How Samsung can repair its damaged reputation
Poor old Samsung. The South Korean electronics firm has not been having an easy time of it lately. Having a product that’s prone to faults is bad enough. But when that fault means your product spontaneously explodes, you’ve got a serious problem on your hands.
The Galaxy Note 7 handset made its debut in August 2016, one month before Apple’s iPhone 7. Early signs suggested Apple’s new flagship handset would be a minor update. So not only did Samsung hope to get to market first, it also wanted to position itself as the industry’s great innovator. Everyone thought Samsung was on to a winner and critics were in agreement that this might just be the best Android handset ever produced.
But shortly after its release, reports began to surface in the press and on social media of the Galaxy Note 7 handsets catching fire and exploding.
Samsung was quick to respond, launching an internal investigation that revealed the problem was caused by a defective battery. It confirmed 35 cases where catastrophic failures had occurred while the phone was charging, and immediately issued a global recall.
PR exercise in damage control
Samsung was praised for its handling of the situation. The company acknowledged the problem straight away, taking the bold decision to issue a global recall, despite only a handful of phones being affected.
The company won brownie points for putting customer safety above profit.
Unfortunately, Samsung found itself in hot water again soon after. Despite having said it knew what the problem was and exchanging thousands of devices, the replacement Galaxy Note 7s were still exploding. Two of America’s leading mobile operators decided to stop selling the phones, and Samsung scrapped the whole lot to avoid further damage to its brand.
If the same problem was happening, did Samsung actually know what had caused the problem in the first place? Or was it just taking a stab in the dark? Either way, it didn’t look good for the tech giant. What had been a public relations nightmare was now a PR disaster.
So with consumer confidence in the brand at an all-time low what can Samsung now do to restore its ailing reputation?
Samsung’s next steps
Samsung needs to prevent the negative perception of Galaxy Note 7 affecting the overall Samsung brand. This is important because in the Android world, Samsung now has a powerful competitor in Google Pixel, as well as the other players, HTC, LG and Huawei. Samsung now needs to:
Samsung made a bold move when it recalled the first run of Galaxy Note 7 phones. Then it got more tentative. The following days saw a trickle of statements from Samsung, as its carrier partners moved quickly to distance themselves from the phone.
Days later, the company said it would ‘temporarily adjust’ the production schedule of the phone. And by the following day, it had shut down completely.
Samsung needs to be proactive in getting the 1 million customers who bought a Galaxy Note 7 to trade in their phones, including the die-hards who’d rather keep the phone and take their chances. The last thing Samsung needs is something more tragic to happen than a few ruined phones and singed carpets.
Samsung needs to own the mistake, show a commitment to understanding and fixing it, and explain why it’s not a problem for the rest of the Samsung product range. This is especially important if the company hopes to extinguish the Galaxy Note 7’s bad reputation before it spreads to the Galaxy S8, which is due to launch early next year.
Make good on the disaster
Many Galaxy Note 7 owners didn’t just buy the phone: they also bought accessories like phone cases and charging docks. Samsung has to go beyond just offering a replacement phone. It needs to reimburse customers for all related accessories, whether bought from Samsung, or third-parties.
Samsung has said before that Note customers are its most loyal, so it needs to keep them happy.
The future for Samsung
The financial cost of removing the device from the market will be substantial. On October 12th 2016, the company said that profits in the past quarter will be a third lower than expected because of the recall.
Although many Galaxy Note 7 owners will now buy Apple’s iPhone 7, Samsung will move past this, even though it has killed the Note brand. Within its extensive smartphone and tablet portfolio, the Note is a niche product. And if the firm’s new models, to be unveiled early next year, have no major flaws, it should be able to quickly restore its reputation as a maker of excellent hardware.
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