This week I needed a refill for a rollerball pen and a replacement light bulb. Two trivial tasks, or so I thought. First, armed with my dead light, I visited my local hardware store. “I want a 50W halogen Philips light like this please”.
The helpful assistant took me to the shelf, and we could only find 35W bulbs, “sorry we are out of stock”. So back home to Google to find the Philips website: http://www.lighting.philips.com.au/home. Two clicks, click ‘Bulbs’ then click the fitting number ‘GU5.3’. How good is this website!
But when I get there, only LED lights, no halogen bulbs. Puzzling. But there is a “Can’t find your product here? Click for full product overview”. Great work. Except when I use this, still no halogen bulbs. All I want is an exact replacement; I don’t want to think about LED that’s a bigger decision.
So here I am frustrated that I cannot do a simple task or find any information. Many Google searches and hours later, I see online forums where other customers are frustrated too; at lack of supply and lack of information. Eventually, I find a newspaper article from The Guardian, May 2018
A ban on halogen bulbs, which use four times the energy of LED globes, was announced last month at a meeting of state and federal environment ministers.
The ban is to come into effect from September 2020, but the bulbs could start disappearing from retail stores in as little as 12 months, according to the industry’s peak body, Lighting Council Australia.
Now I understand. But why has it taken me hours to discover what’s happening? Surely there are millions of halogen bulbs around Australia and probably millions of people who will waste hours trying to find replacements. Why does Philips make it so hard? If someone searches for the banned halogen light, send them to a page explaining the legislation and sell them your compatible LED replacements. Why must you make it so hard? A distributor had a simple solution, show a picture of the bulb with a message: not available anymore, see the alternative product.
Apart from the giant company Philips making it hard for customers, another global company is making it tough too, Schneider. Founded in 1938 in Germany, Schneider specialises in Pens. (https://schneiderpen.com/en_uk/) I visit my local Officeworks, and there are almost no refills of any kind.
Perhaps I can find an alternative? Well, that’s extremely tricky. One distributor does an excellent job of showing how to make it easy: https://www.wellappointeddesk.com/2014/06/epic-refill-guide-rollerball-gel-and-ballpoints/. That’s a supplier who understands customers don’t want complexity; customers want simplicity. Just make it easier for your customer. They will buy more and quicker.
But still I can find no local stock anywhere I can drive to buy, so over to Google. Can I find a replacement in Australia? No. Next stop eBay, where I can buy ten refills for just $13.75, shipped from Hong Kong.
Two simple products have a confusing process to buy spare parts. This makes no business sense because the margins on spare parts are often two or three times the margins on new products. So, make it hard and you lose profits.
If something so simple can be made hard, then what are you doing to your customers to make it hard for them? Just ask your customers and fix it. If you don’t make it easy and you don’t give them a good experience, someone else will. Look what I received with my pen refill, here’s a supplier who cares about their customers. Where will I go next time?