The Note 7 battery saga has played out badly for Samsung. Not especially with owners, as those I know are almost universally happy about the way that Samsung has handled the recall and made efforts to limit the impact it has had on their phone usage.
However the Note 7 problems, added to recent stories claiming battery fires from a wide variety of other Samsung phones has to be hurting the company’s reputation. That these older phones don’t have faulty batteries and older Lithium Ion cells are naturally more likely to ignite – especially if they have suffered an impact – has been mostly been bypassed in the rush to hype the story in the media.
Yes, any phone’s battery will ignite if mistreated or damaged. That’s a fact of life resulting from the need to pack as much energy density into a small package to satisfy the needs of modern smartphones. Search on Google and you can find stories of burning phones going back years and affecting all manufacturers.
The Note 7 is different though. The faulty battery packs ignite as a result of poor manufacturing process not age or damage. Which is why Samsung has had to recall the whole batch of 2.5 million devices.
Such a high-profile problem is necessarily going to hurt Samsung’s reputation and future sales. A fact that the stock markets have recognised and as a result the company’s market cap dropped by nearly $30bn.
How can Samsung prevent things getting worse and persuade customers to continue buying its devices in the future? How can it prevent the recall tarnishing the premium reputation it has painstakingly built for itself in the last few years?
Handling the recall well is a start. Note 7 owners are being given a loan phone to tide them over until their replacement Note 7 arrives. Here in NZ I know that several different models have been offered, depending upon the purchasing route, but the Note 5 and S7 Edge seem to be popular loaners.
Getting replacement phones to customers quickly will also help. Demonstrating that it is big enough to cope with a recall of this scale may lessen some of the brand damage done. Lastly Samsung needs to provide customers with some form of compensation – a gift that acknowledges the inconvenience suffered. Personally I’d suggest providing customers with a choice of accessories that they may have been considering purchasing anyway. A wireless charging pad, a case, maybe an external battery pack if that isn’t too ironic. In markets where the Gear VR headset hasn’t been bundled with the phone that would be a good option.
Ultimately there will be those who think less of Samsung as a result of these battery problems, and Samsung will never change their minds. Samsung needs to focus its efforts on the two other groups of customers whose opinions it can influence: Note 7 buyers and anyone else who might consider a Samsung phone.
Keeping them happy and positive about the brand is of key importance right now.