Adjust Your Rear View Mirror Before Launching a Product

Adjust Your Rear View Mirror Before Launching a Product

Posted by Tatsuya Nakagawa and Peter Roosen / FastCompany.com
January 23, 2008 11:14 AM

When engineering, product development and marketing & sales
people get together and do a great job in successfully pushing a new
product into the market to rave reviews, things can still fall apart.
There can still be important blind spots in the system to watch out
for. Big companies are not immune to this problem.

We discovered a hole in Fujitsu’s warranty programs after we went
out and bought their latest Scansnap S510 office scanner a few weeks
ago. We learned about the product from others, mainly online, who were
successfully using these to help convert their offices to paperless
environments. We bought one.

We’re located in Canada and when we first learned about the scanner,
were unable to find it at our local retailers or at the big box office
stores that we normally go to for this type of equipment. We got a good
deal on a new unit from a U.S. retailer that has an active online sales
business into Canada. We learned that unlike in the United States where
the product is widely available, the Canadian distribution channels are
shallow. We were delighted at how well the scanner worked until the
camera module fried.

When someone called Fujitsu USA via the 1-800 number on the warranty
card, after listening to muzak for almost an hour to get service,
managed to walk through the technical service process to determine it
was indeed a hardware problem.

That is when the ping pong started. Fujitsu USA referred us to
Fujitsu Canada who referred us back to the American office. Fujitsu USA
doesn’t service units outside of the USA and Fujitsu Canada does not
service units that they didn’t sell in Canada. We suddenly felt like
homeless outcasts from the Fujitsu family.

Ideally, the Canadian office should be the one providing the
warranty service because they have regional drop-off centers plus a
great and efficient technical service infrastructure designed
specifically to service Canadian customers. In our follow up with
Fujitsu Canada, the issue from their perspective was that they did not
make a dime from the sale of the scanner we bought from the American
supplier and that the warranty service would come out of their budget
if they fixed our scanner. The American response was that there was no
way within the existing system for the Canadian office to bill the U.S.
office for warranty service on units that were bought in the United
States and that ended up in Canada.

Globalization is putting these distributors in direct competition
with each other because products can move quite freely across the
Canada USA border in either direction whereas the warranty service does
not. It turns out that many of these units are going back and forth
across the border and the default is to send them back to the country
they were originally purchased in through a clumsy and expensive system
of double-shipping through local addresses.

Fujitsu USA unexpectedly hit upon a solution when it offered to do a
workaround and fix our scanner if we would send it to them. The U.S.
domestic FedEx pre-paid shipping label that the American manager asked
us to apply to the unit did not work for this international shipment.
When he talked to FedEx about the label, the FedEx response was a quick
and simple “no problem.” FedEx fixed the problem in a couple minutes
because FedEx had all the systems in place to do it. The American
manager handling the transaction liked the example and noted the stark
contrast to his own system where he had zero ability to look into the
Canadian system to work out a quick fix.

We were fairly patient with the process, mainly because the Fujitsu
people on both sides of the border were polite and friendly. This
seemed partly due to them knowing there is a gaping hole in their
international warranty system.

The lesson for innovators is to beware of the blind spots that can
occur anywhere in the marketing process. This is especially important
with the accelerating trend toward consumers shopping globally for
their products that easily migrate across national and regional
boundaries. FedEx obviously has good reasons to be a global leader in
addressing cross border service issues. As things become more
competitive, a great product needs to be just as good on the back end
as it does on the brochure.

Here are some things companies can do to ensure the back end doesn’t
fall apart while developing the marketing strategy for new products:

• Perform a product life cycle analysis from the customer perspective,
• Discuss back end product aspects during product meetings,
• Create systems to reward employees who take ownership of customer service problems.

The whole product experience is becoming more relevant as people
increasingly turn to online sources which have no boundaries. Watch out
to make sure the experience doesn’t fall apart on the back end. We’re
still waiting for our scanner to come back from the shop.

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