Donald Maidment, Head of Customer Service at Panasonic, outlines how the Japanese manufacturer is moving its service operation to a more proactive business model.
In October 2015, Panasonic System Communications Company Europe, the business to business arm of Panasonic in Europe, was named one of the Top 50 Companies for customer service at an awards ceremony at Manchester United’s Old Trafford Stadium.
Our service centre was named the country’s fourth best for email support and 17th for overall customer service at the ICMI’s annual benchmarking programme.
This is the first year we have participated in the Top 50 program, so to be rated in the top two per cent is a huge honour and reflects the hard work and dedication of the team.
The European Customer Service team was established in 2006 in Cardiff, where we house a European repair centre, field support team and multi-language call centre to cater for B2B customers. We quickly realised through listening and learning from the customer’s voice, that B2B requirements are critical to effective operations and financial performance, and therefore Panasonic modelled the CS organisation with the sole vision of becoming the ‘No1 Company for customer satisfaction’ in the B2B Market.
Remarkably, in 1929, our founder Konosuke Matsushita created a series of business principles, which even today can be found on walls within our offices and are included in our staff training and handbooks. At the same time, he said that, ‘A Company’s vision must be driven by the aspirations of its customers.’
It is these words that drove our team to the realisation that the only way they can understand their customer’s aspirations, is to listen to their voice.
Every day, we endeavor to continually improve our customer service level with system and training enhancements and we’re seeking to extend the remit of the team to cover a greater number of products and territories.
In addition, we’re turning our business round from one which operates entirely reactively to one which is proactive and predicts when maintenance and repair are required.
In the challenging and changing face of Customer Service, Panasonic is striving to be at the forefront of the quest to provide ‘added value’ to our customer’s operations. We are building bespoke managed service solutions and also Machine to Machine services.
One such example, is our new CARES Scheme. Utilising the latest M2M technology, this enables the customer service centre to communicate directly with our products via 3G or 4G wherever they are installed. We can do status checks, performance monitoring and even predict any problematic issues that may occur.
This allows Panasonic to take preventative action before any problem has occurred at the customer side.
An example might be a projector at a University, we can schedule in maintenance when it’s necessary at a suitable time for the University, at evenings or weekends. We can predict when the lamp is likely to fail and instead of that happening during an important lecture, we can make the necessary fix a week or so before. If the University wants to, we can even take care of switching projectors off at the end of day, helping them save energy and meet sustainability targets.
Much of the time, the customer wouldn’t know anything is wrong. This enhanced customer support is built to augment the already mature services we provide and optimise customer convenience.
To aid effective communication with our customers, Panasonic has built various methods for interaction. Over the past nine years, the shift in communication styles has been marked. In 2007, around 90% of customer communication was over the telephone, by 2013 this had dropped to 80%, as more customers enjoyed the added convenience that electronic communication allows.
Latterly, we have expanded the options from purely telephone and email to enhanced services where customers can manage all service interactions by telephone, email, website queries or even through a service application on their smartphone (iOS and Android).
At Panasonic, the number one aim is customer satisfaction, this drives our employees in all daily jobs, no matter if this is manufacturing, design, sales or after sales customer service. They are committed to ensuring we make our customer’s lives and experiences with Panasonic products and services as good as it possibly can be.