DIY or Pimp My Ride

DIY or Do it Yourself projects are very common in the United States. Rather than buying reliable products, many Americans prefer to buy unreliable products and then, using DIY, turn them into reliable (or at least different) products. This can be anything from salvaging a broken toaster to buying old houses and refurbishing them. 

According to a recent survey, 3 out of 4 Americans who make changes to their houses will include some form of DIY. Additionally, there has also been a recent surge of DIY websites explaining to Americans how to go about fixing and upgrading products on their own.

There have been several American television shows that showcase DIY, including Pimp my Ride, which restored rundown vehicles, This Old House, which restored old houses, and even Home Improvement, a sitcom which centered around the antics of a DIY presenter, Tim Allen, as he routinely made mistakes showing people how to fix appliances and redesign their houses.

It turns out that Pimp my Ride was a bit deceptive. Oops!

New car shoppers

In 2013 J.D. Power and Associates conducted a study to determine what factors influence Americans when purchasing vehicles. According to the report, the primary reason why shoppers avoid hybrids and electric vehicles is cost/price. Furthermore, gas mileage is the most influential factor in the decision process, and has been since a rise in gas prices in 2008.

One of the less important factors that Americans consider is reliability, with only 17% of new vehicle shoppers avoiding models with poor reputations for reliability. In fact, Americans put more importance on things like design and appearance than on reliability, with 33% of new vehicle shoppers avoiding models based on their exterior design.

Adverse conditions

Reliable: To be dependent; to have confidence based on experience; dependable, giving the same result on successive trials.

Convenient: Suited to personal comfort or to easy performance; suited to a particular situation; affording accommodation or advantage; being near at hand. From Latin convenire to assemble, come together, be suitable.

Some products are designed for use in adverse conditions. These include batteries, automobiles, tires, outdoor work clothing, footwear. These products enable people to accomplish tasks like living in extreme climates, driving to work in adverse weather, and staying comfortable while working outside. American made products in these categories are designed to be reliable, as this prevents surprises and gives the user a sense of security about using the product.

General Motors often uses the tagline Longestlasting, most dependable truck on the roadto describe its Chevy truck line. Other major truck companies like Ford or Dodge also use words like reliable and dependable to describe their trucks. Another famous series of commercials from battery maker Energizer involved a battery-powered rabbit playing the drums as if in a marching band. This rabbit was known as The Energizer Bunny, and his characteristic was that he „kept going and going and going.“

Warranty

Warranty: A real covenant binding the grantor of an estate and the grantor’s heirs; a collateral undertaking that a fact regarding the subject of a contract is or will be as it is expressly or by implication declared or promised to be; something that authorizes, sanctions, supports, or justifies; a usually written guarantee of the integrity of a product and of the maker’s responsibility for the repair or replacement of defective parts. Middle English warantie, garantie, to warrant.

U.S. federal law establishes minimum legal standards for warranties on products. Some companies, however, offer warranties (for purchase or for free) that exceed the legal minimum by covering a broader array of problems the buyer might face.

For example, Apple’s standard iPhone warranty includes one year of hardware repairs and 90 days of telephone support. However, an extended warranty can be added that provides full hardware and phone support coverage for two years. Private companies also offer warranties on electronics and other high value goods.

Every Toyota vehicle is supported by a 36-month/36,000-mile limited warranty coverage. In addition, most individual Toyota parts have 12-month coverage, a fairly standard warranty for new vehicles.

Most manufacturer warranties for electronics, appliances, etc. cover only products that fail due to defects in construction or malfunctions of the item’s hardware. Some consumers want more protection, so retailers like Best Buy offer protection plans that go beyond the manufacturer’s warranty. Best Buy‘s Geek Squad Protection Plan, for example, covers normal wear and tear, no lemon policy, accidental, and damage from handling. Since these plans cover a much wider spectrum of potential problems, they tend to be quite expensive.

In order to remain competitive, American retailers offer generous return and exchange policies. Most companies print their policy directly on the receipt and use phrases like „easy returns and exchanges,“ „no hassle returns“ or „100% satisfaction guarantee.“ Some companies, like outdoor supplier REI, allow customers to return products for a full refund or exchange at any time for any reason.

Many retailers (WalMart, Target) do not require a receipt for returns or exchanges. If no receipt is available, stores generally refund the credit on gift cards that can only be used at the store.

