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In the current scenario, positive word of mouth plays an important role in promoting brands and products. And this is where a good and effective after-sales service strategy will come into play that will eventually lead to either the brand building a good rapport with the customer or the brand’s fall-out with the customer  -


Around the mid to late 80's, after-sales service or customer service was a little-known concept and was still at a nascent stage. After sales service was still insignificant three decades ago, given customer expectations were not as varied and evolved as they are today. But evolving customer expectations and preferences have catapulted vendors to actively formulate strategic ways to offer after-sales services.


So why is it so necessary?  
After sales service plays an important role in customer satisfaction and customer retention. It generates loyal customers. Good after-sales service means that customers will return to the brand while making fresh purchases, as they start believing in the brand and get associated with the organization for a longer duration. A satisfied and happy customer will also bring more individuals and eventually more revenues for the organization. It thus plays a pivotal role in strengthening the bond between the organization and customers.

 

Balgond Chougula
VP – Customer support & RMA, D-Link (India) 


"D-Link has made huge investments in developing a state-of-the art service support infrastructure in India. It has set-up a company owned Direct Service Centers (DSC) across the country, which are supported by D-Link Service Partners (DSP), and Partner Courier Pickup (PCP)." 

Customer engagement is a long term commitment and after sales plays a crucial role in building a brand’s credibility,” reiterates Balgond Chougula, VP – Customer support & RMA at D-Link (India). “With increasing demand for our networking products & growing market penetration, ensuring complete customer satisfaction is the key. 


Agrees Bhaskar Vadlamani, Chief Customer Officer, at Pi DATACENTERS, “The success of any organization is highly dependent on the services it provides to its customers after the sale is done.  In fact, I would go a step ahead and say that getting more revenue from an existing customer is much more in our control than winning a new customer.  Traditionally if you look at the data, many successful enterprises claim that their repeat business is more than 90%.  And adding new customers is predominantly in single digits.  It’s not easy to sell given the tough competition in every domain and usually cycles are long.”

 

Bhaskar Vadlamani,
Chief Customer Officer, at Pi DATACENTERS

"The success of any organization is highly dependent on the services it provides to its customers after the sale is done.  In fact, I would go a step ahead and say that getting more revenue from an existing customer is much more in our control than winning a new customer." 


 He also puts forth some statistics from the industry research that reveals interesting facts -   
•    7 per cent of Indian consumers assert that they will not make a repeat purchase or continue with a company's services in case of a bad experience.
•    76 per cent of Indian consumers are ready to shell out 11 per cent more for excellent customer service.
•    Moreover, 86 per cent of the consumers are ready to give a second chance to companies with a good track record even after a poor experience.

Amrish Mahajan
Director – Customer Support
Acer India

"Our customer service initiatives includes - 24/7 support through online technical portal, diagnostic call centers, providing standby unit to customers in case of delay, on-site PAN India support, Priority channel Queue for Key customers at Call Center for quick access and resolution." 


Amrish Mahajan, Director – Customer Support, Acer India also subscribes to the idea that services are playing a significant role in customer satisfaction and retention. It is helping brands to generate loyal customers and strengthening the bond with them. “A satisfied customer refers your business to other individuals and eventually leads to more loyal base and sales. Our proactive initiatives to engage more intensely with customers, gaining better customer insights, and leveraging service propositions is helping us grow. After sales services are as important as product quality since, both equally helps to meet customer’s expectations.”

Sudipto Ghosh
Executive Director, AP Services, Lenovo


"We believe that customer retention is achieved through meeting set expectations and this can be achieved through the flawless process of timely communication ultimately resulting in customer satisfaction as well as retention." 


Customer retention is key for Lenovo’s business. At Lenovo, it is dedicated to the satisfaction and success of every customer. “We believe that customer retention is achieved through meeting set expectations and this can be achieved through the flawless process of timely communication ultimately resulting in customer satisfaction as well as retention. We have a thorough structure of checks and balances at Lenovo wherein we ensure constant monitoring and address grievances even through social media platforms. Through this we also ensure that we are connected to our customers at every level,” says Sudipto Ghosh- Executive Director, AP Services – Lenovo. 


