Friday, August 30, 2013

"Packed like a Jar"

I'm back from a Tuscany vacation (the real Tuscany, not the Sixense VR demo) and back to blogging.

Photo Credit: origamidon via Compfight cc

Today, I want to talk about packaging for virtual reality equipment and how it relates to customer experience.

A few years ago, my company was primarily selling the xSight HMD, which is a fairly unique product in its field of view (>120 degrees), resolution (HD1080 per eye) and weight (350 grams). However, the xSight uses tiled displays - several small displays that are optically combined into a larger image. Some people love it. Others, not so much. Bottom line - we were closer to 'built to order' than to 'mass production'.

Our packaging used to be a standard brown cardboard box, and the founder of the company would labor to fill it up with rolled bubble wrap for maximum protection. Indeed, these packages almost always survived the "viking with a spear treatment" afforded to them by our shipping partners.

One day, we got an email from one of our resellers saying that they received the product and that 'it is packed like a jar from eBay'. I don't think she meant it as a compliment, though one could imagine that jars are usually packed in such a way that they will arrive unharmed at the destination.

That got us thinking about customer experience and branding.

As our products grew more popular, we invested some in custom reusable packaging, so that everything had a place in the box, and that the box could be used again and again for shipping units from one place to another.

Then, we realized we had all these Sensics boxes going shipping around with no clear branding on them. We purchased custom packing tape with the logo and eventually settled on a custom box with the logo already printed on it.

Having protected the unit, no longer looking like a jar, we went to think about the customer experience: what do we want our customer to first see when they open the box. Is it a big reminder to register their product? Is it a cable? We figured the best thing is a large 'THANK YOU' note that also talks about how to best reach us in case there is any question or problem.

Then, we started looking at the user manual. Is it too long? Do we need a quick-start guide? Better yet, can you just 'plug it in and go'? Are we providing all the cables that you might reasonably need to use our product? Are the cables consistent and are of high quality? Is the software DVD easy to use? Does it professionally show the product name on it for easy identification?

If a product needs repair, is it easy to contact us? We are now tracking time to first respond to customer service requests. We now offer 3 year warranty on many products. 

Do we have room to improve? Absolutely! But the reseller that asked us about the jar got us thinking in the right direction, and we (as well as our customers, I think) thank her for that.