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"The Customer comes First"
In the latter half of the 1960s, the Japanese economy entered a period of rapid growth, but a number of serious problems also surfaced, including consumer dissatisfaction, environmental pollution, international trade conflicts and exchange-rate fluctuations. Panasonic needed to find new ways of adapting to these pressing demands.
Strains in Japanese-American economic relations were starting to appear around 1968 when a dispute arose about the low pricing of color television sets exported to the U.S. Trouble was also brewing on the domestic front. In July of 1967, the Fair Trade Commission warned Panasonic about allegedly unfair resale policies, which the company denied. A formal hearing began in September, and an agreement was finally reached in March of 1971.
In 1970, consumer groups lodged complaints about the electronics industry's pricing structure, attacking the gap between the list prices and actual selling prices. In an attempt to force the lowering of prices, consumer groups urged people to stop buying color TVs, extending this boycott to include all products of Panasonic as the industry leader.
The company attempted to explain its situation honestly and gain the understanding of consumers. Early in 1971, the company announced major price reductions on all new-model color and black-and-white TVs, washing machines and refrigerators as part of a new distribution policy. This served to close the gap between list prices and actual market prices. Later, this policy was extended to other products as well. Other companies began to follow suit and the boycott was abandoned.
Growing consumer awareness led Panasonic to set up a consumer relations office under the Corporate Service Division. The office was to provide consultation about Panasonic products, instruction in correct and safe usage of electrical equipment, and to hear and address specific consumer complaints. Similar offices were set up at showrooms throughout the country, and a mobile consumer relations van traveled nationwide to address consumer needs. These information dissemination services were complemented by information gathering efforts aimed at achieving a better understanding of consumer needs, preferences and desires.
In 1972, the company launched service improvement drives with the aim of completing most repairs within 24 hours. In 1976, the product inspection department moved to a new building, enabling it to perform more comprehensive testing. One new step was to have homemakers test the products for performance and ease of use prior to mass production.
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