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    Mobile industry loses $4.5 billion a year on ‘No Fault Found’ mobile device returns


    Many unhappy returns point to poor usability and point of sale advice

    UK based WDSGlobal, a provider of knowledge-based services to the wireless data industry, has found that 63% of mobile devices returned as faulty are in perfect working order.  This ‘No Fault Found’ (NFF) returns rate is also said to exceed the industry average for general consumer electronic devices by 13% and is costing the mobile industry $4.5 billion globally. 

    The findings, which were drawn from 15000 monthly post sales support calls taken on behalf of a major UK retailer, are said to be directly attributable to the generally poor user experience met by mobile subscribers when first using a mobile phone. Closer examination of the ‘No Fault Found’ returns calls revealed that 38% were from users abandoning devices after struggling to use a specific application, 13% were based upon mis-sold devices, where users claim that the device did not fulfil the purpose for which it was sold, and 49% were from users who diagnosed lack of service pre-configuration as a device fault. 

    With each device returned costing operators, manufacturers and retailers in the order of £35, the overall bill to the UK mobile industry is approximately £54 million and $4.5 billion to the global mobile industry in wasted expense. 

    WDSGlobal discovered that of the 15,000 monthly calls to the retailer’s returns line, 63% had no discernable problem, with some users generally interpreting usability or configuration issues as faults and others simply looking to shed an inappropriately sold or marketed product.

    According to Doug Overton, Head of Communications for WDSGlobal, “The mobile phone has become the poor relation to its consumer electronics cousins; mp3 players, digital cameras and mobile gaming devices all generally provide a more fulfilling out of box experience to the consumer”.  He continued, “The industry needs to look at the causes behind this trend and take positive action to improve the general out of box experience for the mobile subscriber; a simple analysis of support call trends and records provides all the necessary intelligence to work upon”.

    General improvements in device usability and automated configuration services provide just one part of the solution to reversing NFF returns trends. Careful focus also needs to be placed on the sales channels to ensure that comprehensive and accurate knowledge accompanies the product through to the point of sale.

    A mystery shopper survey conducted recently by WDSGlobal amongst mobile retail outlets in the South of England revealed 40% of assistants were not accurately positioning or selling products.

    “Most mobile retailers prefer to favour the promotion of specific brands, models or special offers and are failing to recognise customer requirements” says Overton, “The more astute retailers are already taking steps to improve their in-store advice through kiosks and staff training, but they currently represent the exception and not the rule.”

    The same survey investigated the depth of retailer knowledge, revealing that only 20% of retailers could describe the meaning of BlackBerry or 3G functionality to a moderate level, suggesting a general deficit in knowledge of data services and applications.