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With after sales service, customer relationships do not end with the conclusion of a transaction, but are maintained for a product’s entire duration of use. Unfortunately, solar companies, especially in developing countries, grant after sales service much too little importance. This is fatal, as substantial deficits in after sales service are currently one of the reasons for solar products’ negative image among large portions of the population in rural regions. Poor after sales management is, notably, not compensated for by other positive factors, such as first-class quality. Service realized after sales is decisive in a product’s success or failure and in customer satisfaction.
Insufficient After Sales Service
Typical problems of an insufficient after sales service are:
- customers don't know whom to contact in case of technical problems
- if customers received contact data of technicians or the company, the data are often not updated.
- customers have insufficient information on prices of non-durable componente (bulb, battery)
- customers don't know anything about warranty and warranty periods for the product and components
- customers don't know what to do in case of a warranty claim
- customers don't know how to maintain adequately the system
- customers don't know what to do with old batteries
Components of a Good After Sales Service
After sales service does not focus solely on a product’s technical ability to function, but also on customer satisfaction. Many employees in solar businesses are primarily technicians who are capable of selling products and installing them. They speak, think, and argue in technical categories. Customer-oriented thinking is foreign to them. They can learn it, in the best cases, through further training. Along with giving them theoretical knowledge of after sales management, practical experience in everyday life provides the best opportunity to learn customer-oriented thinking.
Many people today have expectations of solar technology that are often not possible to fulfill: a simple solar lamp is meant to not only additionally charge a mobile phone, but also supply a radio or even better yet, a small television with power. And, if possible, do so twenty-four hours a day. No one would expect that of a mobile phone, but many technical laypeople expect solar technologies to be super products. Most products used in daily life require no special explanation: their benefits and disadvantages are obvious. With solar facilities, it is different: only very few people have been able to gather experience with this technology or have observed from others, how it works. They do not know what care the product demands or when it has reached its limits. Thus, in addition to instructions for how to correctly charge the battery, customer training must also include how to care for and deal with the product as a whole.
Maintenance and Repair Services
Quick and reliable repair of technical deficiencies is a mark of quality for every business. A requirement for this, however, is that the employees are in a position to offer such after sales service through the availability of replacement parts. Frustration is preprogrammed when replacement parts are available in the capital only, which means that weeks pass by until they reach the customer out in the countryside. Professional personnel must be stationed close to the customers and must have available an appropriately furnished repair workshop with replacement parts. Customers must, and want to see that they are not left alone with their technical problems.
Customer Loyalty as Goal
Only when solar technology fulfills customers’ expectations day in and day out, are they satisfied with their investment. And only then can an emotional bond to the supplier gradually develop. The customer bond then turns into customer loyalty. Solar organizations that place value in good after sales management experience this loyalty emphatically. Their customers try to maintain the relationship to them even when a different supplier makes a seemingly less expensive offer. They know that they have a reliable partner with their supplier, someone who is capable of carrying out repairs and providing replacement parts.