These generous policies highlight the importance that American consumers assign to customer-centered policies that are clearly communicated and executed in a friendly manner. Retailers, on the other hand, encourage buyers to spend first and think later. They give consumers confidence that satisfaction with a particular product or brand is guaranteed.

Serviceability is reliability

Reliability in the U.S. also means serviceability. No product is perfect. Service can make up for it. And service is based on a product’s serviceability. After sales service. Should be fast, easy and profitable.

From Ford’s Model T which came with a tool box, all the way to today’s call centers responding 24/7 via 1-800 numbers, to the service trucks on the road, Americans tolerate suboptimal reliability if their concerns are listened to and acted upon.

But wait. Earning profits on a product’s imperfection? The German engineer winces at this. Products should work as developed. The German consumer winces at this. Products should work as promised.

„You’re gonna like the way you look”

In a competitive marketplace, service is how companies differentiate themselves from other companies selling similar products, especially if the products are of comparable quality (i.e. Toyota vs. Hyundai; Ford vs. Chevy). Americans expect good service after they have bought a product.

One service-related tagline is the Men’s Warehouse slogan: „You’re gonna like the way you look, I guarantee it.“ If there is a problem with the products customers purchase, Men’s Warehouse promises to take care of the problem to ensure they are happy.

Another distinctly American retailer is L.L. Bean, which grants a lifetime guarantee on everything it sells. If the customer ever finds the product to be unsatisfactory, it can be returned for a refund or replacement.

Americans also expect customer service to be accessible, friendly, and informative. Many companies have 24/7 call centers with toll free telephone numbers, as well as extensive websites with Frequently Asked Questions and other helpful troubleshooting information. These websites usually contain contact fields where customers can submit questions; American customers expect rapid responses to queries posed on a customer site, usually within 1-2 days.

Service: The occupation or function of serving; employment as a servant; contribution to the welfare of others; a helpful act; useful labor that does not produce a tangible commodity; a facility providing maintenance and repair. From Latin servitium: condition of a slave, body of slaves, from servus slave.

Better and better

“The reliability of a product is understood to be how verlässlich (reliable, sound, solid, trustworthy, sure) are its functionalities at any given time.” This somewhat cumbersome definition communicates clearly what is of great importance to German consumers.

No wonder, therefore, that German manufacturers leave as little as possible to chance when developing their products. The Association of German Engineers organizes expert conferences on a on-going basis on the topic of technical reliability and maintains a working group on the subject. The Technical University of Hamburg has an institute with the same name – Zuverlässigkeitstechnik – literally Reliability Engineering.

It is no coincidence that the legendary Miele washer is known throughout the world for its reliability and quality, a product based on gewissenhafter (painstaking, diligent, meticulous) research.

A family-owned and -run company, Miele’s motto is Immer Besser – Better and Better, not only in the sense of striving to be better than the competition, but even more so in striving to offer the best Technik – technical solutions, engineering. Very much in the tradition of German Zuverlässigkeitsforschung – reliability research.

Miele dishwasher:

What is good service?

On World Quality Day – November 14, 2013 – the German Society for Quality presented the results of their survey on service. Reliability, with 92 points, was ranked highest by German consumers in terms of most important aspect of service.

“When Germans think of service they think of classic German virtues: reliability, puncutality (meeting schedule), and quality,” said Dr. Wolfgang Kaerkes, the society’s head.

Reliability is one of the very top characteristics of the German product philosophy. It is no wonder that they focus on reliability when developing products.

Used cars

According to DEKRA’s 2014 report German automobiles scored very highly in terms of reliability, ranking first in six of nine categories.

The overall winner was the Mercedes E-Class, followed by the Audi Q5 and the Audi A5. Car of the Year was the Mercedes B-Class. As reported by the Kölner Stadtanzeiger on February 19, 2014.

Reliability is in Germany one of the essential characteristics of any product, and at the same time a key element of the German brand.

Markenprodukte

Markenprodukte. Brand name products: Products which are immediately recognized as excellent based on the name of its producer; often products which are of average quality but remain in the minds of consumers due to constant advertising.

German companies have been exporting high quality products consistently since the end of the Second World War. Their products have gained an international reputation for being very good, often better than their competitors. The Germans view reliability as one of the key characteristics of a well-known brand.

Qualität ist, wenn der Kunde wiederkommt, nicht das Produkt. Quality is when the customer returns, not the product. This well-known saying indicates the importance quality plays in the German product philosophy. A product which does not function perfectly and therefore needs to be returned is an embarrassment to the producer.