Fujitsu takes the express route to services

Fujitsu Technology Solutions is considering rolling out its Service Express product repair initiative elsewhere in the GCC after establishing it in the UAE and Saudi Arabia. Regional service manager, Aiham Al-Akhras, explains how the ‘collect and return' model is benefiting the channel and why the vendor is placing increased emphasis on developing an effective services strategy

Tags: DesktopsFujitsu Technology Solutions - UAEUnited Arab Emirates
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Fujitsu takes the express route to services
By  Andrew Seymour Published  July 5, 2009 Channel Middle East Logo

How would you describe ‘Service Express'?
It is basically a collect and return vehicle where the customer has to call our toll-free number, log a call and DHL will come and pick up the unit from their house, office or from the retailer. The product will then be fixed and returned to the customer, all within a reasonable amount of time.

So how successful has it been since you launched it in the UAE?
Since its inception, 90% of our customers in the UAE have been using the concept, whether they are personal users, corporations or retailers. 97% of them did not need to follow up on clear warranty cases so it is a seamless and proactive concept. And, of course, it has completely resolved the Dubai traffic situation for customers! Since its inception, the users of this concept have increased 20% a month versus the normal walk-in customers.

How quickly can you repair and return faulty products?
We don't have a target that has been communicated to our customers because when you are talking about warranty it is on a ‘best-effort basis', but we have been able to achieve our internal target of five business days from collection and I can happily say that we have derived creative ways to achieve what I call a ‘smiling customer'.

How does Fujitsu absorb the cost of managing a service that is free for customers to use?
Each company has a marketing budget and they spend their money to market their products one way or another, whether it's through banners, promotions or cash discounts. What I can say is that we have invested smartly in improving our service to the customers.

Given that the service is managed directly by Fujitsu and fulfilled by DHL, do your channel partners actually benefit from it?
Yes, in the sense that when you have a normal, walk-in procedure for warranty repairs the customer usually goes back to the retailer and gives them the laptop. The retailer then has to go through the hassle of communicating with the authorised service partner and making sure it has been picked up and delivered. In our case, the concept is very user-friendly so all they have to do is log a call and we take care of the rest. The channel has made use of this service because it saves them an administration headache on top of the fact that the sales are improving as well.

Isn't this type of initiative taking services revenue away from the channel though?
No, because warranty services are not actually where the channel gets most of its revenue from. It is more of a hassle for them because there is a difference between normal standard warranties and what you could call enhanced service levels - which any channel can customise and sell at their own convenience - because we are not competing with that. What we are trying to do is give a good warranty service to the customer that goes with the really basic warranty. We believe that it gives them peace of mind and encourages them to keep on using the same product.

What is your assessment of the after-sales services provided by vendors in this region?
I cannot comment on other companies, but I can say that overall after-sales services in the Middle East didn't used to be up to the standards of other regions, such as Europe or the US. I have seen improvements in that area though for two reasons.

Firstly, the products are becoming very similar so you can't really say that you have a unique technology in your notebook because it all comes from the same component source, more or less. Secondly, with the financial crisis, people are not really buying new machines. Instead, they are leveraging on their existing machines and hence when everyone wants to buy something they want to make sure that the service is really good.

What else can you do to improve Service Express?
We would like to improve the turnaround time to make it even more appealing and we are also trying to look at all the details and fine-tune them. With these things you always try to drill down to more of a micro level and see where you can enhance the customer experience, whether it is through the interaction with the courier or through updates. There will be an automated SMS to update the customer more often with what's going on so, yes, we are looking into the really small details of the process and trying to fine-tune them to create a better experience.

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