Describes what is customary in the market for sales and customer support.
The importance of pricing in Poland cannot be overstated. Pricing is the key to successfully selling U.S. products and services in Poland. Working capital is limited in Poland, even among the larger, more successful Polish companies. Polish businesses generally spend money wisely, after thoughtful and sometimes lengthy consideration. The most commonly expressed reason for failed sales efforts per potential Polish clients continues to be that “the price is too high.” The risks surrounding exchange rate fluctuations can make pricing difficult. Typically, U.S. manufactured goods are compared to similar European-made goods and the lowest cost item wins the day.
Establishing the price of U.S. made products is further complicated by the addition of customs duties, Value Added Tax (VAT), and, in some cases, excise taxes, which may dramatically elevate the final retail price of a product. Flexibility in pricing is important and initial market penetration to gain product awareness among Polish consumers should be the goal. Successful U.S. exporters work together with their Polish representatives to keep costs, particularly import costs, as low as possible. For example, some companies ship products unassembled to help reduce import duties. Poland’s accession to the EU has given the price advantage to European producers. U.S. made goods are burdened with customs duties that products imported from other EU countries do not. To level the playing field, some American businesses have opened distribution and/or manufacturing facilities in Europe.
The Polish market is large and expanding for all types of products, but is also increasingly competitive. U.S. companies that approach the market with a long -term view to creating market share for their products will reap the rewards.
Sales Service/Customer Support
After price, service is the second greatest concern for Polish customers. Polish distributors and customers see U.S. manufacturers as far removed from the products they export to Poland. Potential customers may shy away from U.S. products over concerns that distance will lead to ineffective service if the product requires repair or maintenance.
Polish customers may walk away rather than purchase a product if they are required to ship it back to the United States for repair or service - even if the U.S. company pays for the shipment. Sending spare parts to Poland is easy to do. Some firms provide local service through European representatives or firms licensed to repair their products. Even then, some distributors worry that they may not get adequate support.
Ideally, customer service and support should be provided through a trained Polish representative or a U.S. affiliate company. Local technical support teams should be considered a part of the U.S. company’s image in the Polish market. Effective, fast, and reliable service contributes greatly to the U.S. manufacturer’s success in Poland. The opposite can also be said about service. Therefore U.S. manufacturers should be ready to provide full assistance to their service personnel in Poland.
U.S. manufacturers with major export accounts in Poland may wish to periodically send a service representative to Poland to work with the local representative and visit customers.
Conscious of the discrepancies among member states in product labeling, language use, legal guarantee and liability, the redress of which inevitably frustrates consumers in cross-border shopping, EU institutions have launched several initiatives aimed at harmonizing national legislation. Suppliers within and outside the EU should be aware of existing and upcoming legislation affecting sales, service and customer support.
Under the 1985 Directive on Liability of Defective Products, amended in 1999, the producer is liable for damage caused by a defect in his product. The victim must prove the existence of the defect and a causal link between defect and injury (bodily as well as material). A reduction of liability of the manufacturer is granted in cases of negligence on the part of the victim.
The 1992 General Product Safety Directive introduced a general safety requirement at the EU level to ensure that manufacturers only place safe products on the market. It was revised in 2001 to include an obligation on the producer and distributor to notify the Commission in case of a problem with a given product, provisions for its recall, the creation of a European Product Safety Network, and a ban on exports of products to third countries that are not deemed safe in the EU. The legislation is still undergoing review.
Legal Warranties and After-sales Service
Under the 1999 Directive on the Sale of Consumer Goods and Associated Guarantees, revised in 2011, professional sellers are required to provide a minimum two-year warranty on all consumer goods sold to consumers (natural persons acting for purposes outside their trade, businesses or professions), as defined by the Directive. The remedies available to consumers in case of non-compliance are:
Repair of the good(s);
Replacement of the good(s);
A price reduction; or Rescission of the sales contract. Other issues pertaining to consumers’ rights and protection, such as the New Approach Directives, CE marking, quality control and data protection are dealt with in the Trade Regulations section of this report.