Bare Essentials – The hunt for the right technicians for day-to-day installation, service and repairs of appliances, fittings and furniture is never an easy job. The segment is highly fragmented and the personnel are as elusive as The Scarlet Pimpernel , who famously represents the original ‘hero with a secret identity’.
Lo and behold, a novel solution to all your household woes conceptualised by the consumer durables retail chain, Viveks under the brand name of Home Serve. Since its launch in February 2012, the service centre has roped in in-house, freelance and brand technicians for door-to-door customer fixer-ups.
Viveks’ expertise in running a service centre, besides its retail chain, according to B.K. Vijay, Vice-President – Customer Relations of Viveks, has come in handy in conceptualising and managing Home Serve.
“Viveks’ service centres, operating from 7-8 showrooms, have been around for 10 years. Although we have been selling home products for 49 years, we focused on allied services over the last decade. It made critical business sense for a retailer to get into the mix, as it is quite unique in our country. Thanks to our service centre track record, we already had enough insights in to the customer’s usual pain-points,” he says.
Today, Home Serve manages one-third of Viveks Service Centre’s call requests.
“It was in 2006-07 that we first thought about venturing into field services from our already existing model of walk-in services. Soon, we started servicing house hold essentials like ceiling fans and water heaters,” elucidates Mr.Vijay. But the issue with that was tracking productivity, so the field staff were given mobile phones with a chip embedded in it.
Happy Customer equals Loyal Customer
“Another important approach to work that we learnt while on the job was to take care of the customers’ small requirements, no matter how simple and we find that just as important as catering to their technical requirements.”
This was a great work ethic to posses as Home Serve attracts all kinds of consumers – right from entry level to indulgent income groups. This exposure also helped acquiring the high acceptance numbers for the brand.
The Range of Services
Talking to Clear Estate more on the range of services at Home Serve, Mr.Vijay listed them off from carpentry, electrical and plumbing services to air-conditioning which also happens to be one of Home Serve’s strong businesses. It alone caters to around 62,000 customers.
Home Serve covers everything from installation of electrical, electronic devices and corporate annual maintenance contracts (AMCs) of various durables and kitchen appliances to e-scrap disposal.
Home Serve’s corporate clientele includes Southern Railways, The Taj Group of Hotels and Hindustan University, for whom it deploys a dedicated workforce. So far, Home Serve has amassed 10,000 AMCs, bagging 1,000 in the last month alone. “We would ideally want to total at least 20,000 AMCs in the near future.”
Dealing with Big Brands
When it comes to high-end devices, Home Serve coordinates between the brand and consumers. “It’s highly challenging to get carpenters, plumbers and electricians. So, we have on board technicians with more than 20 years of experience as managers.”
The latest additions to Home Serve’s vast bouquet include custom furniture, fake ceiling, painting and masonry. Mr.Vijay says a new market that the brand is focusing on is relocations, including installation and uninstallation of devices.
Commenting on the space, Mr.Vijay says, “We are probably 20 years behind the global scenario. Customers still don’t know their rights and companies don’t know their obligations here. Except for laptops and a few other items, we don’t really look at upgrading consumer durables, especially at a time when products aren’t built to last a lifetime. Now, even for fridges, the shelf life is only 4-5 years.”
Soon, the company is looking to have its own mobile app for employees and customers, Mr.Vijay reckoned that this business is ripe for the picking and that was just in Chennai, while the brand’s sights are set on expansion to cities across the country.