CSR / Environment

Quality / Customer Satisfaction

Ensuring Quality and Safety

Fiscal 2019 Objectives Fiscal 2019 Achievements Self-Evaluation
  • Step up efforts across the entire company in order to realize products with the quality and environmental consciousness worthy of the Sharp brand
  • Aligned internal rules and standards with international standards and worked to receive higher external evaluations based on them, resulting in benefits such as the establishment of risk assessment practices in compliance with international standards
★★
Priority Objectives for Fiscal 2020
  • Expand the scope of quality beyond long-term reliability (being less breakable) to include the ease of use, grade, and other needs of customers, and work toward developing products considering these features
  • Self-evaluation: ★★★ Achieved more than targeted / ★★ Achieved as targeted / ★ Achieved to some extent

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.

All Sharp sites in Japan and abroad and major production sites of consolidated subsidiaries (29 out of 30 sites) have obtained the international ISO 9001 certification of quality management.

Sharp has also established 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 way to advance quality and environmental technologies. With members representing all business units at Sharp, the committee is aimed at sharing updated information related to quality and environmental issues arising in new products, and leading company-wide research and improvement efforts among business groups in order to assure quality in new technology areas such as the 8K+5G ecosystem, AIoT*, and robotics, as well as in face mask production.

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.

  • AIoT is a word coined by Sharp, combining the words AI (artificial intelligence) and IoT (Internet of things).
    “AIoT” is registered trademark of Sharp Corporation.

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 2019, there were 34 courses in quality training, with a total of 12,197 participants.

Fiscal 2019 training courses and number of participants

Training form No. of courses No. of participants
E-learning 26 12,071
Group training 8 126
Total 34 12,197

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 safety standards that consider risk assessment to raise levels of safety. To ensure complete and high levels of safety even in cases where unforeseen defects arise, these in-house safety standards 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 divisions so that they are understood and followed thoroughly.

In fiscal 2020, Sharp is starting to use new e-learning material developed exclusively for the company to expand the scope of risk assessment related to product safety. Sharp will enhance its internal training with this material, hoping that it will help employees embrace the concept of risk assessment more deeply and motivate them to develop safer products.

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.

Sharp’s own newly developed e-learning material

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 15 such cases.*1

  • *1 Number in Fiscal 2019

Flow for dealing with product-related accidents

  • *2 BRM: business risk management

Product Security

Product Security Policy and Efforts

Products connected to networks are exposed to growing risks as information technology advances and the value of information they handle increases. They are at a risk of cyber-attack taking advantage of their vulnerabilities, which can result in information leakage or a hijacking of the device being hacked. Even security measures that have been considered adequate are becoming ineffective ever more quickly.

Such a situation has been prompting Sharp to act to ensure that customers can use its products without worries. We have established teams and reporting lines dedicated to enhancing product security, along with the rules to be followed at the stages of planning, developing, operating, and maintaining products. We also gather vulnerability information and share it internally, as well as train employees thoroughly, to ensure the quality of our product security continuously.

We are expecting a future in which standalone systems are interconnected with one another, perhaps creating added vulnerabilities. To prepare for such a future, we have adopted security by design, a concept that intends to build in security from early stages before design. This approach to product development is shared throughout the organization.

Making Easier-to-Use Products

Practicing User-Centered Design

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

UCD is a concept—as outlined in the international ISO 9241-210 standard—to provide 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 design.

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.

Prototype usability test for things like ease of maintenance

Usability test in a real-world environment

Voice

Comments from Participants in Usability Tests

  • I usually maintain appliances without much thinking. It was a meaningful experience to join the test because it gave me a chance to think from the user’s perspective. (Sharp staff member in his 50s)
  • In addition to having found some usability issues, I have realized that some users operate the product in ways I have never imagined. I’m sure that the outcomes of the test will lead us to better improvements. (Sharp product planning staff member)

Efforts in Universal Design

In line with the aforementioned UCD Basic Policy, Sharp also takes into consideration universal design (UD). Universal design is a philosophy for building products, information, and environments so that they can be used by many more customers—regardless of things like nationality, age, gender, or disability. Sharp strives to develop products and services that can be used comfortably by as many people as possible by conducting UD evaluations and surveys of mainly home appliances and digital multifunction printers (MFPs).

As of June 2020, 18 models of Sharp home appliance products support the UD considerations listed on the website of the Association for Electric Home Appliances in Japan.

Digital MFP usability test assuming a person in a wheelchair

To continue the aforementioned activities company-wide, Sharp works to foster human resources through training. Major education activities include introduction to universal design (e-learning) to impart the understanding and acquisition of basic universal design knowledge, universal design experience learning, in which employees see firsthand what it’s like to be physically disabled so that they can know how to make products more accessible, and a usability training system for specialized education.

Vision-impaired training (walking)

Vision-impaired training (using a product)

Elderly experience training

Efforts to Ensure Accessibility

Accessibility is the concept of making products and services so that they can easily be used by people who are in some way limited in their physical functions; for example, senior citizens and the physically disabled. Under U.S. federal law*1,federal agencies purchasing equipment and services are obligated to choose those that are accessible to everyone, including the physically disabled. For Sharp digital MFPs and other products, assessment results of accessibility standards stipulated by federal law are compiled on a product evaluation sheet (VPAT*2), which is disclosed on the website of Sharp Electronics Corporation (SEC), Sharp’s U.S. sales company.

