Complexity causes 50% of product returns

Complexity causes 50% of product returns

March 06, 2006 (Reuters)

— AMSTERDAM — Half of all malfunctioning products returned to stores by consumers are in full working order, but customers can’t figure out how to operate the devices, a scientist said on Monday.

Product complaints and returns are often caused by poor design, but
companies frequently dismiss them as "nuisance calls," Elke den Ouden
found in her thesis at the Technical University of Eindhoven in the
south of the Netherlands.

A wave of versatile electronics
gadgets has flooded the market in recent years, ranging from MP3
players and home cinema sets to media centers and wireless audio
systems, but consumers still find it hard to install and use them, she

The average consumer in the United States will struggle
for 20 minutes to get a device working, before giving up, the study


Product developers, brought in to witness the struggles of average consumers, were astounded by the havoc they created.

She also gave new products to a group of managers from consumer electronics company Philips (PHG.AS), asking them to use them over the weekend. The managers returned frustrated because they could not get the devices to work properly.

Most of the flaws found their origin in the first phase of the design process: product definition, Den Ouden found

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