Whilst these events involve a business to consumer exchange, the lessons apply to any business; ensure that: your customer journeys are well understood, that documentation is accurate and clear, and that staff are well trained.
We just wanted a new fan heater
We bought a tower fan heater to replace one that was very old and had become unsafe. The replacement was just what we wanted but as I was unboxing it, I noticed that there was a rattling sound as if something had become detached inside, so before installing the stand, I plugged it in and turned it on…nothing…completely dead.
I checked the instructions which were simple enough: switch it on at the back and then select options from the front display, but the display would not illuminate.
So we sent it back and another one arrived…same problem; something was rattling inside and it wouldn’t work.
We phoned the manufacturer. The technician said that there were indeed parts inside that could come loose in transit but that we shouldn’t attempt to repair it ourselves and they would send a replacement.
On each occasion we found the same problem. The support staff were very helpful, and the supplier paid for all the collections and deliveries, but each time it was the same; parts rattled inside and it would not work.
When the 7th one arrived we were convinced it would be the same story because we could hear the rattle before opening the box. We phoned the support line and due to the earlier problems, were passed through to a technical leader. We un-boxed it whilst on the phone to him and once again it wouldn’t work. He then asked us to stand it upright and try it again, at which point it worked!
None of the installation/set-up documentation explained that the fan included a topple device which switches the power off if the fan is knocked over, or that the topple device rattles and that this is normal.
Had they mapped out customer journeys or tested the product with some sample customers, they would have realised that the rattle would raise concerns and that some would test the fan before installing the stand. Their documentation could have easily covered this, and they could have trained staff to be aware too. Instead, they have lost a considerable amount in transportation costs and staff time, they almost lost a new customer too, not to mention damage to their reputation.
Whether you create products or sell services, it’s a good idea to put yourself in your customers’ shoes and take the journeys that they will travel, whether it be from visiting your web site, phoning you or any other starting point. Map out all the possible routes, then walk their paths and then see what you can improve. Once you think you have got it right, get some completely new people (ideally potential customers) to try the routes and give you feedback. It’s amazing what you will find and fix.