The digitalization and networking of products now enables us to experience a new kind of enjoyment by linking devices together for even better convenience.
While some consumers are proficient at making full use of products and services in this manner, many others feel hesitant from the very first step when prompted to make a connection or configure settings.
We created the “Maru Maru Assist” home network assistance plan to help these customers with their concerns, for example, when configuring their network to connect home AV and IT devices. This support plan offers assistance for various requests and is not limited to Sony products - help is also offered for devices manufactured by other companies.
Sony has always offered a support service for its VAIO personal computers, where a technician would visit a customer’s home to help with installation and configuring of the initial settings. However, our support personnel had previously been comprised of approximately 90% male staff. This prompted one of the female employees in our Division to remark that “Female customers feel more at ease when visited by a female technician.” We then began a home visit support service known as “Your choice” VAIO configuration package for women” staffed exclusively by women. This service was extremely well received by customers, in particular by elderly women, because they felt they could “converse comfortably with the female staff.” There were also many female university students who made use of this support service, and overall, this program was popular across a broad female demographic.
In addition to the user benefits of customers being able to receive in-home support with confidence, Sony benefited from being able to gradually understand the product-related needs of its female customers with better clarity. Many customers reported that they felt more comfortable with the female support staff than with in-store sales staff, and this allowed them the freedom to ask more questions about products, and to find out how to get the most out of these devices. The requests were many and varied. For example, a customer might ask for help downloading photos from her camera to the computer for viewing, or how to get the most out of her network. Often, the consultations involved products made by other manufacturers.
Rather than concentrate solely on support for individual products, we then realized that, in this era of network-linked products, customers were demanding a more comprehensive service to deal with concerns about all network-based consumer electronic devices. This resulted in the creation of our new service, “Maru Maru Assist.”
We believe that there will be an increasing need for ongoing after-sales support as products gain more advanced networking and multifunctional capabilities. Our talented female employees provide us with fresh perspective and new ideas, and are able to subtly grasp the potential needs of our customers. Indeed, their careful observations and attention to detail were the catalyst for this new “Maru Maru Assist” service. By leveraging their skills and capabilities, Sony will offer a comprehensive service to meet an even wider range of customer requests, whether from beginners or from seasoned users.
In addition to providing customer support, we will feed back valuable insight and information gained from our customers to our product planners, so as to contribute to the further improvement of Sony’s products and services.