Remember, Customer Service is Your Lifeline to Customer Satisfaction
While these all may be elements of success, customer service sits at the top of the "must-have" list for companies. Research commissioned by Assurant revealed that 78 percent of those surveyed said they expect superior customer service--above all else--during the economic crisis and throughout economic recovery.
Who better to ask about customer service than a consumer electronics retailer? As the fastest-growing specialty retailer and e-tailer of consumer electronics, Best Buy had enjoyed retail success and prided itself on delivering the best possible service to its customers. But the question that remained on its leaders' minds was, "How do we provide unmatched customer service that extends beyond the walls of the store itself?" They wondered what happens when the customer leaves the store. Was there a way to ensure that customers would continue to have a great experience with their purchased products? Furthermore, what would motivate them to come back?
The answers came through a dialogue with Assurant Solutions, a leading provider of extended service contracts (ESC) for personal electronics, appliances and other consumer goods. Assurant Solutions tapped into their industry knowledge as well as their understanding of Best Buy Canada's priorities to develop a customized program that would maximize benefits for consumers while also helping to improve Best Buy Canada's bottom line.
GIVING CUSTOMERS PEACE OF MIND WITH THEIR PURCHASES
Although extended service contracts help provide consumers peace of mind, they don't always understand the value of the coverage or sometimes don't want to pay more on top of the product price. Many see service contracts as optional purchases and frequently choose to do without. Understanding this, Assurant Solutions partnered with Best Buy Canada to create a program that would not only offer reassurance but also timely and relevant value-added services.
"It's extremely important that our program appear seamless to our customers, so that they view us as an all-purpose service provider for their consumer electronic needs," explained Phil Arrata, vice president of service operations and financial services, Best Buy Canada. "With Assurant Solutions' help, we came up with a number of creative ways to provide a better customer service experience which have improved customer loyalty and retention."
One part of the customized program is the Product Exchange Program developed for cell phones. Consumers don't like to be without their cell phones for any amount of time. With this new program, should a consumer's cell phone break or have problems, it could be returned to a Best Buy Canada store and immediately replaced free of charge.
The real creativity of this initiative was the payment model created by Assurant Solutions. Instead of requiring an upfront lump-sum at time of purchase, the cost of the ESC is added to the customer's monthly cell phone bill.
"This was a ground-breaking departure from the normal way in which extended service contracts are billed," explained Arrata. "Assurant Solutions worked with us to provide an innovative and flexible solution that fulfilled a pressing need in the marketplace. Based on the early results and consumer and store feedback, we know this is an attractive solution for our customers."
Another part of the customized program is the Product Replacement Program, which allows customers to easily replace a failed product in exchange for a store gift card equal to the original price of the product. Due to the economic downturn, the disposable income for many households, and their ability to replace broken or damaged products, has dramatically declined. The creation of this program was a direct response to customers looking at lower priced products as disposable purchases. Since technology changes at such a rapid pace, the program gives customers the opportunity to replace or upgrade their broken products with the latest and greatest model.
WHAT ARE THEY SAYING?
Through programs such as this, and attention to detail, Assurant Solutions has remained dedicated to providing superior customer service to their clients. By serving as a "listening partner" they continue to identify new ways to gather insights on their clients' needs and priorities.
In fact, earlier this year, Assurant, Inc. commissioned the Partnership Expectations survey which solicited input from a targeted sample of insurance decision makers, agents and brokers. The survey revealed that 72 percent of respondents expect their partners to help them meet profitability goals as a measure of loyalty. Additionally, nearly 74 percent of respondents said that a reliance on partners to share industry knowledge to help them make smarter business decisions differentiates between a true partner and simply a vendor.
"The strength and longevity of our relationship with Best Buy Canada lies in the fact that we do more than simply offer administrative or financial services," said Lisa Thomas, executive client relationship manager at Assurant Solutions. "We provide valuable insights, analysis and expertise that can help identify trends, predict profit and loss, and move any client's business forward and into the future."
"Having this close understanding of a client's strategic goals is critical to counseling on successful business decisions," Thomas further explained. "The importance of this is only magnified during tougher economic times when growth opportunities can be even more challenging to find. Leaving our customers without the tools and access they need to do business is like taking a cell phone away from the average consumer. They can't live without it."
A WINNING RELATIONSHIP GROWS
Through its partnership with Assurant Solutions, the extended service contract program for Best Buy Canada has become an important driver of business success. Thomas emphasized that as the business has grown and the priorities have changed, the relationship between Best Buy Canada and Assurant Solutions continues to evolve.
In 2001, Assurant Solutions began its relationship with Best Buy Canada with sole responsibility for handling the administrative side of the service contract programs--e.g. supervising the call center, managing the network of service providers and paying the claims. By 2004, the relationship expanded and Assurant Solutions was awarded the underwriting responsibilities for the full program. In 2006, they were presented with the "Partner of the Year" award in recognition of their continued commitment to identifying and implementing solutions that helped Best Buy succeed.
As with many successful partnerships, new opportunities to collaborate continue to be identified. This year, Assurant Solutions cemented their long-term relationship with Best Buy Canada and won a renewal of the ESC contract in which they look forward to meeting new challenges in the years ahead.
"It started as a traditional business relationship, but as Assurant Solutions helped us to extend our customer experience outside the walls of our stores, we continued to broaden our relationship with them," said Arrata. "Because we both are focused on our customers' experience, everyone shares a common goal and achieves success together."
piece is part of our continuing Insights series designed to highlight key products
and services to our readers. This paid-for
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November 18, 2009
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