  • *1 Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act
  • *2 VPAT: Voluntary Product Accessibility Template. A table containing information regarding how a particular product or service conforms with Section 508 of the U.S.Rehabilitation Act.

Example of VPAT for a digital MFP

Case Study

Sharp Corporation Wins Overall Customer Satisfaction Top Prize, 2020 IID Awards (Japan)

Sharp’s Brain Series electronic dictionary was given the Overall Customer Satisfaction Top Prize in the 2020 IID Awards*3in Japan. This was the ninth year in a row for Sharp to win this award. Sharp also won top prizes in all the evaluation categories: operability, search function, easy-to-view screen, readability, audio quality, portability, design, durability, and value for money.

Sharp has been repeating the cycle of obtaining feedback from users and retailers and improving the product’s usability. We will continue our product development and improvement efforts to satisfy an even broader user base.

IID Awards logo

IID Awards trophies received for nine consecutive years

Brain Series color electronic dictionary

  • *3 Resemom, an education information website run by IID, Inc., conducted on online survey of parents of junior and senior high school students who own an electronic dictionary.

Enhancing Customer Satisfaction

Fiscal 2019 Objectives Fiscal 2019 Achievements Self-Evaluation
  • Increase customer satisfaction by improving service quality
Improved service quality

By improving employees’ CS awareness and repair skills:

  • Customer satisfaction rate was 82.9%
  • Repairs were completed on the first visit 73.9% of the time
★★
Priority Objectives for Fiscal 2020
  • Increase customer satisfaction by improving service quality
  • Self-evaluation: ★★★ Achieved more than targeted / ★★ Achieved as targeted / ★ Achieved to some extent

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 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

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 with a user-oriented mindset to satisfy customers and realize its slogan: “Seeing customers smile makes us happy.” To this end, service engineers, who work out of 91 service bases*1 all over Japan and are familiar with local customers, provide repair 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, such as washing machines, refrigerators, and air conditioners.

  • *1 As of June 2020
  • *2 Business days vary from region to region

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, the questionnaire has been available on the Sharp website since fiscal 2017. We receive more than 150,000 customer opinions annually via postcards or the website.

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

Feedback on Our Anti-Covid-19 Measures from Japanese Customers:
Delivering Service While Easing Customers’ Concerns

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, Sharp is constantly striving to be customer-oriented in its response.

Now that smartphones are widely used, a growing number of customers visit and check our customer support website before making a phone call to inquire. We are enhancing the troubleshooting information available on the website to help customers solve their problems on their own any time they need to.

The customer support website offers, in addition to FAQ, information on separately sold options, instructional videos for users, failure diagnostic tools, and online service booking forms. A chatbot and the LINE communication app are also used to automatically provide answers to customer inquiries.

Sharp continues to pursue customer satisfaction by responding to diversifying customer needs and improving access to support services.

Number of Calls Received from Customers in Japan

Reliable Operation of Customer Support

Delivering customer support services with constant reliability is becoming increasingly challenging for unexpected factors such as more frequent natural disasters, typically torrential rains, and the current Covid-19 pandemic.

Our business continuity plan (BCP) ensures the continued operation of our customer support services even in emergency situations. Our support offices are distributed across multiple locations and are connected through a system that makes them ready to complement one another.

Increasing Service Capabilities (in Asia)

Case Study

Fewer Service Calls As a Result of Improved Maintenance Quality and Efficiency

Digital multifunction printers (MFPs) are a flagship product of Sharp’s Business Solutions Business Unit. These machines require periodic maintenance to retain image quality and performance. However, overdoing it will result in an increase in service costs and lower maintenance quality, for example, in the form of incomplete cleaning by overburdened service engineers. By contrast, insufficient maintenance service can lead to a decline in image quality and performance and consequently to more service calls and less satisfied customers. Balance is the key to successful maintenance.

In Asia, Sharp’s local service managers are responsible for reviewing service records to retrieve and analyze individual customers’ product usage and the frequency and purpose of service calls they made. The findings are used to optimize the maintenance schedule and reduce service calls.

These efforts have led to a successful improvement in the MCBF*, as shown in the graph to the right, as well as to enhanced customer satisfaction.

Sharp will aggressively increase its servicing skills and service management capabilities to better satisfy customers and expand MFP sales.

  • MCBF stands for Mean Cycles Between Failure, or Mean Copies Between Failure in the case of MFPs. It is calculated by dividing the total number of prints made by the number of service calls made. Providing better servicing or maintenance will reduce the number of service calls and increase the number of prints, which will then improve the MCBF and customer satisfaction.
Case Study

Service on the Go (Mobile Service) to Reach Isolated Islands of Indonesia

Indonesia consists of over 13,000 islands of various sizes. To reach the far corners of this large country, including isolated islands, Sharp has built a service network of more than 400 sites, which is the industry’s widest in Indonesia. In 2011 Sharp introduced a mobile service truck, dubbed SMSS (Sharp Mobile Service Station), to extend its reach even farther. The SMSS travels to areas distant from any of the Sharp service bases to offer repair services. In 2019 the SMSS responded to about 1,000 service requests. The truck also plays other varying roles, including displaying Sharp products at sales events and serving as the SMLS (Sharp Mobile Learning Station) for CSR activities. In the latter, the vehicle carries books to support local children’s learning.