Hearing customer complaints about products are the worst thing for engineers working in Research and Development (R&D) or Quality Control departments. After spending hours, days, weeks, months - possibly even years - working on a new product, hearing negative customer feedback - or worse, complaints - is demoralizing, to say the least. I know the feeling well, having been in this position myself as an R&D Engineer for over five years. I saw many cases of just this and I noticed the similarities in the issues and how they were brought to our attention. Typically we were notified in one of three ways:

  • A customer complaint is registered via the Customer Relations Management (CRM) department
  • The salespeople or technical support team reporting customer complaints
  • Your manager calls to relay complaints - one way of knowing you’re in trouble for sure!

Then, the bell tolls! A sample of the ‘defective’ product is brought in for review and analysis. If the physical and chemical components match your product certification specifications, you’re in luck. The formulation isn’t wrong, all of your hard work wasn’t wasted, your time not spent in vain. You don’t need to go back to the drawing board or the lab for yet more tests. But still, a problem persists. How do you solve it?More research? If it’s not the product itself, it must be the product performance and applied use.While looking over the applied use of the product and its performance, you need to consider the customer’s habits and user experiences. If you’re not dealing directly with the customer regarding their complaints and issues, technical service and sales representatives can supply details such as machine settings, ambient conditions, surface preparation, etc. The key point is to put yourself in the customer’s shoes, that way you can better understand the issues that they’ve experienced. Another important point is to measure the performance according to customer’s standard or methods. If they use specific measurements to analyze the instrument, you need to apply these to your tests too. So, you start to get to the root of the customer’s problem, maybe adding extra improvements along the way, enhancing customer satisfaction of the product overall.Here are four tips to reduce customer complaints, so you don’t spend all your time in product review.

1. Try a Beta version/product sample with a real customer before launching your product

This is an essential final step before introducing a new product to the market. Having a few customers trial your product and report their feedback. Make sure you get more than one customer to take your product through its paces. Their feedback will prove invaluable in directing your marketing strategy and finalizing the product. The customers you ask to trial your product should be existing customers with whom your company has a good relationship. These customers will more likely give detailed feedback and will appreciate the steps your company is taking to ensure they get the best possible product, more tailored to their needs.The sales department might be pushing you to launch the product, but there’s no point in launching something that isn’t fit for your customers use - don’t bow to the pressure!

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2. Detailed and Technical Documents

Imagine being hard at work, pouring over product experiments and reports, when a call comes in. Its sales support with an urgent request from a customer, they urgently need a technical datasheet for the latest product. You have to interrupt your current task to create a new product datasheet in multiple languages.Fast forward three months: a new call comes in, the sales specialist on the other end of the call is reporting customer complaints regarding the new product. After you review this new complaint and analyze the product and the reported problem, you find its not the product but its application. The product hasn’t been used in the way it was intended. A hot tip to reduce these types of complaint is to keep your technical documents updated, relevant and detailed. Make sure your datasheets contain technical specifications, product application and uses, equipment info, etc.Yes, it takes more time to create a detailed datasheet but if you don’t take the time to do so, you’ll spend more time with product issues and customer complaints. Take a glance at the tips for effective datasheets.

3. Educate your customers about new products or new features

How your customers see and evaluate your product is the key to its correct use and their satisfaction. When your plan is to launch a niche product onto the market, you need to clearly describe the product’s features, usage area and key benefits. Organizing an event for a new product announcement can be a good way to launch the product and show it off to potential customers. Another idea is to use your training center or technical service laboratory as a meeting place, this is a great chance to give technical training on the product’s use and features and will direct attendees attention to the product and technical features.Events can be expensive and may exceed your marketing budget. The more cost-effective alternative is to publish and distribute digital documents. Technical datasheets, white papers, starting formulas and leaflets are the most common documents used for products and services. You can start creating datasheets by using TDSmaker.

4. Internal training for technical service, sales & marketing department

The technical service and sales teams serve as the bridge between the customers and you, the engineer. Before the customer complaint gets to you, they try to figure out a solution for the customer. That means they need to know your product inside and out. How, when, where, why to use it. It’s application, various settings, usage details, etc. Periodically training these teams on the usage and application of your product should help to reduce customer complaints. The easiest way to fix a problem is often on site or in store. Have some tales of customer complaints? Why not share them with us? We could all use a laugh, or maybe you have some hot tips you’d like to share?

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