22 September 2014

Bad customers causing problems? Only sell to good ones, then.

At a dinner party last week, one of my friends who recently retired as an automotive safety engineer was discussing the latest recall in airbags. It reminded me of an Automotive News article I had read decades ago about a seatbelt manufacturer that had to recall millions of seatbelt buckles because the plastic retainer was breaking.

As I recall, the article quoted an employee of one international seatbelt supplier blaming the American customer because they eat fried potatoes and have dogs in their cars. Apparently, the salt, oil, and pet hair was weakening the plastic part.

QFD thinking tells us that if you want to sell in America, your product must be robust to reasonable American use – in this case food and pets in the cars. Otherwise, DON'T sell in America. Blaming the customer moves the responsibility from you, the maker to the customer. If you blame the maker, who has control over your design, you can effect a solution. If you blame the customer, over whom you have no control, the only solution is to get better customers. Good luck with that!