New and unimproved

18Nov10

I’ve been using the same brands of paper products (e.g. tissues and paper towels) for years. Actually, I’m so particular about these items that I always make sure to buy the exact product variants that I’ve used before. Thus, it should come as no surprise that I’m quick to notice if the manufacturers have changed something about the products since the last time I ordered them.

In fact, I ran into this exact problem a few days ago. I opened up a new package of what I thought was a tried-and-true product that I’ve purchased many times before. However, the product was thinner and more brittle than how I remembered it. And given that I had used the old design less than 24 hours beforehand, I’m pretty sure something was different about the new batch.

Granted, I don’t know if my experience was due to a widespread change in the product line, or a more limited issue related to the size of the roll, or even a localized manufacturing error. But this did make me think about what a consumer products brand should do after completing changes to a product. In particular, start with some messaging on the package that describes what was changed and why. For instance, you might say the “New thinner design means more paper towels on each roll.” Next, give customers a way to provide feedback on your website or via phone or email if they don’t like the new design. And finally, use that feedback to mitigate their concerns, or at least make things better during the next refresh.

Why bother with all this? Loyal, repeat customers tend to feel a little bit betrayed when a product they always buy is changed without warning or explanation. By keeping those buyers informed about changes and letting them tell you what they like and don’t like, the relationship becomes collaborative instead of confrontational. Rather than thinking that you consider them too dumb to notice a product update and jumping ship to another brand, those repeat customers will develop a sense of pride in helping to evolve the product to meet their needs — even if the update they’re looking for may have to wait until the next revision.



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