He further says, “Additionally, through timely customer satisfaction surveys we measure customer experiences to comprehend their feedback and ensure Lenovo has a top of mind recall with each of its customer. In any high transaction business, the first interaction with a customer is a key determinant of whether the customer will be a repeat customer so we don’t underestimate the importance of timeliness and thoroughness.”


Brand strategy around support...
D-Link has always laid high prominence on customer engagement & service support.  As a result it continues to invest in developing infrastructure & support system that enhances customer experience with D-Link.  “D-Link has made huge investments in developing a state-of-the art service support infrastructure in India. It has set-up a company owned Direct Service Centers (DSC) across the country, which are supported by D-Link Service Partners (DSP), and Partner Courier Pickup (PCP). With this D-Link now reaches out to its customers in 140+ cities with 261+ service points. So customers can now interact with the technical experts present at the centers & have hands-on product experience with live demos,” explains Balgond.


The D-Link Service Centre (DSC) is an attempt at readily supporting its customers and ensuring total customer satisfaction. With D-Link Service Partners (DSP) & Partner Courier Pickup (PCP), D-Link attempts to reach-out to its customers present in tier 2 & tier 3 cities as well. Further D-Link also offers unique service premium program that is ‘Service at your door-step’ for Broadband, Wireless and 3G Lifestyle products with D-Link Direct Service (DDS) which is also available through WhatsApp. 


“It is our most expensive service support model that has enabled us to sustain our customer base & also retain our leadership position in networking technology domain,” says Balgond. “For our recently launched CCTV product range we shall soon be rolling out D-Link CCTV Express Service. Express  Service  is  aimed  to support  all  CCTV  Partners  with dedicated  technical support, free pickup and delivery of faulty cameras and advance replacement  for  critical  projects.”    
He further continues, “Enterprises today are making huge investments in setting-up a reliable network infrastructure, for uninterrupted & smooth functioning of business. At the same time they are looking for solution that minimizes their operational expenditure. With D-Link being the leader in networking segment, we understand our customer need and are always working towards developing solutions that effectively meets customer requirements. AR-NBD by D-Link is a step in that direction.” 


Advance Replacement Next Business Day Warranty (AR-NBD) by D-Link is a premium support program designed exclusively for enterprise customers, wherein it offers hassle free quick resolution through a dedicated tech support team, along with advance replacement facility to customer location at zero additional cost. With AR-NBD, D-Link aims to offer prompt assistance & support to enterprise customers in the event of any technical failure, and boosts business efficiency by helping them keep their network up & running. 

Anurag Gupta
Director - Customer Service Operations, Xerox India

"The fact that more than 50% of our customers are repeat customer further validates our strong customer service operations. Customer loyalty has always been the strongest pillar of growth for Xerox."

With an aim to further enhance the overall service value proposition, Xerox Service Operations has always been a benchmark for the industry and continues to evolve with the changing customer requirements. In the process of ensuring best-in-class service, Xerox keeps raising the bar for itself through continuous innovation, technology prowess and operational excellence. “For office automation in India, Xerox has been the pioneer in launching the “After Sale Service Concept”, asserts Anurag Gupta, Director - Customer Service Operations, ‎Xerox India.


In its endeavour to deliver better value to its customers, Xerox has a unique EUREKA Knowledge base, which has multiple solutions for the same problem faced by engineers across the globe. It also has a platform called “Service Modernization” which connects the customer’s machine to the Xerox server, allowing it to be monitored remotely. This revolutionary innovation brings in a conceptual change in the services space, making service management proactive from reactive. 
“The fact that more than 50% of our customers are repeat customer further validates our strong customer service operations. Customer loyalty has always been the strongest pillar of growth for Xerox,” says Anurag.


