Panasonic Begins Free After-Sale Services for Plasma Owners

As global plasma sales continue to accelerate dramatically, rising nearly 90 percent year-to-year in Q1 of 2006 (HDTV Notebook, June 7, 2006), Panasonic has begun a "Plasma Concierge" plan for customers -- an expanded support program for current and new owners of its HD products.

While the free, extended after-sales service appears to be the first of its kind for HD consumers, it also seems to acknowledge once and for all that the far simpler plug-and-play days of the analog realm are disappearing fast; digital TV products require far more savvy to set up properly in the home for optimum benefit.

Or, as the company itself said (opens in new tab) in a recent statement, "Panasonic believes the nearly three million consumers who are expected to purchase plasma TVs this year are entitled to extra assistance to ensure they enjoy an easy transition to HDTV and get the full value of their investment."

The program will provide advice and answers to new plasma viewers in what seems to be more than a mere advertising gimmick: Panasonic will invest more than $15 million in the project, including a major upgrade of its customer call center in Chesapeake, Va., and an ambitious enhancement of its Web site to allow for an array of sophisticated online information services.

The options, beginning immediately for U.S. customers, include live phone access via a toll-free number to "specialized plasma TV consultants;" a pledge that a Panasonic rep will call within 24 hours if an in-house visit is necessary; exclusive access to updated online content; and (coming in the fall) live, online text chat capabilities with knowledgeable consultants.