Service a boon for tech exporters

By Steve Venegas - Business Examiner - Fraser Valley - April 07, 2008


For many small businesses in the south-of-Fraser region, having strong cross-border commerce with the U.S. is vital.

But what if products shipped south of the line require servicing or repairs?

In the past, it all amounted to a logistical nightmare, with interminable border waits, customs frustrations, clearance expenses, freight costs and, ultimately, delays.

Luckily for local tech sector exporters, International Market Access Inc. has announced the opening of a new technical repair and return service that is catering to Canadian businesses.

Based in IMA's Ferndale warehouse, the service will be a receiving point for Canadian product returns from U.S. customers.

At the facility, on-site trained technical specialists will perform the necessary service work, upgrades, testing and evaluations.

The idea is to minimize unnecessary and expensive cross-border product transfers.

"Besides saving the cost of crossing of the border, I see the opportunity here for people who don't want to be troubled with handling the repair of their products," says IMA president Jim Pettinger.

For more than 20 years Pettinger and his team have helped Canadian companies market and distribute across the 49th parallel.

From shipping and receiving, to stocking and storing, IMA has assisted Canadian firms in establishing a U.S. foothold, working with them to roll out a particular product or service.

Chris Chettle, vice-president of marketing for Burnaby-based Digital Payment Technologies, sees a lot of potential in IMA's technical repair and return service.

"The benefit we can see would be providing a faster turnaround in parts repairs for our U.S. customers," Chettle says.

"Eliminating the extra day or two resulting from cross-border shipments can provide us with improved levels of customer service where replacement parts are not available." What's more, Chettle adds, outsourcing repair services that are more universal in scope enables Digital Payment's internal technical team to focus on repairs that may require more specialized product knowledge.

Pettinger says there's never been a more important time to focus on cross-border customer service.

"The U.S. market is highly competitive. Customers expect the same level of quality and efficient customer service from a Canadian company that they receive from domestic companies," he says.

"Failure to meet or exceed these expectations may drive your customers to your U.S. competitors."


Going south?

Jim Pettinger has tips for businesses looking to expand across the border:

.Treat the U.S. as domestic. It's too big to consider as just another export market. Bridge the border and get personally involved.

.Focus, focus, focus. The U.S. market is massive - most Canadian success stories result from niche marketing.

.Warehouse and distribute from the U.S. It may be real or virtual, but either way, a warehouse will pay dividends in cost savings, response, certainty and control.