What can importers do to avoid after sales quality problems that occur after a product has been shipped and is already on sale?
Keep reading to understand what to do to mitigate or avoid these ‘long term quality issues’ in case you find yourself in the situation where you’re experiencing quality problems with products which are already in your customers’ hands.
Avoiding quality issues in products after they’ve shipped
Products falling apart, electrical components burning out, or batteries failing once products have already been purchased by and are in use by end users are the stuff of nightmares for most companies and sellers, and rightly so!
Samsung, for example, probably still hasn’t completely recovered from the Note 7 debacle caused by batteries catching fire, and the shocking injuries and deaths of children caused by faulty hoverboards catching fire will forever live on in manufacturing infamy as well.
FBA sellers especially may end up losing their livelihoods if Amazon pulls your products or store due to one too many customer complaints.
We can’t turn the clock back, so in this case, the best form of defence against after sales quality problems is to attack them before the products are shipped.
The danger of ‘long term quality issues’
‘Long term quality issues,’ are failures that perhaps don’t show up during development and prototyping, or even during mass production.
As mentioned above with the Samsung example, these kinds of quality failures are often the most damaging for sellers because they only manifest themselves to consumers after some regular use (wear and tear), and can sometimes even be a risk or cause of user injury or death.
So if regular product inspections during production or pre-shipment won’t necessarily catch these problems, what to do if you have a product which could be at risk?
‘Long term quality issues’ are tough to identify in advance unless importers use HALT and/or HASS lab tests.
These acronyms stand for:
• HALT: Highly Accelerated Life Test
• HASS: Highly Accelerated Stress Screen
These tests are suitable for sellers who need to know if their new product will keep working as planned after a few years of use.
You can see this kind of stress test in action in this video about IKEA chair testing:
Arranging the right testing
Now that you have decided that you want to test for ‘long term quality issues,’ how to arrange and control these tests?
The importance of your product specification
As an importer, you have the power to include the testing that you require to be carried out in your product specification. In fact, this is an important step, because you’re responsible for product reliability and safety.
Quality inspectors will stress and abuse products as a part of inspections, but if longer term tests are required, then it’s a good idea to ask them to recommend a reliability testing laboratory.
Choosing the right testing laboratory
If you have sourced a testing lab to conduct testing to avoid after sales quality problems, you should assess it based on these factors:
• Is the lab clean and well organized?
• Are the methods I need accredited, e.g. by ISO 17025?
• Are they experienced in the market I want to deliver (the US vs. Europe)? References?
• What are their turnaround times?
• Do a blind sampling with failed samples from the past. Do they find the failures? Repeat this after the testing routine has kicked in.
What else can be effective to combat post sales quality issues?
You should also consider:
- Undertaking FMEA analyses on both the design and the processes for your product
- Visiting China and discussing possible risks with your supplier’s engineers
Editor’s note: This post is a remix and summary of How to Deal with Post-Sales Quality Issues: By Renaud Anjoran on ChinaImportal.com which has been updated and edited for Sofeast readers.
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