As a part of its constant endeavor to deliver service excellence, Xerox always strives to be ahead of the market and hence ensures that it is always equipped with solutions to address the need of evolving services space. “We believe that any job requires pre-press, processing, printing, addition of finishing elements and higher uptime through superior service support. Hence, it is essential for the underlying technology to function error-free, with robust ripping systems for better color handling and option availability of inline finishing. This has to be supported by experienced and trained on field service support,” supports Anurag. 
In the Technology & Channels business, Xerox GTM is primarily through partners.  With a strong 150+ partner network, it ensures that its partners are well equipped and strongly supported to win deals in the marketplace. Xerox has two types of partners – the Sales-only partners and the Sales & Service Partners (SSPs). All these partners are managed by Xerox Partner Business Managers who help partners expand their business through business planning, sales planning, sales support and partner training. “Our 12 Channel Levers provide massive support for Xerox partners to realize and deliver their true potential. It not only offers better and faster returns to our channel partners but also helps them maximize effort and increases their productivity. Overall, Xerox is a very partner friendly organization and we constantly engage with our partners to alleviate their challenges,” says Anurag.

Will Yang
Brand Director, OPPO India


"OPPO’s strategy and guidelines for the brand is “Focus and Simplicity”, investing in constructing premium products and focusing company resources on creating the best experience for our consumers."


As a brand, OPPO has received a lot of appreciation from the Indian consumer, especially when it comes to its product and customer experience. While it always strives to build better and stronger customer relations, perfecting its product is the centre of its focus to meet the changing consumer demand. “We pay constant attention to both online and offline platforms which translates in to positive user experience and after service to local customers,” says Will Yang, Brand Director, OPPO India. 


He further continues, “OPPO’s strategy and guidelines for the brand is “Focus and Simplicity”, investing in constructing premium products and focusing company resources on creating the best experience for our consumers. Currently we will pursue to focus on both offline and online market and further strengthen and build our connect with consumers all over India. Now we have more than 500 after sales service centers across the nation for better services for markets across India. We will continue build our services quality and expand service centers for better interaction with local users.”


Acer is using after-sales service strategies to consolidate sales and build customer relationships. It has undertaken multiple initiatives in order to provide best services to customers. “Our customer service initiatives includes - 24/7 support through online technical portal, diagnostic call centers, providing standby unit to customers in case of delay, on-site PAN India support, Priority channel Queue for Key customers at Call Center for quick access and resolution. For easy access to services, Acer brought in Acer Care Centre (ACC) App through Google Play, which offers quicker and efficient service to the customers,” points out Amrish. 
Acer India has also incorporated the SMS concept which triggers at every level of status change for the case logged by the customer. SMS also provide a url, which once clicked will take the customer directly to the page giving the detailed status. Acer also provides customized service support to enterprise clients, where they can avail support at a time convenient to them and their business model. This practice has helped Acer amongst their ITES clients who work on different time zones. Apart from this, Acer has many another initiatives in line which will further enhance Acer’s strong customer-service philosophy and will lead a step closer to improve the quality of services for customers. One of such initiative is E-support, which allows key customers with multi-location branch offices, to centrally log, track & view the progress of incidence and can spool periodic performance reports on call TAT, AFR etc.


As social media has become a modern day business tool, Acer is using it to address service queries and grievances. “A brand like Acer which has millions of customers not only has over 1400+ locations support across India but also introduced a dedicated service app to log complaints, track and interact. Technology and connectivity is helping business evolve and service support is a key segment of business, which decides how the brand is perceived,” observes Amrish.
Lenovo on its part has 29000 pin codes mapped across India for onsite service delivery from Monday through Saturday (except public holidays). It extends carry-in services through 150 centers from 9AM to 6PM. Its 24x7 availability on social media ensures that it has an engaged communication with all its customers and also provides premium care value added services to its premier customers.

