For those who have gotten comfortable buying products online, here are two questions. First, how do you get the stuff you buy serviced? Second, can you get an extended warranty like the kind that is readily available from most brick-and-mortar sites?
These questions are part of the myriad of back-end e-commerce issues that have pushed many analysts to predict the rapid merger of pure e-tailers with brick-and-mortar companies that provide this type of service.
Online Warranties And Local Service Now A Reality
Revbox, a new Net start-up, and Federal Warranty Service Corp., a well-established brick-and-mortar product service company, have created a new online service that allows e-shoppers to store information about the products they have purchased, buy extended warranties online, and arrange for servicing when required.
The new service may more than level the playing field for pure e-tailers that must compete with brick-and-mortar companies with extensive service networks. It may allow the e-tailers to provide better service than most consumers get at brick-and-mortar companies.
Who Is Federal Warranty?
Federal Warranty is a subsidiary of the life/health and property/casualty insurance company Assurant Group, which itself is a member of the giant Fortis Group of insurance companies. The company has provided extended service contracts for 10 years and claims to have a base $461 million (US$) worth of contracts in effect.
The company has also established a nationwide network of locations to repair consumer appliances, electronics equipment, computers, home office equipment, digital satellite systems, home theater systems, audio and car audio equipment, lawn and garden equipment, power tools and fitness equipment.
These locations include small repair shops, as well as major companies that provide such service. A check in the northern Los Angeles, California area, for example, came up with a choice of 22 nearby locations that would accept Federal Warranty’s extended service contract to repair a Maytag dishwasher.
Beefing Up The Back End
“E-tailers are very good at getting you to hit the ‘add to your shopping cart’ button, but what they usually forget is the back end,” said Revbox founder James Wu. He added that simple but time-consuming tasks like getting a broken item fixed, replacing a user manual or checking the numbers on a sales receipt can be handled by the new Revbox-Federal Warranty service, and make life easier for both consumers and online companies.
Wu said that the new service will sell service contract and repair services to consumers directly. He also said the companies plan to integrate the service with offerings from online e-tailers.
How It Works
To use the new service, consumers register at the Revbox site and establish a customized product management page called “my revbox.” On this page, consumers keep track of all information needed to take care of the product throughout its life.
As people acquire more products, the my revbox feature will allow people to keep track of all of the products they acquire in one location, which is probably an improvement in organization for most.
After registering a product by putting in purchase information, consumers can then connect to pre-loaded data on the product and can also purchase extended service contracts.
Information available includes photos and descriptions of the product; specifications, user manuals, and manufacturer information; and a direct link to the manufacturer’s Web site.
Revbox members can access a PC help desk for computer support and installation assistance. The site also contains a library of manuals for 55,000 product families from more than 7,000 manufacturers.