In days, gone-by, your refrigerator was an old friend for at least twenty years, furniture withstood decades becoming valuable antiques and people talked on a phone and didn’t use it to play games and it was indestructible. Yes, technology is advancing at such a rapid pace that products do become obsolete. But, that is no excuse for a product to fall apart just when the warranty is going to expire. Or, what’s even worse, that the product doesn’t work when you unpack it from the box.
Everyday we hear horror stories about short-lived products. A mirrored chest of drawers cracks two months after delivery and a pricey set of bathroom faucets tarnish within one month. The manufacturer actually told our neighbor that the product is not supposed to get wet. Odd because they were obviously going to be used in the sink and shower! Another friend installed a fan and one of the blades came apart, creating a dangerous situation. A colleague bought a new smart phone that continually turned off in the middle of conversations with important clients.
The bottom line is that in general products are not made to last as long as they did in the past. Unfortunate but true, so what do we do about it?
Create an opportunity; turn the proverbial lemons into lemonade. The opportunity becomes fixing the problem or issue with almost seamless effort and personalized service. Companies must have policies, training, and procedures in place to rectify problems. Customers will leave brands, shop elsewhere, and certainly buy a different fan or faucet if the agent in customer service cannot overcome the obstacle of a faulty product.
I am happy to report that most of the stories have a happy ending.
When Janelle Barlow first wrote the book, A Complaint is a Gift: Recovering Customer Loyalty When Things Go Wrong, I’m sure she never imagined that companies would have so many “gifts” handed to them.
Quality control and the brand reputation start with the product design. Ensure your merchandise has all of the right components to reduce defects. But, also insist that built into the product design is a service-strategy that will make the customer say and think, “this is a company I like and trust and who appreciates our loyalty and doesn’t take our business for granted.”
Each product complaint is an opening to build a relationship; don’t ruin it.