Delays and Defects = Angry Customers

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While the news around the world is currently full of complaints about Chinese-made (but foreign-branded) toys with design faults and poisonous paint, Chinese consumers are not shying away from complaining about foreign companies in China. We have seen plenty of consumer storms before (Dell, P&G and Starbucks to name a few). This time Dell is joined by Kodak.

Kodak is accused of selling defective cameras, and is being taken to court by some of the more than 800 customers, as the People’s Daily reports:

    “There will be no let-up in Chinese consumers’ battle against international imaging major Eastman Kodak over its “defective” cameras, say aggrieved buyers…

    Shanghai Pudong New Area District People’s Court held hearings on August 7 and 8, and is expected to pronounce its final judgment later this month or early September.”

    The China Consumers’ Association last year sent samples to a camera quality inspection in Xi’an and the result showed the problems resulted from poor design.

    Kodak insists LS443 had passed Chinese quality inspection before it was put onto the market and said it has been trying all possible means to put an end to the embarrassing situation.”

Meanwhile, Dell – which has had plenty of its own angry consumers – is back in the news, facing accusations over delayed delivery times for its popular new laptop (and also new price competition from Lenovo, following its recent low-cost moves). China Daily reports that:

    “A group of Chinese consumers irked by Dell’s delivery delays are launching a grassroots campaign online and is considering a lawsuit against the US computer maker.

    “Since June, more than 150 consumers have posted complaints on our website,” said Zhou Tao, an employee at 12315.com, a local consumer rights advocacy website. “They are now trying to gather 10,000 people to lodge complaints to local consumer associations.”

    The computer maker declined to reveal the number of people affected.

    Dell launched its latest laptop models XPS1330 and Inspiron 1420 last month in China. The company says it has met with unexpected success because of the laptops’ colorful design.

    But a shortage of computer parts, including LCD displayers and built-in cameras, caused the company to postpone delivery. In the past two months, angry consumers have posted complaints against the company on major local websites such as Sina.com and Sohu.com.”

    Responding to rising complaints, Dell China posted an apology to consumers on its official blog on Monday.”

No doubt all companies, in China and elsewhere, will have problems from time to time, but it is especially interesting to note the coverage that these cases get in the Chinese media, and the increasing references to the role of online forums, legal actions, consumer advocacy groups and websites, which are all adding to the pressure.

Rapid response, open communications, and respect for the customer (and for China) are critical to managing a consumer crisis. And, as a crisis is not something that is not usually planned, it is a good idea to have a crisis management team and process in place before the firefighting begins.

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4 Responses to “Delays and Defects = Angry Customers”

  1. SG Entrepreneur Says:

    Half the year I find myself in China and I have to agree that the news is way out of proportion these days against Chinese goods. A lot of goods manufactured for the locals by foreign companies are shoddy products. It’s the classic double standard. The Chinese people don’t need the same quality and they don’t expect it. It’s sad both ways. China needs to buck up- but so do the Foreign Companies who have made enormous amounts of money in their home countries (and elsewhere) selling China-made goods.

  2. Jeremy Gordon Says:

    Thanks for your input. I think that Chinese consumers are starting to demand better quality products, but they are generally still very price-driven. Foreign companies may be able to lose some product frills to bring down prices but they will be hurt if they compromise on quality or service. People still expect those things from foreign brands. No doubt all the media attention on these issues will lead to more careful product development and to more checks by local and foreign firms, but this will also push up prices. It’s a tough market, but a good one if you get it right!

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