• CSR / Environment

    Quality / Customer Satisfaction

    Ensuring Quality and Safety

    • Self-evaluation: ★★★ Achieved more than targeted / ★★ Achieved as targeted / ★ Achieved to some extent
    Fiscal 2017 Objectives Fiscal 2017 Achievements Self-Evaluation*
    Expand basic training on quality and strengthen efforts to improve product usability
    • Carried out systematic basic training on quality on a regular basis (39 courses, approx. 6,900 participants), fostered quality thinking, and boosted quality-related techniques
    • Improved thoroughness of usability testing, and teamed up with public institutions on joint research that quantitatively tests ease of use, thus contributing to improved products
    ★★
    Priority Objectives for Fiscal 2018
    • To achieve quality that meets our customers’ needs, Sharp will tackle issues across the entire company and improve our quality-related technical capabilities.

    Basic Stance and Vision on Quality

    To gain customer trust and improve customer satisfaction, the Sharp Group meets customer needs and demands and offers high-quality products and services that are safe, reliable, and environmentally friendly.

    Quality Assurance System

    Sharp specifies the quality levels it provides to customers, thus ensuring that all employees in product planning, design, production, sales, and after-sales service aim for the same targets in their ongoing pursuit of quality improvement.

    In addition to all Sharp plants in Japan, all production sites of consolidated subsidiaries in Japan and abroad have obtained the international ISO 9001 certification of quality management.

    They have also adopted the SHARP Corporation Standards—the Sharp Group’s proprietary quality assurance standards. And they conduct various quality assurance activities at each stage of the product-making process, from planning, design, and manufacture to testing/evaluation and marketing.

    Quality Policy

    In line with the Quality Policy stipulated in Sharp Corporation’s company rules (Quality Assurance Basic Rules), the Sharp Group makes and implements quality plans aimed at achieving the quality targets it has set.

    Quality Policy

    Provide high quality and attractive products that customers can continuously use them with safety and satisfactory.

    1. Observe laws and regulations and place top priority on safety and reliability.
    2. Pursue convenience and comfort from ease of use.
    3. Squarely face with voice of the customer and reflect it in products

    Efforts to Improve Quality

    The Sharp Group has established the Quality and Environmental Engineering Committee as a new way to advance quality and environmental technologies. The committee’s aim is to share information related to quality and environmental issues arising in new products, and lead company-wide research and improvement efforts among business groups in order to assure quality in new technology areas such as the 8K ecosystem, AIoT, and robotics.

    Within the Quality and Environmental Engineering Committee are Expert Subcommittees made up of experts from the various business units. These Expert Subcommittees work towards prompt solutions to issues that concern multiple business units or the entire company.

    Fostering Quality Experts

    Based on its Quality Philosophy, Sharp works to foster quality thinking and boost quality-related techniques by carrying out systematic quality-related education with the aim of making products that customers can use with safety and peace of mind.

    In particular, the company is stepping up basic training through programs that allow young employees (in their first four years with the company) to gradually acquire quality-related techniques.

    Training takes a number of forms depending on the goals of participants. Besides an e-learning program and videoconference classes that help maximize learning efficiency, there are group training courses to improve practical skills, which are carried out at various company factories.

    In fiscal 2017, there were 39 courses in quality training, with a total of approximately 6,900 participants.

    Group exercise

    Fiscal 2017 training courses and number of participants

    Training form No. of courses No. of participants
    E-learning 20 5,886
    Group training 19 1,021
    Total 39 6,907

    Ensuring Product Safety

    Sharp Voluntary Product Safety Action Policy

    Keenly aware that product safety assurance is the most important aspect of a company’s business and one of its social responsibilities, Sharp strives to provide customers with safety and peace of mind. It does this by prioritizing the safety of the products it manufactures and sells and by making safety-related information public. To this end, the company has formulated voluntary action guidelines on product safety in efforts to earn an even higher level of trust from society.

    Efforts to Ensure Product Safety

    Sharp strives to ensure its products are safe, abiding not just by laws, regulations, and official standards of countries around the world, but also by its own in-house safety standards that it has set for all its products. To ensure complete and high levels of safety even in cases where unforeseen defects arise, the company has in-house standards that stipulate items like fireproof construction and testing for abnormal movement. These standards are revised as needed and are taught to all relevant employees in design, quality, and other departments so that they are understood and followed thoroughly.

