the customers are moving on.

 

I remember when I worked at a retail store that sold JBL, Jabra, Beats etc and as staff, we laughed at those brands and their headphones. Now, they have taken market share, serious market share too. Its not tech, it's not the manufacturing or anything else - it comes down to Mr Jones and Ms Smith... customers.

Leica M
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Re: Something Bose needs to learn (and sadly they wont)

And to be very clear, I really appreciate your response - its good to see your ideas and thoughts on the matter - but I hold by the idea that Bose rested on its laurels on the QC35II and then decided to go on holiday, never to be seen again.

 

My favorite part of your reply is your understanding of my initial point about branding. Bose no longer has that eminence as you say, anymore. I think you nailed it on the head for me in how I feel about this brand. I have had Bose products for close to a decade now, and no issues, until my 5th pair of Eclipse NC700. After getting a refund, I was gifted with a normal pair of silver ones and they don't have as many issues, but they still have issues - but for $550 Australian bucks - the brand, style and quality is not worth the asking price. I have completely moved onto B&O, Sony and JBL, and as a big big big Bose fan, I will convince everyone in my circle to avoid Bose for a very long time - I have never been so mistreated by customer support that poorly before, and I have never had 5 problematic headsets in a row like that before - and that seems to be a systemic and endemic issue within the bose company, something that they wont recover from for a few years at least.

joelirwin
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Jun 15, 2018

Re: Something Bose needs to learn (and sadly they wont)

@Leica MIn recent decades/years we have become very accustomed to products needing support and regular updating.  Sometime in the mid-1990's (or could have been even further back) I purchased two pairs of Bose analog speakers for my then stereo equipment - floor standing 701s and bookshelf 201s.  I liked the way they both sounded.  Now 30 years later, I still use both pair - the 701s (which sell now for about $650) with my Samsung TV through a Onkyo receiver; the 201s (now about $100 online) are connected to my desktop through a Lepai amp as my studio speakers (I have scored 31 films with them 🙂 ).

And you know what?  I have never called support once on either pair and they have never been upgraded (.... there was nothing to upgrade 🙂 )

 

Leica M
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Re: Something Bose needs to learn (and sadly they wont)

@joelirwin I had the same experience with my Pioneer, Yamaha and Bang and Olufsen speakers, DACs, Amps and DvD players etc. When I got my first job, I saved up for a Pioneer Plasma TV and Speakers back in 2003 (I just finished my HSC) and I still have them to this day, no support needed - just really expensive pieces that still work and worked right out of the box.

 

But I have had to replace or return about half the things I buy from Myer, half the electronics I buy from computer manufacturers and every now and then I also have to get my phone serviced (I had 2 that were dead on arrival and Optus refused to replace it on the spot, opting for a repair both times. Lets say that I always vote with my wallet. And then I make sure that other people hear my stories.)

 

That being said - Bose was one brand I had with a whole surround sound set up, some random revolve and Bluetooth speakers here and there (as presents and for myself) a couple of QC35II headphones that I wore to death and a soundbar - all were great. But the moment the NC700s came out and not only did I have to get them replaced 4 times (5 pairs altogether) I realised how little they cared about my needs. I would have to go through a whole process of proving my headset was broken, service that accused me of being incompetent and then when it was sent in, it would take 2 weeks for them to "check it" and then another 2 weeks to mail the replacement. Each time, the headset would crackle, buzz or fail in some way right out of the box. I did this 4 times until I just was not a fan anymore.