Windows Middle East Electronic Edition - 26th April 2005

If your IT kit grinds to a halt, what would you rather do - get out your map, brave the traffic and take it to a service centre, or dial one number and have it collected, fixed and dropped back for free?

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By  Matthew Wade Published  April 26, 2005

It’s support Jim, but not as we know it|~||~||~|If your IT kit grinds to a halt, what would you rather do - get out your map, brave the traffic and take it to a service centre, or dial one number and have it collected, fixed and dropped back for free? Getting real value from a product’s warranty has, to me at least, sometimes felt like a case of having to put yourself out first and help the company you bought the product from, before they would help you and actually fix the thing. In Dubai - in fact in any city with similar levels of snarling traffic clogging up the streets - the prospect of taking an hour or two out of your life to crawl across town and deliver a broken gadget to a ‘support’ centre is not something to relish. It could, quite justifiably, lead to you feeling disgruntled with the company forcing you to take such a trip. After all, it’s unlikely to be your fault that the product went kaput. This prospect has certainly made me delay getting a product fixed in the past, and I suspect I’m not alone. All of which makes the change that seems to be gathering pace place a truly welcome one. The idea of a firm coming to your home (or place of work), collecting your lacklustre laptop or ailing monitor, fixing it, and delivering it back - free of charge - mightn’t be quite a revolution in after-sales support, but it’s this kind of so-called ‘value-add’ that helps us end users feel good about an otherwise faceless company, and therefore might even inspire in us a little loyalty to a specific brand. In terms of this kind of consumer support scheme, Acer currently leads the pack. It has been running its ‘Collect and Drop’ service in the UAE since 2003. The service initially focused only on notebooks, no doubt because in the highly competitive notebook market Acer was seemingly the first to realise that this kind of support could help it secure and retain customers (the aim being to bump up its market share). However, last October Acer beefed up ‘Collect and Drop’ to cover LCD monitors and projectors too, as well as rolling out its notebook service in Saudi Arabia. A customer with cranky kit simply phones a dedicated Acer call centre, after which their faulty equipment is picked up from their home or place of work, then returned once the necessary fixes have been carried out. However, Taiwanese digital lifestyle firm BenQ is also now looking to get in on the collection and delivery act. In a Windows exclusive, BenQ’s general manager for the Middle East and Africa, Manish Bakshi, told us that the company is looking to roll-out a similar service in either quarter two or quarter three of this year. In the first stage its ‘Collect, Repair and Deliver’ scheme will cover UAE-based LCD monitors and projectors. It’s certainly true that, from a business point of view, many companies have been offering this for quite some time - and not just covering one or two types of product either - but in the consumer world this is new, exciting stuff. These incremental changes are great news for us, as anything that makes our lives easier has to be applauded. And in terms of goodwill, brand loyalty and potentially increased market share in the future, such moves look set to bring positive results to the brave manufacturers trying them out. However - and this is key - it shouldn’t stop there. First off, manufacturers who are currently not planning such schemes must risk looking like bandwagon jumpers and take the same steps. This will save them looking out of step with the industry and will keep more of their customers happy - encouraging them to stick with those firms in the future. To really impress consumers across the region, they could even try making their first leap a giant one and doing what Acer now should, which is to offer such a service across their whole product range and cover more than one or two countries. Now that would be truly supportive. ||**||

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