    Sharp also has a safety assurance promotion system through which it implements prompt and appropriate emergency responses in the case of product defects.

    Sharp will continue to step up efforts to promptly respond to social changes and legal revisions regarding product safety so that customers can use Sharp products with peace of mind.

    An in-house training session

    Information Disclosure and Response When Problems Occur

    If an accident caused by a Sharp product occurs on the market, the company immediately gathers information on the accident and analyzes it to determine the cause. If it is determined that there is a risk of harm or damage to the customer, information is promptly disclosed via media such as newspapers and the Sharp website, and all appropriate measures are taken to ensure the safety of customers.

    For major product-related accidents stipulated in the Consumer Product Safety Act, the Sharp website has a list of information on major product-related accidents for which the cause is thought to be the product itself. There are 21 such cases.*1

    • *1 Number in fiscal 2017

    Flow for dealing with product-related accidents

    • *2 BRM: business risk management

    Making Easier-to-Use Products

    Practicing User-Centered Design

    Sharp practices user-centered design (UCD) in order to deliver products that customers find easier to use.

    UCD is a concept—as outlined in the international ISO 9241-210 standard—to deliver products and services that satisfy customers by seeing things from their perspective, understanding their needs, and reflecting them in product design. Sharp has its own UCD Basic Policy and the Eight Principles of UCD based on this concept and shares them across the all Sharp Group. Sharp investigates customers’ latent dissatisfaction and needs as part of its product development process and reflects those findings in the specifications and design of its products. By repeatedly going through evaluations and improvements, Sharp is bringing forth products and services that customers find easy to use and attractive.

    Investigating Customers’ Dissatisfaction and Needs and Reflecting Them in Product Design

    In user-centered design (UCD), Sharp collects customer feedback on ease of use through various methods and applies it to product manufacturing. Sharp collects information on how customers interact with products via telephone inquiries to the Customer Assistance Center, repair visits, questionnaires, interviews, and usability tests (observing how customers actually use Sharp products).

    This information is shared among the relevant departments, while protecting the anonymity of the customer. The feedback is used to understand, from a user’s point of view, challenges related to planning, design, development, quality, sales, service, and other areas.

    Conducting a usability test on a washing machine

    Analyzing the movements involved in using a vacuum cleaner

    Voice

    Comments from Participants in Usability Tests

    • I'm pleased for this opportunity for consumers like us to express our opinions and requests. It was a meaningful day. (Customer, woman in her 50s)
    • It's great that we were able to quickly confirm, via a usability test, the effectiveness of improvements we made to an existing model. I now know that we must continue to conduct such tests. (Sharp product planning staff member)

    Efforts in Universal Design

    In line with the aforementioned UCD Basic Policy, Sharp also takes into consideration universal design, so many more customers—regardless of nationality, age, gender, or disability—can comfortably use its products and services. As of June 2018, 159 models of 14 Sharp products had been recognized as universal design home appliances by the Association for Electric Home Appliances in Japan.

    To continue the aforementioned activities company-wide, Sharp works extensively to foster human resources through training. The company is striving to raise awareness of universal design among employees by having them take part in activities in which able-bodied people experience what it is like to live like a physically disabled person.

    Experiencing what it feels like to be physically disabled, with the cooperation of volunteers from Sakai Municipal Social Welfare Council

    Participants discuss how to make a Sharp product easier to use while one person wears an eye mask to simulate vision impairment

    Case Study

    Sharp Corporation Receives Grand Prize in Good Practice Awards from Japan Ergonomics Society

    The Sharp cordless canister vacuum cleaner won the Grand Prize in the Good Practice Awards from the Japan Ergonomics Society. The previous model of the vacuum cleaner, which plugged into a socket, had user issues that were solved through questionnaires and usability tests. The result was the new cordless model, which is also the world’s lightest*. The judging panel lauded Sharp for using ergonomics to develop a vacuum cleaner that reduces the burden on users.

    Sharp will continue to create products boasting greater ease of use.

