Today's Notables

The importance of Marketing (Part 2)

October 2002
Hisashi Furuichi
President and C.E.O.

I would like to discuss 5 different features when comparing "service" and "product". While you read it, consider what is important in improving service from your own perspective

1. Service is not something that can be seen.
Before a purchase, "service" is not something you can see or touch and evaluate. However, we have our own set of values based on experience and to some extent, we will rely on our past experience to come up with an assessment. For example, when we go to a restaurant for the first time, what are the standards used to select it? For example, consider a place has a worn, dirty sign with garbage scattered around and a back door open wide, and another that has a beautiful entryway with a fountain. Based on first impressions and not having eaten anything yet, one would assume that the first place is probably cheap and is not good. By the same token, there are things customers based their assessment on: 1. How employees are dressed. 2. Headquarters building (facility) 3. Company profile. 4. Product catalog. 5. Literature published by the company. 6. 4 S (seibi, seiton, seiketsu, seiri) on the plant floor. etc. These are the standards which a customer might use to make an initial judgment before a purchase. Although service is intangible, by taking particular care in putting forth a good impression in the items above, the overall image can be improved. On the other hand, if there is a haphazard approach, first impressions will be negative. Is everyone's uniform clean? Is the work area clean and organized? Do we properly address a customer? Please take a moment to reconsider the impression you may be making.

2. Service is simultaneous production and consumption
Service is not just when a product is manufactured in our plant and sent to the customer, installed and then the customer makes the purchase transaction. Production and consumption is not divided into time and space. We currently survey customers, and do a MOT (moment of truth) study. In other words, we try to determine at which point in the continuum in dealing with a customer they make a decision on whether service is good or bad. An example is how an employee in customer service deals with a customer on the phone. At that point in time, the employee has to realize that he or she is representing the company at that point in time in transaction with a customer. This is also true when a customer visits. An employee may think that if someone else is in charge of that particular customer, then he or she has nothing to do with it. However, that could be the moment that the company's service is called into question with regard to how they treat customers.

3. Variance in service to production
Service depends on the individual. Therefore, depending on who, did what, when and why will cause the level of service to vary. Each individual at our company has specific talents and expertise and if that is not shared for the common benefit and use, service will vary. It is essential to share this knowledge through training and preparing manuals in order to provide consistent service across the board. This fosters institutional knowledge and standard operating procedures within the organization to provide consistent service.

4. Service disappears with production
Service disappears the moment it is being consumed. However, by creating a good impression of service, the illusion that good service remains can be created. For example, what kind of impression is created if a customer representative calls the customer several days after a purchase to inquire how a machine is operating or if the customer has any concerns? Even if there was a problem with the machine, the customer is left with the impression that the company would be quick to respond. By being "one-step ahead" when it comes to dealing with the customer the sense of service can be recreated.

5. Service cannot be owned
Service is intangible. Once the service to the customer is performed, it is gone; there is no residual. However, with the reliability to the customer, the customer feels as though he owns the service. For example, there are auto insurance agents that provide assistance for repairs, taxi cabs, hotels, and other arrangements 24 hours a day. Even if a particular service may not be used, there is the feeling that the service is owned. It is essential to determine how to gain the customers trust and reliability, then to be able to develop the system to expand on the factors that contribute to gaining the trust of the customer.

Above, I have talked about the intangibility of service and how it differs from a product. Moreover, it is highly dependent on the individual. I hope that you consider TK's (*) image at a particular moment that may be the moment of truth when you take some action with regard to a customer. In this day and age in the manufacturing industry, a company does not make it to the top, let alone stay there, just by building the best mouse trap. Currently in our customer service meetings, we are addressing issues by bringing them to the forefront in customer surveys to clarify weak points, develop a countermeasure and improve service. I truly hope that everyone can understand and appreciate the importance of service by working to improve it.

*PRIMIX Corporation has been change name at November 21,2005, from Tokushu Kika Kogyo.

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