Facing the Flames: Samsung Gets Real About the Note 7

All product recalls are not created equal. Some fly mostly under the radar, while others garner more media attention than a Kardashian (well, almost). The brand disasters that light up the news and wreak havoc on manufacturers tend to be the dangerous ones—if people are hurt, or put at risk, due to your product malfunctioning, then you can bet it will make for a sticky story. Especially if there’s blood or fire involved. Cue the Samsung Note 7.

You know the story of the Note 7, the phone with a penchant for catching fire. This 2016 product’s demise was quick and ugly: Samsung started selling the Note 7 on August 19th, and five days later, the first combustion report rolled in. Samsung mobilized quickly, and within just over a week, the company had issued a global recall of the Note 7.

Life goes on, and the flaming phones of the summer can’t hold a candle to the prickly political stories that dominate our news feeds today. So you’d think that Samsung would welcome the opportunity to bury the recall in the past and focus on the future. After all, the Note 7 fiasco happened five very long months ago.

That’s what makes last Sunday’s move so interesting. Samsung’s mobile chief DJ Koh, along with a team of technical experts, streamed a 50-minute presentation that sought to explain, in detail, what made the Note 7 fail.

So What Caused the Whole Note 7 Blowup?

Quality professionals know how challenging it is to manufacture products that meet industry standards for safety and quality, especially when you’re churning them out by the millions. Sometimes things go wrong, even when you have the most rigorous quality processes in place.

In the case of the Note 7, the battery cases were to blame for the original flare-up. The design of the cases made certain electrodes more likely to bend, short-circuit, and cause a fire. So Samsung switched battery suppliers, but the whole thing was so rushed and panicked that new defects—poor welding, missing insulation tape, etc.—emerged in the replacement batteries, signaling the death knell for the Note 7. With Sunday’s disclosure, Samsung hopes to put the Note 7 drama to rest, once and for all. You can read more about it here and here.

Transparency (Re)Builds Brand Trust

Why did Samsung decide to come clean about its quality failures, especially after much of the world had moved on from the Note 7? In a word, trust. The Note 7 recall made the company’s reputation go up in flames, and Samsung knows that it has to work to rebuild consumer trust. The best way to do that? With transparency and an apology.

This resonates with us. A cousin of transparency known as integrity is one of ARMATURE’s core values because it allows us to show respect for our customers and keep projects on track. A win-win. We build enterprise software, which means that many of our implementations are complex. Direct and honest communication throughout the engagement is the only way to ensure a successful outcome for everyone involved.

Time will tell if Samsung’s decision to bare the blemishes in its quality process was the right one, but we have a hunch that it was. Without a doubt, Samsung will be doing some soul searching in the coming months (and maybe investing in some new supplier quality management software!). But now that they’ve apologized and explained what went wrong, they might have a shot at redemption.

Because even when you have flaming phones on your conscience, honesty is still the best policy.