Amit
COO - Phonup

"The Customer is at the center of our overall product & service strategy.  Customer experience and service is the key differentiator between market leader and challenger."


“The Customer is at the center of our overall product & service strategy.  Customer experience and service is the key differentiator between market leader and challenger. At Phonup, Customer will have the better price and service benefit. In our concept customer service is pivotal and we are addressing this by ensuring assuring 12 months warranty on Phonup Phones, 3 months warranty on Phonup accessories and one month warranty on repair. As an added advantage, devices will be repaired in front of customer to ensure credibility, reliability and device repair shall be conducted thru trained technicians certified by Phonup Academy only,” says Amit, COO - Phonup.


In case of Phonup, the Area Franchise will service regions and will also have L3 set up and supply products to Retail Unit, Kiosk & Star. Each Retail Store has Phonup Trained technician who are experts in repairs and world class equipment is required for repairs. An Audit team of engineers regularly visit stores to audit and periodically refresher trainings are done.  Close to 17000 + pin codes are serviced across India by giving customer service of pickup and delivery at customer door steps in case of service issue.


Use of Technology in After-sales...
The brands operating today understand that as a responsible organization they cannot ignore the various touch points to connect with consumers and understand their needs and demands. And so they continue focus to reach out to the users through both offline and online channel services and by using different technological prowess.


Xerox firmly believes that technological upgradation is one major step to ensure customer satisfaction. It has unique platforms such as EUREKA Knowledge base, Remote Diagnostic Tools, Service Modernization and Xerox “WE CARE”, which helps it to further enhance its overall value proposition and customer services. The technology prowess and operational excellence of Xerox gives the brand with a great advantage to deliver better support, service and eventually better value for its customers.


Xerox has an in-house application ‘Log me in’ that allows it to remotely and securely connect to a customer’s system and provided solutions. ‘Xerox Service Manager’ is another in-house application that monitors the customer device remotely, manages the supplies replenishment and proactively fixes breaks. This is particularly popular when dealing with large fleets.


Xerox has also come up with an application - ‘Fleet Management Portal’, which not only gives the customer the flexibility to log the call directly using FMP but also allows them to monitor the status of any device out of the entire fleet w.r.t functioning of device, consumable status, meter reading etc.


Today Technology is used more than ever to enhance the customer experience and the brand. At Pi, it is no different.  “We are an organization driven by technology and powered by intellect,” says Bhaskar. “As a Cloud and Datacenter company, we want to ensure that we give a very simple and seamless experience for our customers while they handle their infrastructure at our DC either directly or through Cloud.  In this regard, following are some of the examples of initiatives that are in place intended to enhance customer experience -


1.    Harbour1 - Pi’s enterprise cloud platform that is developed keeping three things in mind -1. Simplicity 2.  Flexibility and 3.  Self-service. Through Harbour1, one can easily manage the compute, Storage and Network by themselves and in desired configurations without any restrictions or limitations on certain groupings.
2.    Mobile App (Pi Store) - This is one of the unique offerings we have leveraging mobile technology to address the continuously growing Mobile segment. Through this, our customers can place the order and spin off a VM in our Harbour1 on their fingertips.
3.    Ticketing Tools - Our advanced ticketing tool is very easy to connect and operate. This has a nuanced level of detail, for our customers to choose the issue, they want to be addressed. 
4.    By leveraging the different technologies and tools available in the market, Pi is able to automate the monitoring at Server level, Networking level and operations level.  Many tools and frameworks are implemented at both Network and Cloud layer level to ensure security concerns and virus threats that are shaking the enterprises that are predominantly on-premise and not leveraging the advanced practices available with DC and Cloud players.
5.    Besides these, we are also considering Omnichannel customer support, Big Data, AI etc technologies in future as these are some of them.”


