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4 Tips for Preventing Preventative Maintenance Fails

Post-purchase maintenance is part of the equation that shouldn’t be ignored or taken for granted.

Spring is in full gear here in New England, and this weekend it was finally time to mow the grass. And while this is the 14th spring where I have had to mow a lawn of my own, this was the first time I had ever changed the oil on my lawnmower. I purchased lawnmower No. 1 before we had even moved in to the house, and for 12 years I managed to mow our lawn without ever even checking the oil. Two years ago it stopped working; I threw in the towel and bought a new mower.

The salesperson for lawnmower No. 2 mentioned that I should change the oil after running it for 10 hours. It had never occurred to me that you had to change the oil on a lawnmower – despite the fact that I grew up changing the oil on cars in my father’s gas station. So, after two summers and probably a little bit longer than 10 hours of usage, I tipped the lawnmower on its side, emptied out the old black sludge and poured in a bottle of new oil.

It didn’t take very long, it wasn’t very hard, wasn’t particularly messy and I had bought the “new” oil at the same time I had purchased the new mower so I didn’t have to make a special trip to a store. In short, there was a best practice and I more or less followed it… this time.

Not Everyone Practices Best Practices
Whatever you are selling, there are probably lots of best practices for how to take care of it, how to get the most out of it, how to ensure it keeps delivering on the promise that caused the customer to buy it in the first place. I’m not suggesting that lawnmower engineers around the world should drop what they are doing and design a lawnmower that doesn’t require an oil change at all, however, it is important to take into consideration that there is plenty of preventative maintenance that is simply not gonna happen.

So, how can you use this knowledge to your advantage? Here are a few things to keep in mind:

Don’t skimp on what you include in the box – If you want your customer to change the oil after 10 hours, or clean the lens every six months or lube the chain once a year, then throw in an extra bottle of oil, some wipes or a small bottle of lubricant with the purchase. If they have it on-hand already, they are a lot more likely to use it and you can create some good maintenance habits from the get-go. The incremental cost is probably insignificant compared to the complaints from customers down the line that don’t take care of those items, which can create larger service issues.

Proactively remind your customers to perform preventative maintenance – A phone call from an account manager, a postcard in the mail, an automated email from the CRM system… however you want to approach it, reach out to your customers when those tasks should be happening. It improves the odds they will actually do it, and it shows you care about them after the sale.

Offer a “full-service” solution – If you know that your user base is not going to be hyper vigilant about preventative maintenance and you also know that your product is not going to fare well without it, break out the white gloves and take the remembering off of their plates. While not every customer will want to pay for it, you can be sure the ones that do are getting the optimal experience and can be great references and showcases down the line.

Ideally, eliminate as much maintenance as possible with better design – As a product designer, owner or manager, don’t be afraid to add in requirements that minimize user maintenance tasks. A product viewed as difficult or expensive to maintain will be at a competitive disadvantage, while ones that are relatively maintenance-free will get rave reviews.