As a company which was established in 1963 and grew steadily to become the leading local supplier of document processing machines and related products, Ricoh Hong Kong Limited knows all about the importance of customer service and the benefits of planning for the long term.
At present, the company employs over 900 staff, including a large sales and service division and a 350-strong technical team made up of certified computer and network professionals. Between them, they provide a one-stop service which extends from pre-sales consultation to recommending solutions, implementation, network integration and after-sales support.
Samuel Ho, director of the sales and customer service division, is quick to explain that the corporate focus is on building long-term business relationships. "We place special emphasis on maintaining customers for life by making sure our staff offer them professional and personalised advice," he says. "For the same reason, we pay extra attention to post-sales follow-up and all the different aspects of customer service."
Having been in the office automation, imaging and document management business for 30 years, Mr Ho has witnessed many changes. He recalls, in particular, that sales used to be a matter of selling to end-users whatever products the company had in production and in stock. As competition intensified, it was necessary to maintain an edge by responding to new demand and providing better products. In recent years, though, things have changed once again.
"Nowadays, it's more a question of finding out first what the customers want and what will suit them best before we can do the next part of our jobs," Mr Ho says. "Good customer service plays a very important part in satisfying needs and enquiries. At times, we act more like a consultant."
In the area of corporate sales, it is common for each person to have a quota to meet. Members of Ricoh's sales team therefore have to hit monthly, quarterly and annual targets to ensure the overall business remains on course for steady growth. However, they are also given a number of strategic objectives, such as helping the team to build a broader customer base and finding ways to enhance various service features.
"We have set high standards for ourselves," Mr Ho says. "For instance, our staff are required to respond to customers within two hours and must remain in ongoing contact by making regular visits to check that the solutions we provided are up to expectations."
Any salesperson able to build a wide network of contacts definitely has an edge. An outgoing personality obviously helps, and so does having an open mind and a creative approach. These characteristics are especially useful when identifying customer requirements or dealing efficiently with any complaints that might arise.
Concerning recruitment, Mr Ho says that the company has different priorities at different times. Generally, it helps to have a strong academic background, and people with skills and experience in IT, networking and printing solutions are usually preferred. However, there are also openings for fresh graduates. They will have good career prospects, since market demand is growing and the trend of the last two years, which has seen more customers looking for colour print solutions, is likely to continue.
Mr Ho admits that it is a constant challenge having to hit sales quotas. He adds, though, that, while the company offers attractive commissions and incentives, gaining recognition from customers is the most rewarding part of the job.
- Share information in seminars and conferences about market trends, customer behaviour and new needs in order to improve products and services
- Introduce customers to a range of diverse products so as to increase business opportunities
- Regular customer visits to ascertain business needs and recommend upgraded document printing solutions
- See things from customers' point of view and think of costs and efficiency considerations when discussing options