Samsung Electronic Inc.’s fix for its Galaxy Note 7 battery problem came too late for many folks. Too late, for those hurt by the phone’s exploding battery. Too late for those who chose competing handsets as replacement once news began spreading about the defective battery. It also came too late for many loyalists disappointed by its failure to seamlessly roll out the Note 7. It was too late to win me over.
This is just one customer but the implications for Samsung are enormous. When you lose a loyal customer because of a defective product and the shoddy handling of the replacement it may take a long time to bring these people back into your corner. It’s a lesson for the entire electronics supply chain and not just for Samsung. The industry makes highly visible products and, in the age of social media, even a minor hiccup can end a great run and endanger a brand and the enterprise.
Is the Galaxy Note brand a walking dead? That’s a question Samsung must quickly resolve. Soon after it began replacing the defective device with new ones a report by a Chinese consumer started another wave of the same crisis. The report said a replacement for the Note 7 also exploded. The buyer allegedly refused to turn the device over to Samsung for inspection because he lacked faith in the company’s willingness or ability to conduct a proper investigation. Whether this incident was true or not, it is fueling a fire about another Samsung product; People are now complaining about a top-loading Samsung washing machine.
Samsung has promised to conduct an investigation into the China Note 7 replacement incident. It has also issued an advisory to owners of the top-loading washing machines. It said in a statement:
In rare cases, affected units may experience abnormal vibrations that could pose a risk of personal injury or property damage when washing bedding, bulky or water-resistant items. Samsung is recommending that consumers with affected models use the lower speed delicate cycle when washing bedding, bulky or water-resistant materials. There have been no reported incidents when using this cycle. It is important to note that Samsung customers have completed hundreds of millions of loads without incident since 2011.
The washing machine issue couldn’t have come at a worse time for Samsung. Prior to this and the challenge it had with the Galaxy Note 7, the company’s main worry was how to put some distance between itself and the closest competitors in the mobile phone business. It had a reputation for quality, innovation and reliability. The danger Samsung faces now is the possibility that the company could soon find itself associated with unreliable and possibly dangerous products. The fact that only a handful of its Note 7 exploded and that the overwhelming majority of the buyers of its customers are satisfied with their purchases could be swept aside in a general condemnation of the company.
Let’s start at the individual level for an indication of how challenging this problem has become for Samsung. In a previous blog I documented how my pre-ordered Galaxy Note 7 worked fine but that I was forced to request a replacement from service provider T-Mobile when Samsung recalled the device. The process was anything but painful. It was compounded by a serious lack of effective coordination of the recall with telecom service providers.
T-Mobile initially wanted to send me an iPhone to replace the Note 7. I declined the offer because I preferred the Android operating system. The service provider eventually agreed to give me a Galaxy S7 as a temporary replacement. We reached an impasse over the duration of the loan period. An overseas trip meant I wasn’t going to be around by September 21 when Samsung said it would have replacements ready. T-Mobile, too, wasn’t willing to extend the loan period for any longer than Samsung would cover.
I returned the Note 7 and went back to my Note 4. My intention was to get the Note 7 later once Samsung had permanently fixed the battery problem but the report that another replacement device had exploded in China means I probably won’t. I don’t want the Galaxy S7 either. I wanted a Galaxy Note but Samsung may have killed that brand. Many other customers will steer clear of the Note 7 and it may take a while to get them back.
But more than a single product brand is at stake. The reputation of the Korean company is in jeopardy too. Whatever quality checks Samsung failed to make in its haste to get the Galaxy Note 7 to market ahead of the competitor’s device were obviously not worth it. This conclusion may be panned as the 20/20 hindsight view but proponents of Best Practices in the electronics supply chain have always emphasized the importance of getting the right product to market at the right time, the right price and, very importantly, with the right components. Samsung is paying a huge price for avoiding this principle.
Bolaji Ojo is editor-in-chief and publisher of EPSNews. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author alone who promises to base his sometimes biased, possibly ignorant, occasionally irrelevant but absolutely stimulating thoughts on the subjective interpretation of verifiable facts alone. Any comments should be sent to the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.