Monday, October 10, 2016

Galaxy Note 7: Problem Not Solved

It is a management rule so trite that even I am familiar with it: after you discover that you have created a problem for your customers, be very careful that you don’t make the problem bigger with your solution. Obviously, Samsung knows the importance of this, and they have just learned that they violated this rule with the Galaxy Note 7. When first issued a month ago, this much-anticipated phone exploded and caught fire more often than you would expect. After investigating, Samsung halted sales in one country, then worldwide. It asked consumers to return the phones for replacement, followed shortly by a formal product recall. Unfortunately, the replacement phones exploded and caught fire nearly as often as the originals. Problem not solved. Tonight Samsung is asking consumers using the Galaxy Note 7 to immediately turn it off and return it. It’s a drastic step for Samsung, but clearly better than leaving a potentially incendiary hand-held device in people’s hands. The lithium batteries in the phones did not explode often — only a few per day had this problem — but that is often enough that a consensus of people would agree that it’s more than the expected risk of using a consumer electronics device. As with the lottery, people tend to put more focus on the rare events that happen than on the ones that don’t. The man who burned his hands is unlikely to forget what phone did that. He might forget every other phone but not that one. No consumer product brand wants to be known as the product that blows up in your face regardless of the number of occurrences. Nor does Samsung want to be remembered as the smoking phone that delayed a flight from taking off, never mind that that has only happened once so far. Scrapping the Note 7 and going back to do more designing and testing is the right approach, and Samsung realizes it will have to do more than that to restore trust in its brand and operations.