    The Good Practice Awards logo

    Prize certificate

    Commemorative plaque

    The award-winning cordless canister vacuum cleaners
    (EC-AS Series, EC-AP Series)

    • For power-brush-type, canister vacuum cleaners. Standard weight (total of main unit, battery, hose, pipe, and suction part): 2.9 kg. According to Sharp. As of February 5, 2018.

    Enhancing Customer Satisfaction

    • Self-evaluation: ★★★ Achieved more than targeted / ★★ Achieved as targeted / ★ Achieved to some extent
    Fiscal 2017 Objectives Fiscal 2017 Achievements Self-Evaluation*
    Increase customer satisfaction by enhancing service technical skills and customer response skills Enhanced service technical skills and communication skills
    Japan
    • Held training based on actual customer response cases at service bases nationwide
    • Held 3rd Service Technical Skills Contest
    Overseas
    • Held air conditioner service training in Egypt
    • Developed smartphone service apps and promoted them in ASEAN
    ★★
    Priority Objectives for Fiscal 2018
    • Increase customer satisfaction by improving service quality

    Basic Stance on Customer Satisfaction

    Providing Products and Services That Offer Peace of Mind and Satisfaction

    Sharp always thinks from the customer’s point of view and, as a rule, develops and provides products and services with the customer in mind. To ensure that customers can continue to use Sharp products for many years with peace of mind, Sharp strives to improve its products and its sales and after-sales services by reflecting the opinions of customers.

    Sharp will continue to pursue customer satisfaction (CS) so that customers choose Sharp now, next time, and every time.

    After-Sales Service Promotion System

    Sharp has an after-sales service system that can handle all kinds of customer inquiries, whether it’s instructing them how to use products or repairing products that are not working properly.

    Centered on Sharp Corporation’s Customer Assistance Center and after-sales service departments at Sharp sales companies, the entire Sharp Group worldwide collaborates to provide high-quality, fast, accurate and friendly service that truly satisfies customers.

    Flowchart

    Aiming for Customer-Oriented Services

    Customer Assistance Center

    At the Customer Assistance Center, which responds to a wide range of customer inquiries concerning Sharp products from even before purchase, Sharp is constantly striving to be customer-oriented in its response.

    To ensure that Sharp is able to understand the customers’ situation and their problems with the product or service, and is able to respond promptly and accurately to customer inquiries, staff at the Customer Assistance Center undergo training that involves using the actual products. Staff are also trained to speak to customers in an easy-to-understand manner.

    Subjects that are difficult to convey by telephone (such as air conditioner filter maintenance) can be referenced on the Sharp website, where instructional videos are available. These and other ongoing efforts to improve access to service assistance ensure that customers have a wealth of information and help regarding after-sales service.

    Number of Calls Received at the Customer Assistance Center (Japan)

    Repair and Servicing System (in Japan)

    Repair of Sharp products in Japan is carried out by Sharp Marketing Japan Corporation, Customer Service Company. The entire company works together to satisfy customers and realize its slogan: “Seeing customers smile makes us happy.” To this end, service engineers, who work out of 93 service bases*1 all over Japan and are familiar with local customers, provide after-sales service that truly satisfies customers.

    Service inquiries are accepted every day of the year*2. The company puts special effort into prompt response to problems with home appliances that are indispensable to daily life.

    • *1 As of June 2018
    • *2 Business days vary from region to region

    Enhancing Service Technical Skills (in Japan)

    Case Study

    Service Technical Skills Contest

    Sharp Marketing Japan Corporation, Customer Service Company works constantly to enhance its service technical skills so that it can respond to problems with customers’ products as quickly as possible.

    In fiscal 2017, the company held the 3rd Technical Skills Contest, where 14 participants who had qualified through regional contests pitted their service technical skills against one another. There were two events testing abilities starting with basic repair skills: participants repaired Healsio ovens individually and drum-type washer/dryers in pairs. They were given an overall score that took into account the accuracy and safety of their work, the time it took, and their knowledge of home appliances.

    The relationship with customers does not end once they buy a product and take it home; it goes on for as long as they use the product. Sharp must endear itself to customers so that they use products for a long time and want to purchase Sharp again. This spirit is always front and center in the minds of service engineers—the front line of Sharp’s relationship with customers.

