Buggy products can be a real customer turn-off. Witness the recent release of the BlackBerry Storm, Research In Motion’s response to Apple’s iPhone. The Storm had tremendous promise as a great new touchscreen phone, but customer response has been limited because of early bugs in the device’s software. Here’s a quote from one Storm customer in an article from the Wall Street Journal:
“I found myself wanting to throw it in the ocean due to my frustration with its overall usability,” said Steven Golub, a longtime Verizon customer from Morristown, N.J., who bought the Storm the day it was released, but returned it a few weeks later.
That’s pretty damning, but let’s stop and give RIM some benefit of the doubt. Buggy software is a customer turn-off, and undoubtedly bad reviews will dampen customer enthusiasm. But here’s a quote from the same Wall Street Journal article:
Verizon and RIM, determined to release the Storm in time for the holidays, rushed the device to market despite glitches in the stability of the phone’s operating system, according to people close to the launch.
RIM had a choice to make – release a buggy product in time for the holidays, taking bad reviews on the chin, or wait until the Storm worked better and try to gain market share during the traditionally slow Q1 made even slower by a bad economy. We really can’t know for sure if RIM made the right decision, but there are some lessons other companies can learn here:
1.) Know Your Limitations - We all have limitations in our planning: not enough time, not enough people, or not enough testing. Maybe your budget is limited or maybe you need to hit a holiday launch date. Either way, it’s very important to be aware of your limitations early in the process. If you have a tight schedule and a firm launch date, then you should make sure you have enough resources for last-minute development and testing. If you don’t have enough people, then you should evaluate different contingencies for alternate launch dates.
2.) Work Smarter – You may feel like you have to cut corners to overcome your limitations, but the Internet can make it easy to expand your efficiency on-demand. There are many companies that can help you add capacity to overcome bottlenecks and release a better product on time. The uTest software testing service is perfect for helping companies improve their testing, but solutions exist for everything from coding to graphic design.
3.) Have Good Customer Data – If you’ve already passed the point of no return, then you will have to make a tough decision. In this case, nothing helps more than really good customer data. In RIM’s case, they had to decide between weaker customer demand because of timing or because of bugs. Between the two, they chose to cast their lot with a buggier product over a late product.
RIM still sold 500,000 Storms over the holidays, and that’s not bad. This is also their first touchscreen device and it holds tremendous design potential. While Storm Version 1 had a rocky launch, Storm Version 2 may take the world by, well, storm.