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Philips is known and respected for innovation and quality. When demanding UK retailers, Argos and Marks and Spencer, challenged product quality, everyone in the business was keen to respond.

Michelle had started a Voice of the Customer programme assessing fan heaters as a Teaching Company Associate. But it was the summer and she suggested kettles as a better subject.

Task

To improve B2B customer satisfaction by reducing customer returns.

To respond to customer concerns by improving current products.

To record design best practice for future products.

Action

Michelle developed data sources to understand the reasons for returns:
– Worked with national and local returns centres to improve data collection
– Set up and managed home use trials
– Visited retailers to listen to feedback about the product and returns
– Visited consumers to see the product in action
– Introduced manual life testing
– Assessed competitor kettles
– Collected production test data
– Work with technical experts, for example, materials and product experts
Assessment of data
– Adopted ‘the eyes of the customer’
– Introduced the idea that we were selling a cup of tea, not an appliance
– Worked across the business to establish root causes and potential solutions
Address immediate issues
Establish and record best practice

Results

Reduced product returns by 60% saving £600,000 per year over three years. Examples of improvements:

  • In the first week recommended a minor modification, preventing 40% returns and loss of retail contracts.
  • Recommended a colour change across the entire family of products, slashing ‘No Fault Found’ returns.
  • Identified the cause of early element failures, reducing costs for both companies. Purchasing negotiated a price reduction for this improvement.
  • New operating instructions including product markings.
  • Introduced the idea of selling a cup of tea rather than a kettle.
  • Asked to represent the Voice of the Customer in product development meetings.
  • Recommended the reintroduction of water level indicators to improve sales.

Awarded an MSc by the University of Brighton for “the improvement of the designed and delivered quality of fast moving consumer goods”.

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