Once asked a customer what they wanted concerning product reliability.
She fully understood that some units will fail, that it’s matter of chance. She seemed understanding of the difficulty creating every product such that none would fail.
Then she confided that all that is fine, as long as the product she buys does not fail.
What do customers really want?
They want the product they acquire to work.
To provide sufficient value for the expense of the purpose. They want your product to operate as expected for as long as they expect it to work. Ideally, any product your customer buys will never fail.
Most customers understand that not all product produced will always work as expected. In that case, the expectation shifts to your organization making it right. Replace or repair the product as efficiently as possible.
We work to create robust designs, stable assembly processes, gentle transport and install systems, and yet failures occur. We strive to resolve each failure to avoid future failures. Yet, any failure represents a 100% failure rate for the one customer experiencing the failure.
Understanding Customer Expectations
This includes all the elements of reliability:
And, the notion that customers can and will change their expectations.
The function is what the product does, how it provides the features and operations. We often spend significant time working to deliver what we believe will delight the customer in this area.
Environment and use
The environment and use expectations include the customer using the product when and where they believe it can be used. If the product is to be worn on your wrist and advertised as water resistant, they may expect they can wash their hands without harming the product.
The probability is clear. They want the product they have to not fail. Our interoperation is to minimize failures to avoid disappointing too many.
The duration is really a mix of times. There is an out of box or brand new period, where any failure is damaging to customer loyalty and word of mouth promotion. The warranty period, where any failure has the expectation that you will replace/repair the item. And the useful life, which impacts long-term value for you and the customer. The hard part about useful life, it’s defined by the customer. If they expect 10 years of use, and they get 1 day past the warranty. You may not have to replace the unit, yet they may never buy one of your products again.
Respecting your customer’s expectations, by striving to meet them doesn’t guarantee your product’s success, yet not meeting expectations is a sure way to fail in the market. Customers judge your product’s performance against their unstated criteria that includes perceptions and comparisons.
Your task is to match your technical and assembly capabilities to meet as many customer’s expectations as possible.
Kenneth Gladman says
I like how you mentioned that most customers can expect a product to fail at times. At this point it is how you react and repair the failed product. This should be a big part of each company’s business model. Customer satisfaction is a huge deal because it can really impact your reputation.
Fred Schenkelberg says
Thanks for the comment Kenneth. Your comment reminds me of the Dell customer service in the 90’s – it was so good customers that experienced a failure and had to call support become more satisfied and loyal to Dell. While I would prefer to avoid the need to call support, customer support can help or hurt your overall business. It’s a choice each company makes.
Most companies understand and pay attention to customer satisfaction, yet many focus on delivery, features, etc. and either minimize or ignore the need to meet quality and reliability expectations as well.