Lenovo has the Lencare App that offers host of functions to all customers. Lenovo services believe in making a difference in everyone’s life through innovation. “We use App based services like Lencare/Resolve/Speed of Light, Big Data voice analytics through NICE IA, Gamification tool for contact center agent training simulation, QR code for real time service assistance,” says Sudipto.


Technology is evolving day by day, thus is the customers’ expectations and demands. Today every customer is expecting faster response, unlike traditional services. Here, Chatbots assist and apps are playing a key role. Bots can be leveraged as a mean to enhance the customer experience and this could help to manage customer expectations and ensure stronger customer relationships. 


“However, I believe this bots cannot solve complex customer problems; therefore, there is a need for customer service representatives too. Chatbots and apps work brilliantly when it comes to solving simple queries, quick-response needs but at the same time companies also need customer service representatives to focus on complex customer demands and high-touch interactions. The idea of bot technology is undoubtedly a step in the right direction and it has a lot of potentials going forward, I believe that this route will be a boon to many businesses,” Amrish puts it. 


And so...
For modern day businesses, customer service is no longer looked at as a support function, but it has a direct impact on several key organizational KPIs and is often the difference between an average company and an industry leader. But how do you really know if your service standards are up to your customers’ expectations? Almost 80% of companies believe they provide “exceptional service” to their customers. Unfortunately, only 3% of customer reciprocates that feeling.


“The only dependable way of knowing your actual service standard, and making any informed decisions about it, is by calculating the right customer service metrics. Customer service metrics are not just some fancy numbers that fill up your monthly performance dashboards. They are key performance factors that give you a clear idea of the contribution your services department is making to the overall progress of your company,” points out Anurag.


Quick response time is however an integral part of delivering good customer services – something that adds great value for the customer. However there are instances when a brand is unable to reach the customer for assistance due to several reasons. It may be because the customer has included the number of the service center in the “Do Not Disturb” list. Also with the ever changing government regulation like road permits (inter-state), GST documentation, etc. the delivery of spares can get delayed.


In many a case, response time is in minutes or hours or days based on the priority of the request as agreed through SLA Framework. Resolution time will be in hours, days or weeks, depending on the complexity. “Well thought through and designed SLA framework is our guide for the support system,” says Bhaskar.  


However, he too observes that despite an agreed SLA framework, certain challenges are encountered at times -
1.    Replication of the issue in non-production environment
2.    Communication issues where the issue is not understood properly
3.    Multiple stakeholder’s involvement where the brand may not have full control in complete resolution
Nevertheless, it is now clear that depending on the quality of after sales service, the image of a brand can either get tarnished or enhanced. A good customer service from a brand will leave a customer with the following perspectives - trust which will lead to future opportunities; credibility of the brand and lastly the customer can focus on innovation as his other things are taken care of smoothly. 


Samrita Baruah
samrita@varindia.com

 

After Sales Service Techniques

Sales Professionals need to stay in touch with the customers even after the deal and not ignore their calls. They are even expected to call them once in a while to exchange pleasantries, though this rarely happens.

•    Give customers necessary support. Help them install, maintain or operate a particular product. Sales professionals selling laptops must ensure windows are configured in the system and customers are able to use net without any difficulty. Similarly organizations selling mobile sim cards must ensure the number is activated immediately once the customer submits his necessary documents.
•    Any product found broken or in a damaged condition must be exchanged immediately by the sales professional. Listen to their grievances and make them feel comfortable.
•    Create a section in your organization’s website where the customers can register their complaints. Every organization should have a toll free number where the customers can call and discuss their queries. 
•    Take feedback of the products and services sold from the customers. Feedback helps the organization to know the customers better.
•    Ask the customers to sign Annual Maintenance Contract (AMC) with your organization. AMC is an agreement signed between the organization and the customer where the organization promises to provide after sales services to the second party for a certain duration at nominal costs.
•    The exchange policies must be transparent and in favour of the customer. The customer who comes for an exchange should be given the same treatment as was given to him when he came for the first time.

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