CSR / Environment

Quality / Customer Satisfaction

Ensuring Quality and Safety

Fiscal 2018 Objectives Fiscal 2018 Achievements Self-Evaluation
  • To achieve quality that meets our customers’ needs, Sharp will tackle issues across the entire company and improve our quality-related technical capabilities.
  • We established Expert Subcommittees made up of experts from all over Sharp in order to solve company-wide quality issues. These Expert Subcommittees worked across the entire company to solve issues and successfully raise the level of quality-related technologies.
★★
Priority Objectives for Fiscal 2019
  • Step up efforts across the entire company in order to realize products with the quality and environmental consciousness worthy of the Sharp brand.
  • 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.

In addition to all Sharp plants in Japan, major production sites of consolidated subsidiaries in Japan and abroad 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’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+5G 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.

  • 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 2018, there were 43 courses in quality training, with a total of approximately 18,781 participants.

Fiscal 2018 training courses and number of participants

Training form No. of courses No. of participants
E-learning 25 18,080
Group training 18 701
Total 43 18,781

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 14 such cases.*

  • Number in Fiscal 2018

Flow for dealing with product-related accidents

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.

Washing machine (prototype) usability test

Ergonomics evaluation of an ultrasonic washer

Voice

Comments from Participants in Usability Tests

  • We tried using a variety of appliances in the survey, and I was surprised how enlightening it was. On the survey day, I gave my opinion as a consumer, and I’m delighted that Sharp will reflect our opinions in developing future products. (Customer; woman in her 40s)
  • During the survey, the tester was tripped up by a number of things that we hadn’t thought of beforehand. This made us realize how important it is to conduct testing during the prototype stage. (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. As of June 2019, 158 models of 14 Sharp product categories 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 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.

Elderly experience training

Vision-impaired training

Hearing-impaired 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 Receives Grand Prize in the 2018 Ergonomics Good Practice Awards from Japan Ergonomics Society

The Sharp cordless canister vacuum cleaner won the Grand Prize in the Ergonomics 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.

Good Practice logo

Prize certificate

Commemorative plaque

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

  • 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 1, 2019.
Case Study

Sharp Corporation Wins Overall Customer Satisfaction Top Prize, 2018 IID Awards (Japan)

Sharp’s Brain Series electronic dictionary was selected for the Overall Customer Satisfaction Top Prize in the 2018 IID Awards* in Japan. This was the seventh year in a row for Sharp to win this award and is the result of constant efforts to listen to user opinions, gather information from retailers, and improve the product’s usability. Sharp received high evaluations for easy-to-view screen, superb readability, good design, operability, good search functions, and good sound, and it won top prizes in these categories as well.

Sharp will continue to develop products that give customers high satisfaction.

IID Awards logo

Trophy for a 7th consecutive IID Award (Front right: IID Awards 2018 trophy)

Brain Series color electronic dictionary

  • 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 2018 Objectives Fiscal 2018 Achievements Self-Evaluation
  • Increase customer satisfaction by improving service quality
Improved service quality
  • Held upskilling training to enhance air conditioner service technical skills
  • Held training to enhance service technical skills for the start of 4K8K broadcasts
  • Established chatbot and LINE customer service on customer support website
★★
Priority Objectives for Fiscal 2019
  • 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 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, 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 Sharp’s customer support 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)

Greater Convenience for Customers

In October 2018, a chatbot was adopted to automatically provide answers to inquiries on the customer support website. In March 2019, support began to be provided via the communications app LINE to solve users’ issues without requiring a phone call, further enhancing customer convenience.

Case Study

Chatbot support flow

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 May 2019
  • *2 Business days vary from region to region

Enhancing Service Technical Skills(in Japan)

Case Study

Boosting the Technical Skills for 4K8K and AIoT*3 Products

Sharp Marketing Japan Corporation, Customer Service Company is constantly working to enhance its service technical skills to find solutions to trouble with customers’ products as quickly as possible.

With the start of 4K8K broadcasting in fiscal 2018, training has focused on the broadcasting system along with new products like LCD TVs, Blu-ray Disc recorders, and so on. The company also held e-learning nationwide to boost the ability to cope with AIoT products like AQUOS LCD TVs and Healsio superheated steam ovens. User convenience will be enhanced more and more as various products are connected to networks. Sharp Marketing Japan is determined to constantly hone its knowledge and technical skills in order to not only provide repairs to customers but also suggest better ways to use products or find solutions to difficulties.

  • *3 AIoT:AIoT is a word coined by Sharp, combining the words AI (artificial intelligence and IoT (the Internet of things). AIoT is a concept to build a system that not only links objects to the Internet to exchange data but also uses artificial intelligence to learn and grow.
    Sharp’s AIoT was originally created for consumer electronics and mobile devices, but it has the potential to be adapted to a wider range of business domains to facilitate the realization of the IoT for devices, coordinate services, and enable voice interaction with automated replies, and so forth.

Training in new products

Enhancing Service Technical Skills(Overseas)

Case Study

Training on Service Techniques for Digital Full-Color MFPs

Sharp’s Business Solutions Business Unit held a service training course for a new digital full-color MFP (multifunction printer) in April and May 2019. The training was for service engineers (trainers) of overseas sales subsidiaries and a sales company in Japan. (Number of participants: 9 from overseas, 13 from Japan)

An MFP is a device mainly used in offices, with copy, print, scan, and fax functions. Any downtime of these machines is a serious issue for a business, hence dealing with this directly links to customer satisfaction. The service technical skills of service engineers support the maintenance and other servicing essential to preserve the MFPs’ performance and functioning. This training covered elements necessary for after-sales services, from functional aspects like product features and specifications as well as installation, disassembly and assembly, adjustment, and maintenance. The participants will in turn become trainers in their own countries or areas, passing on what they have learned to other staff members.

Sharp will aggressively plan and hold more training sessions directly linked to enhancing service technical skills so that it can improve customer satisfaction and increase sales of MFPs.

Case Study

Development of a Smartphone-based Repair Support App

In December 2017, Sharp released a smartphone app with a fault diagnosis function that easily recognizes product error codes. This app allows fast and accurate repairs of inverter air conditioners sold in the ASEAN region. It has steadily been downloaded, reaching over 6,000.

In June 2018 a second version of the app was released with support in four languages and additional features to link to quality information systems and commercial air conditioner functions. This upgrade has further enhanced the convenience of this repair tool.

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 2018 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