Gadgets Are Great… If Your Customers Can Figure Them Out

With all the geektastic frenzy of CES going on, one man, Bob Sullivan from the Red Tape Chronicles asks: “But will these things work?”

In a quiet, nearly empty conference room on the other side of the city from the 140,000 enthusiasts cramming the Las Vegas Convention Center, a roomful of wet blankets was discussing a dirty little secret of the high-tech industry, a small sacrilege during this annual celebration of all things geek.

Sure, all these gadgets are cool, but do they work? If past history is any indication, often, they often won’t. Here’s that dirty little secret, unearthed by the group of consultants from Accenture: Product returns cost the tech industry $14 billion each year, a huge chunk for a $200 billion business. The Accenture group will be releasing a study on gadget product returns later this week, but I got an early peek. Their main finding is this: Consumers often can’t figure out how to use many of the gadgets they buy, and a sizable portion of those gadgets end up right back at the store.

“Customers believe that the product doesn’t work or does not perform as expected,” said Allen Delattre, who runs the electronics research group at Accenture. “But almost none of (the products) have a hardware or software defect. The returns are happening because people can’t figure out how to make things work.”

The article goes on to say that returns in some product categories can be as high as 20%, and that its only going to get worse as devices become more and more connected.

Here’s the question. If you cellphone won’t work with your car’s bluetooth system… do you call BMW or Apple? Or AT&T?



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