Is Samsung's reputation beyond redemption now?

Elissa Loi wonders what’s the best way forward for Samsung following the Galaxy Note 7 fiasco

I was at the launch of the Samsung Galaxy Note 7, gave it a glowing 5 star review, and am now witnessing its burial after its explosive time in the limelight. Yes, reports of its death haven't been greatly exaggerated: the Note 7 is gone, but definitely not forgotten. 

I stand by what I originally said – the Note 7 is, was, an excellent phone. But having witnessed the phone's very public spiral of death that spanned an entire month and then some, would consumers trust Samsung anymore?

What's next for the beleaguered brand then?

What happened with Samsung?

Reports of exploding devices are not new, neither are global recalls. Toyota has done so with its cars, Nokia (remember them) had to do it with their batteries and Apple has done it with the Beats Pill XL speaker. But this is a flagship device we’re talking about with a major manufacturing fault. The best phone of the year is also now known as the worst one.

We have to give Samsung credit for acting so quickly in the initial stages and issuing the global recall when they did. While it was inconvenient to consumers, the company took the right steps in righting the wrong before a situation of grievous hurt could occur. 

With that first move, it was already toeing a fine line with consumers' patience. But things got subsequently worse with reports of malfunctioning replacement phones and Samsung telling users to "power down and stop using the device", both original and replacement, just earlier today.

Thank goodness, it's finally over. Samsung has recognised that it should call it quits and stuck the knife firmly into the Note 7's jugular. 

But what the Korean giant's next steps are, following a painful month for Note 7 owners, is what will determine its future.

What should Samsung do?

Tay Xiaohan, Senior Market Analyst at IDC, says, "For those directly affected by the Note 7, I feel that they need to offer generous incentives to make up for it, to go one step further to regain consumers’ trust in them, and to show that they still really care about their consumers, as well as to show that they are greatly apologetic for the inconvenience that they have caused them."

So the time has now come for Samsung to give consumers what they're asking for - the option of a full refund, instead of a replacement device of any sort. Look what happened with that the first time around. It’s what should have been offered earlier and the only right thing to do at this point.

While no local cases of Note 7s burning up have been reported, consumers shouldn't be made to go through the inconvenience again, especially since this happened through no fault of theirs. 

Monetary losses can be recouped, but once credibility is lost, it’s going to be a long arduous climb back to the top. 

All’s not lost

There’s still room for redemption though. Samsung has had a stellar run so far. In fact, 2016 could have been a home run for them, if not for A Series of Unfortunate Note 7 Events.

Given how quickly the smartphone industry moves, Samsung made the right choice to end the Note 7's run. It should now focus all its efforts on compensating customers, as well as making sure the upcoming Galaxy S8 is as close to perfect as possible. The world will be watching, so the company has to be more careful than ever.

However the last thing Samsung should do is to go quiet. Tay weighs in, "Samsung needs to step up to reassure consumers that the problem is only with its Galaxy Note 7 and that all its other products are safe for use. There may be fear that has been instilled in consumers which may drive them to switch to other products, so Samsung needs to step in to address this and provide reassurance to consumers."

It might be the end for the Note 7, but it doesn’t have to be for the brand. There's still opportunity to shape the narrative, depending on how Samsung responds to its Note 7 customers and the eventual arrival of the Galaxy S8. The stakes might be higher than ever, but the company still has a shot given its devoted following. 

So even if there's no coming back for the Note 7, there's still hope yet for the brand - if it does the right thing by its customers.

Your move now, Samsung.