NECSAP Launches RFID Customer Cards

By Jonathan Collins

The Singapore-based arm of Japanese electronics giant NEC Corp. has introduced an RFID-enabled card to improve service for buyers of NEC mobile phones.

NEC Solutions Asia Pacific (NECSAP), the Singapore-based arm of Japanese electronics giant NEC Corp., has introduced its first RFID-enabled customer loyalty card, paving the way for deployment across NEC's Asian operations.

NECSAP believes RFID-enabled NECare Customer Cards can make it far easier for its customers to own its products and have them serviced. "For NEC customers, [a key advantage] is quite simply convenience," says David Ng, senior vice president of the business services group of NEC Solutions Asia Pacific. "There is no need for them to present invoices, purchase receipts and warranty cards, or even complete lengthy forms at the NECare Center."

The unique ID number of each customer's RFID-enabled NECare Customer Card is linked to that customer's purchase details in the company's customer relationship management system. The goal of the cards is to simplify and speed up customer service and support, though the RFID cards do have higher initial costs compared with those associated with magnetic-stripe cards.

"RFID cards are more expensive to produce," says Ng. "However, we are prepared to invest, as these cards are more durable than the more commonly used magnetic stripe cards and also offer higher identification speeds."

Customers who have already purchased NEC mobile phones can register for the free NECare Customer Card by using NECSAP's online product registration form.Alternatively, customers can complete and mail in the phone's printed warranty card to the NECare Center in Singapore. NECare Center staff will then register the customer and the purchase online and send a letter stating the customer's unique username and default password, along with an NECare Customer card.

Customers who already possess an NECare card still need to register their purchase online, or send in their warranty card for the item. Any NEC mobile phone registered with the card will then be linked to the purchaser's card ID number. When customers need assistance regarding an NEC product they have purchased, they can present the card at the NECare Center in Singapore for identification, ensuring that service personal can retrieve all relevant data about their inquiry. As the service arm of NECSAP, the NECare Center aims to provide a single point of contact for technical and installation services, training and project management. Aside from the single NECare Center in Singapore, there are additional locations in Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines.

The credit card-sized NECare Customer Card has a 13.56 MHz passive RFID tag from Infineon Technologies and adheres to the ISO 15693 standard. The tag's 2 kilobits of memory contain a unique ID number, nothing more, while more detailed information on each registered customer—such as customer name and address, purchase history, warranty program and service records—will be stored in NECSAP's own corporate database. An RFID interrogator installed near the entrance of the NECare Center in Singapore identifies customers by reading their NECare cards, but there are no readers installed at the stores that sell NEC phones. (In Singapore, NEC mobile phones are mainly sold through telecommunication shops that also carry other brands.)

On Dec. 21, NECSAP launched the card and began registering customers who mail in their printed warranty cards. The company also started publicizing the launch of the NECare through Singapore media and on the NECare Web site. In the future, the firm expects to extend the scheme to include other products such as NEC notebooks, computers and projectors.

Moreover, the company expects to introduce the RFID NECare Customer card across Asia. "The NECare Center [in Singapore] is the first to implement the NECare Customer Card," says Ng. "However, NECSAP plans to roll out the scheme to the rest of the NECare Centers in South Asia."