By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
ATLANTA — Philips Consumer Electronics North America is getting into the extended service contract business. Under a recently forged deal with Kemper Warranty Services, the manufacturer will offer Philips-branded extended warranties on all brands of CE products and most major appliances, regardless of vendor. The service plans will be sold through specialty retailers and mass merchants, and will be administered by Service Net, a Kemper company. "Philips is known for bringing its customers innovative and exciting electronics products," said Kemper president/CEO Cary Beighley. "We're excited to help them extend their reputation for superior customer service and support as well." Surely less excited are rival vendors who will be forced to share brand awareness with a competitor.
DENVER — Ultimate Electronics said it will open its first stores in the Dallas/Ft. Worth, Texas market next year. According to CEO Ed McEntire, the specialty A/V chain will likely open 13 stores there over the next 24 months, with the first eight to ten to debut in 2002. The units will average 32,000 square feet, and dovetail with new store openings in St. Louis and Minneapolis that are also planned for next year. "The Dallas and Ft. Worth markets represent an excellent opportunity for us to continue to execute our expansion plans," McEntire said. Ultimate will add about eight new locations this year, bringing its store count to 44 (see photo, page 20).
SAN FRANCISCO — Good Guys, the West Coast CE specialist, has signed on GE Warranty Management to exclusively handle its extended service contract business. The deal, effective this month, expands Good Guys' in-home repair capabilities and is expected to provide faster response times and higher quality service through GE's national network of technicians. The high-end chain will also enjoy "additional operating efficiencies that will allow us to tightly manage service costs," said Good Guys president Ken Weller.
MINNEAPOLIS — Best Buy has implemented a new software program from Witness Systems that records and analyzes interactions between its customer service centers and consumers. The software, called eQuality, can record the voice interactions and corresponding computer desktop activities of its customer service reps, including data entry and screen navigation. Synchronized for replay, the recordings can be used to observe and evaluate rep performance, refine business processes and provide a coaching tool for agents.
This TWICE webinar, hosted by senior editor Alan Wolf, will take a look at what may be the hottest CE products at retail that will be sold during the all-important fourth quarter. Top technologies, market strategies and industry trends will be discussed with industry analysts and executives.