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Canon Computer woos the press.

COSTA MESA, Cal. - Canon Computer Systems Inc. (CCSI) shuttled a corps of reporters and analysts here to preview new products, tour headquarters and meet with Canon officials on a variety of subjects including its retail business.

An Exclusive First Look was the largest and longest press event for the three-year-old division of Canon Inc. CCSI was formed in April 1992 by Canon Inc. and Canon U.S.A. Its mission: aggressively manufacture and market PCs and peripherals in the U.S. market.

Since then, Canon Computer has vaulted to the number-two position in the retail market in inkjet printers, behind Hewlett-Packard. It has made strides in desktop and portable computers, scanners, and printer cartridges and other consumables.

John Arnos, vice president of sales, says CCSI's steady U.S. success is due, in part, to Canon's name recognition; that, and a simple belief that customers and their buying habits must dictate business strategy.

"There's no question that people want to buy the Canon line. Canon is a great name," Arnos boasted.

At the press event, the new products, which will be made public in August, rested on silver platters and were shrouded in velvet. One by one, they were unveiled like prizes on a game show.

"We're raising the bar on what you'll have to do to compete in this business," said Arnos, describing the fall lineup.

But while officials are keeping the specs and price points of new computer equipment under wraps for now, they will do some very visible promotion and preparation for the second half of 1995.

Much of the summer will be spent moving into CCSI's new customer service headquarters in Virginia said Jon Reardon, customer service director. The new facility, he said, will consolidate all of CCSI's service representative, which are now scattered at three different locations.

Scheduled to be up and running by October, the 48,000-square-foot Chesapeake facility will open with 200 agents - twice the number currently employed by CCSI - and will be big enough to employ 400, Reardon said. The average support technician is college educated, m his or her early 20s; about half of those employed at the new center were culled from Virginia's labor pool, Reardon said.

More people means longer service hours, and calls will be taken from 6 a.m. until midnight, seven days per week. Currently, CCSI agents handle about 100,000 calls each month, about 60 percent of which are about Windows.

Reardon - recalling the customer who couldn't get his printer to work because, the service agent discovered, he didn't own a PC - noted that customer support services are more important now than ever before. As more customers with little, if any, technical background bring computers into their homes for the first time, companies like CCSI will have to be available to help them.

"American users throw their manuals away, then go looking for them when they hit their first stumbling block," said Reardon, who is also in charge of making sure those manuals are written in clear, easy-to-understand language. "We have to be there when that happens."

Also new to CCSI is a team of 30 "field sales representatives," or detailers. There are 30 detailers in all and six trainers, Arnos said. "These guys are going to make sure our product is featured better than any other product on the floor," Arnos said. The team will be responsible for testing the product to make sure it is functioning properly and is backed by the proper point-of-purchase elements. The team win also be able to answer questions from store sales staff

"This is the best investment we've ever made," Arnos said, adding that many retailers are too busy to pay special attention to each product on the floor. The detailers earn a salary, get a company car and earn bonuses based on sell-through.

"Anybody can sell in," Arnos said.

Arnos said that even though Canon is sold in some 6,500 retail outlets, the team can canvas them all within a few weeks; each member covers 20 stores during a 13-hour day.

The "Canon to Go" van - the focal point of the media group's final brunch in California - began its national tour June 16. The minivan, a 1995 Chevrolet, is equipped with a notebook computer, a monochrome laser printer and a color ink jet printer, fax machine, scanner and cellular phone, television and VCR.

A Canon spokeswoman said the van - with the Canon logo blazoned on its side - will log 5,000 miles between now and the end of August, proving along the way that the products are truly mobile.

David Dobbs will drive the van, stopping in cities like Memphis, Denver, Cleveland and San Diego. At each stop, he'll be met by local field representatives who'll showcase the van in the

"I'm hoping to have a home-cooked meal in July," said Dobbs, noting that the van tour will take him through his home state of Texas that month.
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Author:Johnson, Lisa
Publication:HFN The Weekly Newspaper for the Home Furnishing Network
Date:Jun 26, 1995
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