Actually, I'm not surprised by the numbers, and in my opinion a very simple element can significantly reduce the problem return of functional products. I know this is going to be considered a radical concept... but here it is.
Include SIMPLE Operating Instructions with the device. It has been my experience that in some cases, Operating Instructions are either NOT included, are included but are a poorly translated and thus completely useless jumble of almost meaningless words, or are so utterly complicated and detailed that very few are likely to actually read through the 50 pages of usually disorganized and hopelessly complicated steps.
For a number of years, it has bewildered me that a technology company will spend millions of dollars developing, producing, and marketing a product but when it comes to explaining how to operate the product to the final purchaser, they want to keep the costs down to $1.95...
Also, MOST people who buy products don't utilize 90% of the functions. I'm not suggesting eliminating those functions, just providing Instruction Manuals that simply and concisely (with good graphic images or pictures) tell the common user how to use the 10% of the functions they are likely to use. A little time in a usability study or survey should be able to identify the key functions used by most people.
So, to answer your question, in my opinion the solution to some of the problem is easy to implement. However, the mindset of the company is far harder to change.
Returns and allowances are a very big problem for any business....The japanese initially kicked our butt when they were able to reduce their returns to near zero....Everybody remembers the "Zero Defects" programs that every US company was running to become more competitive in the 80's.....Well guys the proof in finally in.......ZERO DEFECTS IS SOMETHING YOU STRIVE FOR....BUT NOT SOMETHING A MANUFACTURER CAN ACTUALLY ACHIEVE ON AN ONGOING DAILEY BASIS......
THE FACTS ARE THAT PRECISION MANUFACTURING IS AN IMPOSSIBILITY....THE BELL CURVE REALLY DOES EXIST
The launch of products has become a drive for crazy fast time to market metrics. In turn low cost EMS offshore push their deliverables, and it takes just a few faulty parts and returns escalate. Maybe our desire for new, new, new, we have become our own worst enemy and will just need to live with higher failure rates and returns.
You are citing one of the best ways Manufacturers and Retailer can reduce non defective returns, create simple, clear NON TECHNICAL instructions covering both how to set up and use a product. In fact, research indicates CE consumers will spend less than 20 minutes setting up a device before giving up and returning it. The golden rule applies here...prevention, in this case a small investment in vehicles that are focused on preventing returns from occurring the first place ( such as user guides, social media, proactive customer service etc) will provide large returns in the form of reduced costs...and happier customers.
Sony is essentially a company in the CCU. Their management is building defective products and continuing to sell it after they know that they have a problem. They hide this from consumers until they are sued and then don't tell their other customers with the latent defects, hoping that the settlement period will expire before the defect becomes widely known. Never again, Sony. Never Again!
You are right, Sony does not seem to be the quality brand I also thought they were. A friend of mine from Japan told me that they are not a quality brand in Japan. This was many years ago. They seem to have a better reputation in the US, but it is definitely slipping.
I think Sony is a classic example of a once-great company that lost its way in terms of design and manufacturing quality. I used to look first at their products, the design and hardware quality was tops.
Then about 15 years ago, it really started to change. For example, a basic AM/FM tabletop radio I bought was junk—the knobs fell off, the case was junk, it just didn’t have the solid feel you used to associate with Sony name. Same for some other products of theirs I bought. They coasted on their name and hard-earned reputation, a common trajectory among companies that get big. I spoke to friends who bought Sony products and they had the same experience, often returned them due to early failures, too.
I can say that products not made with quality standards will be returned IF (and that is a big if) the products fail during the return period. I made the mistake of buying an Element tv that failed after 6months, returned for a fix, failed again in 5months, 2 days after 1yr warranty it failed again!!! They did take it back and "replaced it" but the unit they sent was a return / refurbished unit!!!! We are waiting for this to fail in another 5 or 6 months. If my experience is anything like the general consumer there will be trouble brewing. I will never by that brand again nor will my friends. At some point maybe the manufacturer will realize that consumers expect quality. The other experiences I have had with purchases were very pleasant, the digital unit from the cable company came, was plugged in and worked. That is how things can work.