No Trouble Found (NTF)
is a term used primarily in the personal computer
(PC) industry referring to a system or component that has been returned to the manufacturer or distributor for warranty replacement or service repair, but operates properly when tested. This situation is also referred to as No Defect Found
NTF returns are often caused by the following patterns:
- Service technicians using a "shotgun" approach to troubleshooting when they are unable to quickly diagnose a problem or error. Under time pressure to resolve problems quickly, the technician uses multiple replacement parts in hopes that one of them will fix the issue.
- Inability to distinguish hardware problems from software or configuration issues. For example, a device driver problem may mimic a true hardware problem.
- Intermittent problems.
NTF returns can seriously erode profit margins for manufacturers and service providers. The time, materials, and shipping costs in exchanging hardware is enormous in relation to the cost of the item being replaced. Further, NTF returns can also indicate that customers' problems have not been resolved, and thus imply reduced customer satisfaction and eroded brand value.
Several methods are available to reduce NTF events:
- Better training for service technicians and call center agents.
- Technician compensation structures that emphasize accuracy over speed.
- Provision of tools such as diagnostic software to end users and/or the technicians that can identify the source of problems, and distinguish between software and hardware issues.
NTF reduction must be performed in a thoughtful manner. Reportedly a major PC manufacturer attempted to eliminate NTF returns by charging back the cost of any NTF item to its service organization. This greatly increased the motivation of the service organization to only return defective parts from customer service calls. The goal was quickly met, with only few parts being identified as NTF, though the overall number of parts being returned did not significantly change. An investigation into the suddenly much higher part failure rate discovered that service engineers were routinely causing damage to parts that were being exchanged, so that they would not be liable for the cost of any related NTF event. The NTF charge-back program was quickly abandoned thereafter in this example of unintended consequences