Don’t come up short on the key traits of superior service.
Every morning, your service techs vanish—car stocks and all—into the wilderness of customers’ offices. They install parts, add consumables, and get various devices running again. But how good are they, really?
“There are three criteria by which service tech performance is ultimately measured: equipment performance, productivity, and costs,” asserted Wes McArtor, president of NEXERA. McArtor comes at this from seeing data from dealers worldwide on his company’s Worldstats database.
Of course, the topic goes deeper than the data. Chris DeMars, director, dealer services at Ricoh USA, said dealers should consider whether a technician is willing to do more to meet customer needs and provide more value. Did the tech stay an extra hour or make a trip to get a needed part so a customer would be back up and running the day of the service call? “This is a best practice because vendors know successful customer relationships begin with a personal connection and seeing someone do more than is necessary,” said DeMars.
Neither techs nor dealers are working in a vacuum. “Technicians and dealers are graded on the number of calls to the hotline, resolved issues, and closed tickets,” noted John Menzzasalma, senior learning, development, and support manager at Sharp. “Dealers can track technician performance based on callbacks.”
Callbacks can be a tell about a tech’s proficiency. If a tech is revisiting a customer too many times for the same problem, it can be a sign that they may need additional training or is not in the right role. “The goal is to have a device fixed on the first visit,” affirmed Marta Stylianou, director of training and service marketing at Canon U.S.A.
McArtor said much the same thing in a different way. “Technician proficiency should be measured in machine performance. This is a function of the callbacks and pages printed between visits.” As any dealer knows, getting fewer callbacks is the goal.
Dealers aren’t alone in worrying about tech’s performance. Even though devices are sold by dealers, a vendor still doesn’t want to garner a reputation for poor performance because a lone MFP appears unreliable—even if it is being abused by the customer. For this reason, vendors with their brand on the machines, pay close attention to what techs do. Ricoh looks at accountable time servicing the equipment, the number of incomplete calls, and daily callbacks. Dealers also have access to this info, so it is easy to see which techs are solving problems—and which are not.
Still, it is useful to get more detailed insights. Sharp’s research says the best measure of customer satisfaction with service is what a customer says about the technician. Dealers can get valuable feedback by following up with a customer after service visits.
Key Traits of Great Service Techs
Product and break-fix knowledge can be taught. While people with an aptitude for electro-mechanical work can be trained, what separates the great ones from the rest? Good question. The key traits of successful techs are problem-solving, self-motivation (ability to think and work independently), and excellent listening and communication skills. All are critical for great service technicians.
- Problem-Solving – “Problem-solving skills are among the most important things I look for,” said Greg Gumpright, director of services and support at Sharp. A problem-solving tech, for example, may determine that a failed relay is why a larger component won’t run, rather than replacing a more costly part.
While new devices often feature self-service features customers can handle themselves, most machines are tightly packed containers of intimidating electromechanical technology. This puts a premium on problem-solving to identify why a device is not working properly and find a solution. Canon’s Stylianou calls this troubleshooting. “A good tech will persist in identifying the cause of a problem, so the trouble is fixed on the first call,” she said. “This is related to the self-motivation that all good service techs should have.”
- Self-motivation – You obviously don’t want a tech who needs to be supervised. Canon, NEXERA, Ricoh, and Sharp all agree that techs should focus on solving a problem and keeping a customer happy as part of the way your company does business. In short, you need people who first, understand your approach to business and the “face” you expect your team to present to customers; and second, are self-motivated to do quality work. This used to be called taking pride in one’s work. Some of this can come from an interview and some from knowing about a tech in action, which is why it is good to ask customers about service calls.
- Communications Skills – Service techs should be friendly and approachable so customers will be comfortable asking about their devices. Techs must be good listeners so they will hear and understand customer concerns and be good at explaining technology in jargon-free terms.
Everything That’s New Gets Old
A challenge for service techs is the sheer number of machines on the market. New, middle-aged, or old, they all need attention. OEMs are constantly updating existing devices with new features. Meanwhile, dealers are busy placing the latest and greatest models with customers. While some new machines are updates of existing devices, others are completely new, and techs need to be trained on them. Vendors usually hold classes on these devices, either online, at a corporate training center, or at a dealer’s facility. All OEMs use a blended process of both video and in-person classes, the format varying by vendor. Training may begin with videos, followed by more structured formats for other service and repair tasks. This may include hands-on training with an instructor guiding a tech through some processes, especially on new devices. Questions are always encouraged!
This process helps ensure techs are current on new models and that knowledge is enhanced on the job. Many dealers put an experienced technician with a new one for a few service calls, empowering them to make suggestions and provide advice about working on a given machine, or ways of communicating effectively with customers.
Although modern machines are durable, the nature of the industry is that devices just a few years old go off-lease, are sold for relatively short money, and can go for a few years with minimal care and feeding. While many work pretty much the same way, techs still need to be able to diagnose, service, and repair them. Older machines sometimes termed obsolete at seven or more years old, are still out there, ready for action when users hit ‘print.’ But they may still need some level of service.
The obvious advantage of a top-notch service organization is that it builds your dealership’s reputation as a superior office technology provider and creates a competitive advantage. More subtly, your techs’ problem-solving and communications skills may open sales or consultative opportunities. A service tech may notice sooner than anyone else that a device consistently exceeds its rated print volume. This may indicate the need for an additional or more robust device, or perhaps the print load can be spread over multiple devices. Either way, there is an opportunity.