An open letter to NIU

You might have seen my Blog entry about the long wait when you have to file a warranty case with your NIU and things have to be sort out with their Central European distributor – because nothing happened I think it’s about time for an open letter….

Dear NIU,

My warranty case took 1+ month, so I had a lot of time while walking or sitting in public transportation thinking about what really went wrong here… and it’s not just me, all the forums out there are full of complains about service times. One frigging month to fix something which takes about 1hr to replace at max? Come on! There’s a huge potential to improve here!
Having served for the EMEA subsidiary of an American company for over 14 years, I have an idea about how it is being an outer-wing (of an outer-wing). On top there are so many different markets and customers in Europe, it’s hard to understand and manage them all remotely. So when you enter a foreign market, a local distributor is a good decision. You have someone on the ground who knows the market and can handle things quicker than yourself being in a different time-zone and/or continent.

If you’re an old enough fart like me, you might remember that even Nintendo had European distributors back in 1982 (game and watch times, that is).

Time to go 2.0 – Now!

Here are my 2 Euro-Cent on the status-quo from a customer perspective:

  • In essence NIU sells a mobility solution (mind you: #niumobility).
  • This solution has a strong emotional component (freedom, environment friendly, expression of personality etc.)… which is a huge asset as long the customer is happy (i.e. product works) and feels taken care of, because…
  • The flip-side of this emotional part is, when the mobility solution turns into immobility. I like to compare this with a capacitor. It positively charges over time – but be careful when it suddenly discharges: High voltage!

I’ve read several posts from people ditching NIU completely because they had enough from repeating issues and helpless dealers.
You can not allow this to happen! In this (still) early stage of market development word of mouth is essential! Every early adopter is a salesman!

So what to do to prevent this?

As said before, a central distributor is/was a good choice to engage into a new market, this single point of failure and “problem funnel” quickly becomes a bottleneck as soon as sales increase beyond a certain point.
When a central distributor starts to get swamped by warranty-cases and just can’t cope-up, delaying things beyond silliness it’s time to move onto the next level… not mentioning the long shipping times and the unnecessary additional negative CO2 footprint here (bad, bad, bad!).

What is a distributor doing in the case of e.g. a battery-issue? They check the cells and BMS and swap one or both in case of a defect.
In my opinion this is something a “qualified dealer” could & should be able to do, too. Imagine Piaggio dealers having to send broken Vespa engines to Italy for repair. This model just does not fly at a certain amount of sold products.

Suggestions for moving forward:

  • #1 target should be: Keep the customer mobile.
    • Dealers should have NIU sponsernd rental-batteries.
    • A replacement vehicle should be considered as an option
  • #2 keep the customer in the loop about repairs.
    • Man, honestly, it’s so simple to have a CRM system for that… and you have an App. Do the math put two and two together!
  • Enable dealers to do more than just shipping
  • Turn one of the biggest dealers in each 500k+ city into a Flagship-Store. Get out of the grocery-store corner, NIUs being placed between 2-strokers and bicycles! Think about why Apple made this move…
  • Keep your distributors as “competence center” or 2nd level if the dealer just can’t get it fixed.

NIU (still) has the right momentum so don’t loose that in post-sales. In one sentence: Do the next step and cut the Gordian service knot!

Kind regards,
Axel

If you have anything to add, feel free to comment below! We’d love to hear your experiences and ideas…

6 thoughts on “An open letter to NIU

  1. Thank you very much for this letter! My dealer has stopped selling NIUs because he got massive problems in a warranty case and didn’t want his customers to take it. Now I don’t have a dealer near me anymore…

    1. Thanks for your comment, Daniel.
      Sad to hear that… In general I think this is an essential learning for all Chinese companies: competitive pricing goes only this far… If after-sales breaks, it’s like trying to get the toothpaste back into the tube.

  2. Well, it seems that at least here in Italy we do have flagship stores (from which I bought my NIU, yepeee).
    I do not know if it was due to your open letter, which was anyway right on the money.
    In any case, I find my NIU N-Sport a great vehicle, there are only a few minor glitches, some annoying and some of which might be important only to anal people.
    They are:
    1) the passenger’s footrest locking mechanism is weak, when you park your NIU beside your car in the garage you risk to scratch it with the footrest which just popped out our of the blue
    2) when it’s raining, the space around the steering bar gets filled by water and STAY filled by water until it evaporates
    3) the side mirrors are too narrow, I am a big guy (1,87 meters) with big shoulders and the mirrors fail to reflect the rear traffic, while giving me a nice view of my arms and shoulder.
    4) GPS low signal alarm should be turned off within special registered locations such as my underground parking garage. There is no need to get every time a notification of low GPS signal once parked in such home-locations.
    5) The most annoying thing: I don’t know if your NIU behaves like mine but if for any reason the alarm gets set on, the next time I switch on the NIU with the key, it only goes in speed mode 1. I have to switch it off an on again to get the full speed. On the display meanwhile appears the GSM signal flashing icon which on the manual isn’t present at all in the dashboard icon explanation, as it is never explained such low speed behavior.
    6) The second most annoying thing: every time I switch on the NIU, it starts from mode 1, which is a mode that I guess nobody uses. It should instead remember the last speed mode used and resume from it.
    Other than these youth annoyances, I am so far extremely satisfied by my NIU and boy…. the app is great!

    1. Ciao Roberto,
      Thanks for your in-depth comment. Let me try to quickly go through your points:

      • Footrest – while I initially thought of it as a nice improvement (introduced 2018), it’s something which wears off quite easy – I’m not really missing it on my ’17 model
      • The “steering bar pool” is really a bad design and given all the controllers are below it gives me the shivers
      • Switching off the GPS in your garage would require a custom geo-fencing functionality, which simply isn’t there. But who knows… NIU might listen 😉
      • Starting in Mode 1 is new to me, because I still have the trusty manual ‘gear switch’ – definitely annoying and probably easy to fix. Same goes for that strange post-alarm reset issue.
      1. Perhaps to fix the steering bar pool problem it might be possible to add a small draining pipe. I’ll watch the videos in which the NIU gets dismantled to see if it feasable.
        In any case, the chinese paternity of the NIU gets evident when reading the manual.
        For example, can NIU’s people explain me why in the manual it is not indicated the procedure to change the turning lights sound?

        1. I thought about a way of draining “the pool”, too. But given there’s no lowest-level-by-design, it’ll be hard to drain it completely.
          Then you have lead the water through pipe down passing all the electronics. I’ll wait another month until my warranty is void 😉
          ’bout the manual: For a current Chinese product, the manual is brilliant 😛

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