“How Can We Help?” – Creating a Significant Competitive Advantage Through Life Cycle Customer Support

Is the old concept of ongoing service dead? Do Customer Support Centres exist as an impenetrable front? Are recognised problems fed back to improve the process which created them?

Some of us remember the days when BT took complete care of the phone system. If you had a problem it was fixed by one call. Of course in those days, BT had a monopoly. Today a problem is always “yours” and never the network’s!

Does the car industry care about your vehicle problems or is service simply a way to drive profit? I have a Ford diesel car which might need a new fuel injector. The component cost is £350 and fitting another £150. Does the component maker get £350? I think NOT. Maybe Ford make competitively priced cars, then profit from spares.

Before the introduction of Digital TV, the electronics industry was organised in a way which saw service as a way of getting more profit. The High Street retailers managed the process and very little real feedback went back into product and service designs. Technology was stable and in most cases the product was extremely reliable – so no real issues.

However, with the introduction of Digital Broadcast everything changed. Technology was very unstable both in the broadcast sense and product software. The overall infra-structure was under stress and many homes had inadequate cabling or antennae.

At this stage, I became a champion of Life Cycle Support. At Sony the responsibility for Digital Customer care was transferred to the Manufacturing unit. A dedicated Call Centre was set up, directly connected to the Product Design team. Links were established to the Broadcast industry as well the High Street retailers. Life Cycle support had emerged.

Today the country is switching over completely to digital and the old analogue system is being shut down. This could never have been achieved without Life Cycle support. In the early days, about 8 years ago, product was being returned as faulty with no faults and the signal reception was a post code lottery. To the customer the product did not show a picture and was therefore “faulty”. To the Retailer, it was a nightmare and to the Manufacturer, a mystery, as the returned set worked fine. The Broadcasters, meanwhile, blamed the Manufacturers. A recipe for disaster loomed.

Out of this crisis emerged a Manufacturers’ Life Cycle support system directly linking end users with designers. All issues of signal reception were covered including substantial improvements to installation manuals as well as help lines. Government also played a part setting up the Digital Action Plan led by the Departments for Culture, Media & Sport and Trade and Industry. The result is a smooth transition of a very complex technology. Coronation Street continues and the World Cup looms.

Does your company have a connected Life Cycle support system? Do you have customer support issues? Is your call centre adding value? Does your Sales team complain about poor Customer service?

With our experience in all aspects of Customer support, MA Consulting can provide a Reality Check and help you define your strategy for Life Cycle Support.

Antony Abbott

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