Customer training is rapidly becoming a major after sales service when selling technical products in countries that demand the latest technology but do not always have trained personnel. China demands the most advanced technical equipment but frequently has untrained people responsible for products they do not understand. Heavy emphasis on training programs and self teaching materials to help overcome the common lack of skills to operate technical equipment is a necessary part of the after sales service package in much of the developing world. While perhaps McDonald’s Hamburger University is the most famous international customer training center industrial sellers may soon catch up. Cisco Systems collaborating with the government and a university in Singapore recently established the first Cisco Academy Training Center to serve that region of the world, and Intel established e-Business solutions centers in five European countries.
A recent study of international users of heavy construction equipment revealed that, next to the manufacturer’s reputation quick delivery of replacement parts was of major importance in purchasing construction equipment. Furthermore, 70 percent of those questioned indicated they bought parts not made by the original manufacturer of the equipment because of the difficulty of getting original parts. Smaller importers complain of US exporting firms not responding to orders or responding only after extensive delay. It appears that the importance of timely availability of spare parts to sustain a market is forgotten by some American exporters. When companies are responsive the rewards are significant US chemical production equipment manufacturers dominate sales in Mexico become, according to the International Trade Administration they deliver quickly. The ready availability of parts an services provided by US marketers can give them a competitive edge.
Some international marketers also may be forgoing the opportunity of participating in a lucrative aftermarket. Certain kinds of machine tools use up to five times their original value in replacement parts during an average life span and thus represent an even greater market. One international machine tool company has capitalized on the need for direct service and available parts by changing its distribution system from normal to one of stressing rapid service and readily available parts. Instead of selling through independent distributors, as do most machine tool manufacturers in foreign markets, this company established a series of company stores and service centers similar to those found in the US. The company can render service through its system of local stores, whereas most competitors must dispatch service people from their home based factories. The service people are kept on tap for rapid service calls in each of its network of local stores, and each store keeps a large stock of standard parts available for immediate delivery. The net result of meeting industrial needs quickly is keeping the company among the top suppliers in foreign sales of machine tools.
International small package door to door express air services and international toll free telephone service have helped sped up the delivery of parts and have made after sales technical service almost instantly available. Amdahl, the giant mainframe computer maker, uses air shipments almost exclusively for cutting inventory costs and ensuring premium customer service, which is competing against larger rivals. With increasing frequency, electronics auto parts and machine parts sent by air have become a formidable weapon in cutting costs and boosting competitiveness. Technical advice is only a toll free call away, and parts are air expressed immediately to the customer. Not only does this approach improve service standards, but it also is often more cost effective than maintaining an office in a country even though foreign language speakers must be hired to answers calls.
After sale services are not only crucial in building strong customer loyalty and all important reputation that leads to sales at other companies, but they are also almost always more profitable than the actual sale of the machinery or product.