When my old blender died a few weeks ago, I went out and picked up a new model from Kitchen Aid.
My thought process was simple: I make protein shakes on a daily basis and I needed a good quality blender that could handle frozen fruit and ice, but nothing too extravagant. Kitchen Aid is a brand I know and trust—I’ve had one of their stand mixers for years that is just great—and it was moderately priced: neither the cheapest model on the shelf nor the most expensive.
About two weeks later, I noticed that there seemed to be a lot of liquid spilling around my new blender. The first few times this happened I thought it must be me not being careful when I made shakes. But I noticed this occurred every single time I used the blende. Even when I put it in the sink to wash it, the water drained from the blender pitcher.
So I called the no-hassle warranty number in my user manual (yes, I actually kept the user manual). The woman who answered the phone was quite pleasant, asked me the model and serial number of my unit, and told me she’d get out a replacement pitcher within a few days. So far, so good.
But here’s where the process broke down. When I asked her if she wanted me to return the old leaking pitcher, she said, no—we’ve made a modification to fix a design flaw in that model.
Wait a minute. “Design flaw?” We’re not talking about a minor feature that users may or may not notice. The design flaw she was referring to results in the darn thing leaking like a sieve. Although it’s great that Kitchen Aid fixed this, here’s the flaw in their thinking: The old model remains on the shelf at retailers, meaning that poor suckers like me will continue buying it and finding a good part of their strawberry banana protein shake all over their kitchen counter, wondering what they did wrong and either taking it back, shelving it, or finally calling the 800 number for help.
We don’t know how many of the pitchers leak, but obviously it’s enough for the company to redesign the unit. That means it’s more than a once-in-awhile occurrence. Think of the missed opportunity here to offer an outstanding customer experience. One alternative would be to recall the blenders and replace them with the newly designed units. Another possibility would be to simply add a sticker to the box that says “Improved Blender Pitcher Available—contact us for more information.” This would allow those consumers who wanted the new part (or had a problem with the old one) to call and get it immediately. Instead, Kitchen Aid let purchasers find out the hard way that the product didn’t work right–allowing brand equity and customer loyalty to drain away.
How do you handle situations like this? Do you wait for a customer to call and tell you about a problem you already know exists? Or do you proactively contact them to let them know you’ll be taking care of a potential situation before it has the opportunity to cause a problem?
The answer may be the difference between whipping up success or slogging through yet another customer service mess.