While a case can be made for buying a notebook based on the cheapest price, there is a lot to be said for providing a better customer experience- through innovation, superior customer service and protecting the environment.
The Canadian notebook market is booming. According to Evans Research Corp., the notebook market accounted for 28 per cent of PC sales in the second quarter of 2005, up 5 per cent in the last 12 months, highlighted in part by Toshiba's industry-leading growth of 24 per cent during the same period. With the market growing and becoming more competitive, enhancing customer satisfaction will be critical to maintaining a competitive edge in the marketplace.
Toshiba notebook customers enjoy the feeling of security that comes from owning a notebook made and supported by a major vendor. The Toshiba Corporation has been around for 130 years, and still pushes the edge on products and chips.
"We have a commitment, not only from products we manufacture, but also the component side," said Gary Frederick, Director, Service, Delivery, and Support, Toshiba of Canada Limited. "We still manufacture some of our major components, like LCDs, hard drives, and DVD-ROMs." Its reputation for producing exceptional quality in notebook components is why some refer to Toshiba as "the Lexus of notebook computing". According to the latest notebook customer satisfaction study by Technology Business Research, Toshiba scored well in the perception of value.
The company's value proposition is based on innovation and ownership of that innovation. Toshiba's parent company is attempting to make sure Toshiba notebooks are first in line to receive the latest components from Japan.
There are many recent examples of Toshiba's push to differentiate itself in the marketplace based on design innovation. Among these are integrated TPM (Trusted Platform Module) chips for data encryption, spill-resistant keyboards, shock-absorbent casing, Select Bay for simplified expansion of notebook components with a cartridge-like system, systems with 'Protected Mode' for locking hard drives in place and an accelerometer for detecting sudden movement caused by dropping. Technology and innovation are two ways that Toshiba distinguishes itself in a highly competitive industry. Toshiba has also emerged as a leader in protecting the environment by championing a number of initiatives that clearly set it apart from competitors.
In September, the company launched the first PC in the world to be fully compliant with the new environmental RoHS* regulations set forth by the European Parliament, an achievement that comes well in advance of the July 1, 2006 compliance deadline.
The introduction of the Tecra S3 is the latest in a long line of initiatives that speak to Toshiba's role as an industry leader in environmental awareness and protection. In 1998, Toshiba launched the first halogen-antimony free PCB notebook PC. It was also one of the first to do away with the use of lead-based solder and is now the first to fully comply with the new, stringent RoHS Regulations. Beginning with the Tecra S3, all newly developed notebook computers from Toshiba will comply with these environmental directives.
"Toshiba's implementation of the new RoHS regulations well ahead of the compliance deadline speaks to our product design leadership and our ongoing commitment to the environment," said Todd Smith, Director, Product Marketing, Toshiba ISG. "Toshiba Corporation is extremely proud of the many R&D initiatives that we undertake in order to bring leading edge and environmentally friendly notebook computers to our customers."
The environment is not a marketing ploy from Toshiba Group which wishes to contribute proactively to build a sustainable society. Accordingly, it is promoting environmental management with the aim of attaining the target of the Environmental Vision 2010; the doubling of Toshiba Group's overall eco-efficiency by fiscal 2010 compared with fiscal 2000.
Other details on Toshiba's environmental initiatives can be found at: http://www.toshiba.co.jp/env/en/index.htm
If technical and environmental leadership are two of the pillars Toshiba builds on, the third is customer satisfaction. Part of its strong commitment to customer satisfaction is the TGSC (Toshiba Global Support Center), a global call centre.
"It doesn't matter what part of the globe the customer is in; they can call and the primary script is visible to each customer representative," said Frederick. For example, suppose a Canadian customer purchases an additional two-year warranty and then travels to Singapore.
While there the customer calls the local call centre. The representative can see that the customer has an extended warranty and can facilitate requests; the customer doesn't have to travel with proof of purchase or documentation. With numerous International Service Depots, customers with international warranties can call the TGSC to locate a nearby service depot almost anywhere. Customer service is merely one aspect. Customer satisfaction surveys are performed on all of the calls that go into TGSC.
"We take pride in listening, to improve our service strategy to meet the needs of today's customers," said Frederick. "All of these things, especially Easyguard, are a result of listening to the voice of our customers."
Easyguard design improvements add to customer satisfaction. Keyboard anti-spillage design protects internal parts from liquid spilling onto the keyboard. When shock or vibration is detected, the hard drive is parked. Crash bumpers on the corners absorb shock. Other notebook manufacturers attach LCDs to the bezel, but Toshiba floating LCDs can move, so as not to absorb all of a shock.
"Many of our notebooks are in school or retail," said Frederick. "They get moved around constantly, and there is a lot of potential for shock, bumps and bruises in day-to-day use." While customer input is most important, Toshiba also compiles and analyzes global statistics. For example, on a monthly basis, global statistics are delivered to the R&D group to enhance functionality and reliability.
"In addition to global support, customers can feel more secure knowing they are backed by both R&D and manufacturing," said Frederick.
*About RoHS RoHS is an environmental regulation set forth by the European Parliament with the expectation to drive a worldwide movement. This regulation goes into effect on July 1, 2006. Its goal is to dramatically reduce the use of lead, cadmium, mercury, hexavalent chromium and both polybrominated biphenyl (PBB) and polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) flame retardants in the production of new electrical and electronic equipment. Manufacturers will need to ensure that their products and components comply with the requirements of the RoHS regulations in order to be allowed on the market.