the “anti seth godin” approach to selling products

Lightspeed venture partners comments that 11-20% of electronic gear is returned.

The breakdown:

68% “no trouble found” — customer found the product confusing
27% buyer’s remorse — too expensive or spouse didn’t like it
5% defective

Sony’s solution? Make the product easier? Find out how to make the product better? Nope! Make the product harder to return!

Sony Corp. has taken a different approach with some of its products that makes it harder for consumers to bring them back. The company in 2006 added an option allowing consumers to engrave their name or other message on a Vaio computer. It expanded the program to its digital cameras last year. Sony says the program was started to let customers personalize products, but a side benefit for Sony is that engraved products can be returned only because of defects or other reasons that are the company’s fault.

Return rates on engraved Sony Vaios are negligible, compared with about 5% for non-engraved PCs, the company says, saving more than $1 million so far. “I have a feeling that people are understanding the condition that you can’t return it,” Mr. Abary says. “But also once they have engraved it, they feel like it’s a part of them.”

My mom is a perfect example of a customer who finds many things electronic too confusing. Rather than do the right thing of asking customers for feedback, Sony takes the easy way out the soon-to-be-former customers.

But it seems like Sony is the exception. In the original article, the other companies discussed have a much more enlightened approach.

Sharp’s Aquos Advantage for example:

allows members to get free telephone and Internet advice, including how to set up your equipment, for more hours than the standard Sharp helpline, with an option for Saturday in-home service. Members also receive promotions for extended warranties, installations and accessories.

Ricardo Casas purchased a 42-inch Sharp LCD TV. When he got it home, Mr. Casas says he had trouble hearing the TV.

When he called Sharp, a customer-service person dispatched someone to Mr. Casas’ home the next day to upgrade the sound technology in the TV at no cost. The service person also registered Mr. Casas to the Advantage program over the phone and added three more months to his warranty, for a total of six months. Returning the TV makes little sense “when I get that kind of service from them,” says the 62 year old.

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