Morizono used to always say, "Go where the customers are." But there were times when the customers came to Sony. On one such occasion; a second line of BV series (U-matic) equipment was under development. Takano and a few other engineers went to the NAB (National Association of Broadcasters) Show in Las Vegas. During the show, an engineer from NBC (National Broadcasting Company, Inc.) came to Sony's booth and invited Takano back to his hotel suite. One room of the suite was full of heavy equipment, which was set up as an editing room for the benefit of the Sony people. He said, "I want you to see what we're going through when we produce on-site reports. We want you to develop something that will solve the problems we currently have." Then, he did a demonstration of the editing process using the machines he had placed on the bed. For a broadcast station, the equipment used is of vital importance for its day to day operations, explaining why broadcasters are eager to provide feedback to manufacturers when they need improvements made. Immediately upon returning to Japan, Takano incorporated the information he received from the NBC engineers into the products already under development.
Sony's engineers were constantly learning then. The information acquired through communication with customers became an important part of Sony's broadcast equipment business. The first lesson Morizono and his team learned was that broadcast stations never stop working. If a defective tape or any other cause hinders the beginning of a broadcast even for a few seconds, the station loses money. Morizono and his team were pressed to raise the reliability of their products to near perfection.
Morizono also established bases for Sony's broadcast equipment business in Europe, the United States as well as Japan. As broadcasting standards differed in each region, sales and technical support had to be customized.
When the European base was being planned, Morizono decided that he wanted to have someone well acquainted with local broadcast stations, knowledgeable of the relevant technology and possessing business acumen to spearhead the business. Therefore, when Morizono met Howard Steele, former technology chief of the U.K.-based IBA (Independent Broadcasting Authority) and ex-chief of the EBU (European Broadcasting Union), Morizono asked Steele if he could recommend someone. Steele took a moment to think and said, " Okay, I think I know someone. He'll probably be at the broadcast equipment show in Montreux, Switzerland, so I'll introduce him to you then." Steele was an outgoing man with a good reputation, so Morizono thought that anyone Steele recommended must be good. He was looking forward to meeting the candidate.
During the Montreux Show, Morizono received a phone call at his hotel from Steele. He was ready to introduce the candidate to Morizono. When Morizono went to the restaurant where they were supposed to meet, Steele was sitting alone, already quite inebriated. Morizono had a reputation for being a heavy drinker, but he was no match for Steele. When Morizono asked where the candidate was, Steele smiled broadly and replied, "I'm right here." Steele was famous for his sense of humor, but this truly surprised Morizono. In 1978, Steele joined Sony and Sony Broadcast Ltd. (SBC) was established. Thanks to Steele's leadership and the hard work of his team, Sony's European broadcast business expanded rapidly.
In the United States, Tsunoda was told by Morizono that Sony must fulfill a key requirement of manufacturers selling to broadcast stations--establishing a 24-hour service system. In response, all of Sony's service engineers were given pagers and their cars were equipped with tools. If there was a machine in need of repair, Sony made it a rule that the problem would be fixed by morning, even if it required working all night. When the service teams first visited customers and introduced themselves, the broadcast stations did not take them seriously saying, "We are professionals. We cannot entrust our operations to a consumer products manufacturer." However, after about six months, Sony began building a solid reputation among the broadcasting community for the quality of its service. "If you call Sony, they'll fix anything in half a day or one day at the most. No company has ever done this before. Sony really cares about their customers," was the reaction in the broadcast community. Sony took note of this success and introduced a 24-hour service system in Europe right from the start.
Morizono strictly forbade his salesmen to sell in areas where service was not available. Salespeople generally do what they can to get a customer to make a purchase, but Morizono stood by his strong belief that selling is not everything. "If a customer buys our product and it breaks, service has to be provided. If we can't provide adequate service, the customer will never buy Sony products again. We'll lose their trust," said Morizono.
Sony's broadcast business remains successful thanks to the establishment of business operations in Europe, the United States and Japan that meet the customer's every need--an approach that has enabled the development of a sound relationship based on mutual trust. The local business bases eventually expanded from sales and service functions to include design and development of equipment customized to the needs of customers.