Customers Expectations Tend Toward Better Reliability Over Time
Reliability goals or objectives are just a starting point.
You goals represent your target at one point in time.
At best they represent what your customers expect for reliability performance at one point in time.
When goals are set well, they anticipate what your customer expects when they receive your product. In a perfect world, you customer will find the reliability performance just a bit better than expected.
It’s not a perfect world.
Setting reliability goals to reflect customer expectation
We use a range of inputs to establish reliability objectives. It is an attempt to define the future expectation of reliability performance.
It is not an exact science.
In some situations, your customer will provide explicit reliability goals.
Even when a customer describes precisely what they want concerning reliability, it may not be what they want.Let me explain.
Over time the role the product plays in your customer’s life may evolve. As cell phones became replacements for land lines, the expectation they always work increased.
In a military situation, even if the product is meeting the contract terms, the product may be the primary reason for aborted missions. Thus the expectation of improved reliability occurs.
Also, a customer may not fully understand how to express a reliability requirement.
You know how I feel about MTBF.
Even a well stated reliability goal might not accurately reflect the customer’s tolerance for risk of failure.
When failures do occur, expectations shift.
Why does customer expectation change?
Customers grow accustomed to the product. Instead of handling the device carefully, over time it proves itself robust, thus may receive rougher handling.
You probably know someone that has sat on their cell phone by just forgetting it was in their pocket.
Customers discover additional uses. They are clever that way.
Have you ever used a socket set ratchet as a hammer since it was in your hand already? Using a product in an unusual manner increases the unexpected or undesired stresses on the device.
Customers broaden the range of environments. Customers move about the world and into space.
They take their favorite gadgets and tools with them.
Electronics corrode in environments with high salt fog or ocean mist atmosphere, yet that didn’t stop a charter boat captain from using an inkjet printer during trips.
Customers imagine additional features. One reason products fail, has nothing to do the existing design.
If a customer wishes the product has an essential feature, the device has failed them and their expectation.
It is quite common. Customer expectations concerning product performance change over time. Beyond wanting items that perform better, faster, and cheaper, they also want improved reliability.
Have you seen shifting reliability expectations with your products? Leave a comment on how you work to meet the shifting expectations.
More articles and podcasts on the topic
Customer Reliability Expectations Change (article)