A Truly Customer-Oriented Approach

My annual slogans for the year 2012 are “everything starts from here” and “always beside the customer.” They signify that our industry is standing at a major turning point and moving on toward the next stage.

The Consumer Electronics Show was a very topical and lively event. From our website, Phile-web, we dispatched three staff members and three critics to the show, and every day they sent back illuminating reports that attracted a growing online readership. Most of all, interest focused on smart televisions and other next-generation “smart” products.

Smart TVs were especially topical, and leading companies placed the spotlight mainly on them in their displays. After the CES, smart TVs became a focus of interest in Japan as well, and they are becoming a kind of savior for the industry. At the same time, smart goods, beginning with smart phones and now including smart houses, smart cities, and smart grids, are going to lead their industries from now on. As I said, everything really does start from here.

As for “always beside the customer,” I began to use this expression when the worldwide recession occurred as a result of the Lehman shock. What was likely going to happen from then on was that customers would look more carefully before buying. They would be looking more closely at both makers and retail stores.

Since then, buoyed by a windfall from the switchover to terrestrial digital broadcasting and the introduction of the eco-point system, the industry has enjoyed an unprecedented television set boom and registered phenomenal sales. Even amid this hurry-scurry, however, the customers’ stance of “looking closely before buying” remains unchanged and still continues to flow, like underground water. What is required this year, therefore, is a truly customer-oriented approach.

Suddenly, I found myself wondering how these customers are seeing smart TVs. With their new super-high resolution and network compatibility, they certainly are revolutionary products, but how do customers react when they see them? Needless to say, people who are keen on innovations adhere to them lock, stock, and barrel. But the key question is, how do ordinary folk respond? The 4K resolution might be wonderful, but spec appeals alone are not going to lead to a surging boom.

Then it occurred to me that what the customer is searching for is the resulting satisfaction. If only the special features are shown, such as the super-high resolution and networking, the ordinary customer is just going to window-shop without spending any money. That is to say, there is a gap between the ordinary customer and the numbers flaunted by the industry.

The “everything starts from here” stance is a beacon shining not on product specifications but, more specifically, on new lifestyles that can be created as a result. For example, photographs taken by digital cameras, a 10 million unit market, are stored in cameras, including cell phones, in the home. When displayed on a 4K television set, these photographs spring to life.

In other words, the attractions of smart TVs should be strongly promoted not through terminology that easily becomes abstract but through examples of the satisfaction to be gained from their use. It is this bottom-up approach, starting with the feelings of customers, that will lead to booming sales.

Rather than an up-down stance, this bottom-up approach by the industry as a whole represents the ultimate in user orientation. In 2012, it is necessary for us to be really and truly “always beside the customer.”