A case of Product recall

193341312_e80ed4f897_qI had just completed the upload of a new version of the iOS app to the Apple appstore and was waiting for approval (used to take around 7 days then) when I finally got a mail saying the app’s new version has been approved and is up for sale. As a Product Manager of the offering on iOS, I was pretty happy having completed an important milestone until the QA engineer called me to tell that when an existing user upgrades the app with the new version, it would render the app totally useless. My heart must have missed a heart beat, but since we had done enough testing, I wanted to experience it myself to make sure what the Quality Assurance engineer said was indeed right. A product manager’s worst nightmare had dawned up on me when I discovered it myself that the new version indeed would render the app useless – it would do nothing but just crash at startup putting several customers who used the product daily into utter inconvenience. My options were limited as several customers had updated the app to the new version via the auto-update. This is what I did:

  • Stopped the sale of app on the app store immediately – mild way of saying we recalled the product so that the damage is limited to users who downloaded the upgrade
  • Informed the management that this had gone wrong, how many customers had been affected and what is our plan to correct the situation
  • Informed sales and support, as they face the customers every day, on the workaround that can be provided to the affected customers
  • The Quality Assurance and development engineers were protected from flaks so that they could focus on the repair efforts; we later improved our methodologies so that something like this does not recur again.

We fixed the problem in 24 hours and had a new version of the product available for the users in another 2 days as the app store approval again takes time; we even wrote to the app store admin to expedite the approval as we were in a bad shape. The app store personnel expedited the process but with a warning that this will be a one time exception. The management was appreciative and supportive of our crisis management, the customers were upset but did not turn their back on us as we were transparent and finally I as a Product Manager gained good amount of good-will in the process.

Three points to learn from my experience of a Product Recall:

  • Do not try to brush things under the carpet – be transparent with your management and all stake holders
  • Tell your customers that you have goofed up and tell them what are your actions and any workarounds that might soften the problem created
  • Bite the bullet and lead the corrective steps – you are the product owner

Image courtesy: http://www.flickr.com/people/chaymation/

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