Sunday, June 16, 2024

Currys working to improve consumer trust in refurbished and repaired tech

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Currys is working to boost consumer confidence in circular technology as senior figures at the firm say trust in refurbished or repaired products is “still not there”.

The retailer is growing these services at its 500,000-square metre Repair Centre in Newark, Nottinghamshire – the largest lab of its kind in Europe.

It is part of its Long Live Your Tech pledge to reduce e-waste, which the UN estimates will grow to 75 million metric tonnes a year worldwide by 2030.

Components from technology products at Currys’ Repair Centre in Newark, Nottinghamshire (Rebecca Speare-Cole/PA)

More than 1,000 workers at the centre are developing solutions to extend the lifespan of products such as laptops, phones, fridges, washing machines and TVs.

David Rosenberg, director of service operations at Currys, said quality, affordability and speed are critical to growing demand for its circular technology services but also to shift consumer attitudes more widely.

“I think the opportunity for all of us to do better is naturally part of the equation and that is stated by the customer because the customer wants their tech (to last) longer,” he said.

But Mr Rosenberg added: “We are in the growing part of this process where the trust is still not there.

“If we are not able to give the right quality, how can you gain trust from the customers about not only a service (but) a way of consuming tech?”

To ensure quality, technicians put every item through a rigorous final check and have a robust customer feedback process.

Meanwhile, the centre promises to return each item to customers within seven days to speed up the process and cut costs.

It has introduced several measures to boost efficiency, such as a RepairLive function where technicians video call customers to see if they can fix issues remotely before the item is physically sent in.

A product being repaired in Currys' Repair Centre in Newark, Nottinghamshire
A product being repaired in Currys’ Repair Centre in Newark, Nottinghamshire (Rebecca Speare-Cole/PA)

Technicians can also save time by swiftly sourcing what they need from 13-metre high vending machines which hold 90,000 spare parts each rather than searching up and down warehouse aisles.

A focus on fixing smaller components – such as replacing a broken LED light strip costing £30 rather than the entire TV screen costing thousands – helps to cut costs as well.

For older parts that can no longer be sourced from brands, technicians repurpose the “organs” from technology that customers hand in through Currys’ Trash for Cash scheme in exchange for a £5 voucher.

The company is also experimenting with 3D printing to produce parts it has not been able to buy, save or convert.

Mr Rosenberg said: “If we don’t make it affordable for the customer, the customer will not consume (repaired) tech and we will not deliver our strategy of Long Live Your Tech.

“But because we’ve got the scale, because we’ve got the relationships, we can make it affordable for you as a consumer and affordable for us as a business. That is the secret.”

This year, Currys plans to expand its offering of refurbished items that it sells on eBay or its own website.

The centre sees 4,000 return items and 1,000 faulty items coming through its doors every week, which are then tested, refurbished, repackaged and sold on.

Currys' 500,000-square metre workshop in Newark
The 500,000-square metre workshop in Newark is the largest tech repair centre in Europe (Rebecca Speare-Cole/PA)

Despite often having the same quality and functionality as new products, Mr Rosenberg said people “still have a bit of a Covid reflex” around the items being opened or used by someone else.

Glen Holbrook, general manager of commercial operations at Currys, said they are working to build consumer trust in the refurbished products, adding: “I think it’s our responsibility both as retailers and as brands.”

“What we’re showing is we’ve got these products, they are in great condition, we’ve packaged them in a way that not only keeps the products safe but can be recycled as well,” he said.

“I think that’s where the responsibility comes in to help change that mindset.”

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