Today, we're sharing updates on the progress we've made delivering Beyonds, how we're improving our customer support responsiveness, updates on delays affecting international shipments, and teasers about the Audio Strap.
Audio Strap Update
We're excited to share more updates about the Audio Strap! Near-final engineering samples are in the hands of some of the earliest customers. We've made a few tweaks to make that improve user experience and the final revision is expected to be completed in January. We aim to ship around 100-200 units in the next month, with mass production in February, and shipments will go out globally in March. We're a couple months behind schedule on Audio Strap shipments, but we think the ultimate product will be worth it. It massively enhances comfort of using the Beyond, while delivering best-in-class audio quality. Look for more Audio Strap content and a video on its unique design details next year. The Audio Strap ships separately from the headset, and can be ordered here.
The team has done an incredible job ramping up manufacturing and fulfillment. Since our last two production updates in November, we've delivered the vast majority of orders from February through August. Most September orders should've shipped by now, but unfortunately, 45% of September orders are yet to ship. We aim to ship most September orders within the next 1-3 weeks.
The last remaining preorders delayed by QC or lens manufacturing
We've successfully shipped many prescription lenses so far, and people are stunned to see how we managed to fit a variety of high-strength prescriptions into an incredibly tiny package while maintaining excellent visual quality.
In our last blog post, we explained reasons why some preorders were getting delayed despite overall production going smoothly. In summary, quality control of prescription lens inserts and cushions are the main reasons that cause a delay for a specific customer.
It takes a lot more manufacturing complexity to pull off millimeter thin lenses. Pictured above are Beyond's prescription lens inserts next to a customer's eyeglasses. If lenses are too thick by just 100-300 microns, it will cause issues with fitment, so we are extremely precise in how we do things. For context, the average human hair is just 100 microns thick.
However, some prescriptions had unique manufacturing challenges, and we noticed some failed repeated manufactured attempts. For example, positive strength prescriptions (ex. +2.0 CYL or +2.0 SPH) were particularly hard to manufacture and pass QC because they tend to be much thicker. We've found causes of such issues, worked with new lens suppliers, and two shipments of lenses will be arriving in the next week.
In early January, we expect to ship headsets to another 200-300 customers that were previously delayed due to lens manufacturing defects. These shipments include both negative and positive strength lenses that previously failed QC.
Similarly, we've found a group of orders where cushions were repeatedly getting stuck due to manufacturing errors. In some cases, a cushion that should've been manufactured in September was stuck in QC and not resolved in fast enough. In the past couple weeks, we've focused on improving processes to catch these errors faster, resolving the errors, and manufacturing these orders. Since every order is custom, such edge cases require bug fixes and tuning.
With these improvements with cushions and prescription lenses, we expect any remaining (domestic) February-September orders to be shipped by January.
Improving Customer Support response times
In late November/early December, we were hitting our peak shipping throughput. Our customer support team was understaffed and not adequately prepared, which resulted in long support response times. While we typically replied within 1-3 days in September-October, support response times in early December became an appalling 2-3 weeks. This is not good enough and we're sorry for disappointing people during that period of rapid growth.
Over the past month, we've been implementing new tools and growing our staff in order to improve our customer support. Response times are now typically less than 1-2 weeks, and we aim to get that back to 1-3 days by January.
The most common support questions are: order status requests, help with 3D face scans, headset setup questions, and issues with headset fitment (ex. IPD). As a custom-fit device, we want to ensure your headset fits perfectly for you and in case it doesn't, we work to get it right. Sometimes, this requires adjusting your headset to a different IPD. With the wrong IPD, the headset can be blurry, cause eyestrain, and generally have disappointing optical performance. With the correct IPD, people tend to be stunned at how good the Beyond is.
Around 10-15% of people end up needing a different IPD that what we originally measured. This is data based on a random sample of 1000 customers that received a Beyond. It's not a particularly big problem today. For context, consumer apparel has a much higher exchange rate of 20-30% as people frequently want to change clothing sizes after trying it on.
Rest assured, while 90% of people get a great experience immediately out of the box, if you have issues with comfort and fitment we'll work with you to ensure you ultimately end up with a product you love.
International Orders delayed into January/February
We’ll be air freighting a lot of pallets from Los Angeles to warehouses in several local regions including the Netherlands (for the EU & UK), Canada, Japan, and Australia. From there, it ships by a local shipper to your local address. We're doing this for several reasons.
First, due to our scale, this is proving faster than shipping individual boxes because we’re able to bulk clear many pallets through customs in each region at once, rather than customs clearing each package one at a time which could take days or weeks longer.
Second, this enables us to handle regionalized support faster for RMA issues and replacement parts.
We're nearly complete with the four areas of logistics work for each region: air shipments, warehousing, staffing, and business entity filings, with the last part taking longer than expected due to bureaucratic work required to expand operations to new countries. Delays with getting things done during the holiday season is compounding that.
This work was meant to be completed before the end of the year (Q4 2023), and it has slipped in January-February 2024. I'm terribly sorry about this delay, as we really had hoped to complete this before the end of the year and I know some people have been waiting for this all year long.
In many cases, international customer orders have already been manufactured and are sitting in our Los Angeles factory, simply waiting for the "green light" to be air shipped to a regional warehouse (ex. Netherlands).
When we begin shipping in full speed to international customers next year, our operations will enable us to offer exceptionally good customer service. In case of issues with IPD, cushion fit, or needing to ship your unit back to us for RMA, we'll handle it in regional warehouses in most cases, or ship it quickly from Los Angeles.
After a monumental year announcing and shipping our first-generation Bigscreen Beyond, the team will be taking a well deserved break around Christmas and New Years, so please be patient with us if you don't hear from us between December 23, 2023 and January 2, 2024.
If you've received your Beyond, please post a review on our store page or on social media! We love seeing unboxings and photos of your new Beyonds.