    Service technical skills contest

    Enhancing Service Technical Skills (Overseas)

    Case Study

    Air Conditioner Service Training for Dealers in Egypt

    For five days from October 29 to November 2, 2017, Sharp Marketing Japan Corporation, Customer Service Company held air conditioner installation and service training for 12 service personnel from Sharp dealers in Egypt. To expand air conditioner sales will require training service engineers to acquire outstanding installation-related skills. The training in Egypt included lectures on the meticulous service techniques practiced in Japan, and classes on a wide range of other topics, including new product information, the proper use of service tools, and ensuring the safety of service engineers.

    The 12 service engineers who underwent Sharp training then went on to become instructors in training for approximately 750 employees of dealers and service subcontractors.

    Sharp will continue to boost the quality of after-sales service by holding service training at overseas bases whenever possible.

    Service engineers training session

    Case Study

    Service App for Air Conditioner Repairs

    Sharp developed a smartphone app for assisting with fast and accurate repair of inverter air conditioners in ASEAN countries. The app has a diagnostic function that recognizes product error codes.

    The app also has a function that helps service engineers and installation staff give simple explanations to customers on Plasmacluster ion technology and “7 Shields,” a designation for products that have passed seven reliability tests ensuring high quality. The app works in four languages: English, Indonesian, Vietnamese, and Thai.

    Applying Customer Feedback to the Making of Products

    Sharp strives to provide customers with truly satisfying experiences by manufacturing products that reflect their opinions.

    The company does this by analyzing the many inquiries and opinions the Customer Assistance Center receives to find out exactly what customers are unsatisfied with. This information is then shared with the product development departments. In addition, members of the Customer Assistance Center join in the product development process to ensure customer opinions are reflected in products.

    As one example of how a product was improved, customers using a large Sharp refrigerator said it was difficult to put in and take out items from the door shelves. In response, the door shelves, previously vertically straight up, were made at a slant so that items leaned outwards. This made the refrigerator more convenient for users.

    Sharp will continue to have the Customer Assistance Center, the gateway to customer opinions, work closely with product development departments in order to provide the market with products that bring increasingly greater satisfaction.

    Refrigerator improved by reflecting customer opinions

    The door shelves were made at a slant so that items leaned outwards

    Customer Questionnaire (in Japan)

    In Japan, all customers who are visited by service engineers are given a postcard questionnaire on which they can write their opinions on the entire service process, from initial inquiry and appointment to product repair. To make it easier for customers to respond to surveys, in fiscal 2017 the questionnaire was made available on the Sharp website. More than 300,000 customer opinions and inquiries are received every year.

    Sharp will continue to pass on customers’ valuable opinions to relevant company departments, closely analyze problems, and use the information gathered to improve service mechanisms and manufacturing.

    Percentage of customers giving high marks to service personnel

    Voice

    After-Sales Service Puts a Smile on Customers’ Faces (in Japan)
    -Passing Down Skills from One Sharp Generation to the Next

    The backbone of Sharp’s after-sales service is made up of the service engineers of Sharp Marketing Japan Corporation, Customer Service Company. These engineers didn’t acquire their skills overnight—their transformation into first-rate service engineers that customers rely on was a long process that involved gradually building up experience.

    When service engineers show up at a customer’s home, they are rarely greeted by smiles. Many customers are dissatisfied and complain, and they ask why the product broke down. Some of them even speak angrily and scold the service engineers, both on the phone and at their homes. In response, service engineers must listen sincerely to customers. If the customer requests repair, it is important to fix the problem the same day. During and after repair, the service engineer converses with the customer and puts them at ease.

    I would like to pass down this sort of attitude and other things I have learned from my predecessors to younger staff so that each successive generation of service engineers offers progressively high levels of service.

    Service engineers who learn from their more experienced colleagues in turn pass on their knowledge to new service engineers. I believe this results in progressively higher ratings of Sharp service from customers, and subsequently more and more people who want to buy Sharp products.

    I hope that service engineers will polish their skills and tackle their work with more confidence in order to provide customers with even greater satisfaction. This is the most important thing they can do.

    Tatsuya Hayakawa
    Section Chief, Kyoto Service Center,
    Sharp Marketing Japan Corporation, Customer Service Company

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