Quality techs keep customers satisfied.
Copier service techs like being needed. Clients prefer them that way, too. While they may be a necessary evil in the eyes of the OEMs, the on-site tech should be a friendly, problem-solving face to customers. So, what makes a winning copier service tech?
For Shawn Kantor, copier service manager at mega-dealer Marco Technologies in St. Cloud, Minnesota, it boils down to three main attributes. Field technicians should:
- Like to work with people.
- Be resourceful and keep up with changing technology.
- Have a passion for the mechanical side: “like turning a screwdriver.”
Tim Reneger, president of 76-year-old dealership Kelly Office Solutions in Charlotte, North Carolina, observed: “It’s funny, but people generally don’t like when our help-desk reps provide do-it-yourself tips over the phone. They don’t want to be bothered.”
No, they just want the problem fixed.
Help desks are, of course, the first line of triage assessment. The ability to solve problems remotely makes a big difference, but as Renegar points out, not every machine is connected. When issues can’t be resolved over the telephone or remotely, and on-site visits are required, it’s best to be specific and set expectations. For example, after the dispatcher records the machine number and nature of the problem, they should tell the caller, “We’ll be there within four hours,” or whatever the case may be, according to Renegar.
Like personality traits, clients vary. “Most customers are happy to see their Marco tech,” said Kantor, “but some aren’t so nice”—especially when they’re stressed out by a device that’s not working. These clients just want the tech to show up and stay out of sight, out of mind. “As a service tech, you need to be aware of what type of person you’re calling on,” advised Kantor. It can help if service managers empathize with their techs’ mood management and customer challenges.
Copier service techs also need to ask the right questions. “The problem may not always be an error code or a paper jam,” cautioned Kantor. “It could be a training [situation] that involves [machine] operation.”
Techs must also listen: Is the copier broken, or does the customer think the machine is unreliable? “Hear them out,” emphasized Kantor.
Personality Traits of Copier Service Techs
It may sound simple in theory, but the “people-person” portion (point number one in the list above) comes down to techs having good, easy-going personalities. This can go a long way toward building customer relationships, noted Kantor. Understanding client sites and knowing the people working there is central to cultivating high-quality business relationships.
Lester Williams couldn’t agree more. “We stress the importance of having good communication skills to our techs,” said Williams, a service manager who oversees five technicians at Vision Office Systems, an independent dealer also based in Charlotte, North Carolina. During the interviewing process, a tech candidate with an introverted, shy personality can raise a red flag for the hiring team.
The bottom line, Williams said, is that clients don’t want their office shut down. There’s an inherent, built-in trust factor. Whether it’s a multifunction printer from Brother, Canon, Konica Minolta, or Sharp (Vision Office Systems’ four primary lines), “they’re depending on us to get their machine up and running again,” he said.
The initial phone call can save copier service techs a lot of grief, according to Williams. “It’s simple things like knowing exactly what happened and if that particular issue has happened before,” he said. Once onsite, he recommended that it’s always best to speak to the person who placed the call. Williams emphasized that when the problem cannot be fixed immediately, clear communication is paramount for techs. “Tell the customer what you’re going to do and give them a timeframe: ‘It’s going to take two days for me to get the part we need,’” he said
“Our techs are situational problem-solvers,” added Kantor, a 13-year field service veteran with eight years of experience as a manager at Marco Technologies. Of course, situations differ. “It’s ‘bad’ when we have to order parts and schedule a return visit.”
Rating and Training Copier Service Techs
How are “good” techs identified? First-call effectiveness is the main barometer for most dealers. After a tech’s six-month probationary period, Marco Technologies’ target for one-time visits is 50% or better. The company works diligently to fine tune SKUs and stock parts based on serial numbers and machines in the territories. “Our monitoring reveals that fewer than 15% of service calls need to be rescheduled due to techs not having the necessary parts on hand,” reported Kantor, for the Canon, Konica Minolta, and Sharp printers and MFPs that Marco Technology services. Another 30% to 35% require callbacks because of issues such as defective toner or paper trays.
Beyond end-user surveys and completing work to a customer’s satisfaction, there are associated financial rewards to be had for field techs. Kelly Office Solutions rewards its techs with monthly bonuses based on higher performance levels. At Marco Technologies, dollar amounts are paid out, too, but first-call ineffectiveness at 30% or below garners zero incentive-based bonuses. In other words, it pays (better) to be really good.
Tracking the number of calls per day that copier service techs make, and the duration of those calls are additional methods used to measure performance. Kelly is “above ‘okay’ but not at benchmark. There’s always room for improvement,” said Reneger, adding that traffic and drive times can wreak havoc with daily call logs.
Meanwhile, Marco Technologies asks its copier service techs to follow up with end-users and, in addition, partners such as NEXERA, a third-party software source for enhanced service metrics. (NEXERA was acquired by Valsoft Corp. in May.) The dealer also employs an evaluation system that allows customers to rate technicians via a post-call online survey. “If they score below a certain level, we follow up with the tech and the customer,” reported Kantor. “Through our portal access, customers also can see all call notes relating to their job ticket.”
Kelly Office Solutions prominently displays its net promoter score on its website’s homepage. “Our NPS typically is in the mid to high 90s,” Reneger proudly pointed out. At publication time, it registered at 94.4%. Developed by NICE Systems, Inc., the proprietary market-research metric is based on a single survey question asking respondents to rate the likelihood that they would recommend a company, product or service to a friend or colleague.
Loyalty is another metric used by Kelly Office Solutions. “We are constantly surveying customers when copiers are sold, once annually and of course, after service calls,” revealed Renegar. “Our retention rate is 96%, which is really good, but we’re chasing that other 4%.” Kelly also pays bonuses to techs who keep up to date with new product certifications.
Kelly isn’t the only dealer compensating employees who stay current with their professional development. “It’s really not an option for them to stay on the cutting edge of technology,” said Reneger, who differentiates “tech techs” from “print techs.”
At Marco Technologies, basic training includes covering areas such as printer accessories and paper trays. To get new copier service techs certified on mid-range devices, the dealership leans on in-house trainers as well as OEM-led sessions. Konica Minolta has a two-week online program that Marco mixes in with ride-alongs. Sometimes, copier service techs venture out of town to hone their skills. Marco has sent people to Atlanta, California, and Connecticut for specialized training on HP wide-format devices and other technologies.
Coming out of COVID, classes for copier service techs are opening up again and becoming available. “We require them—techs can’t opt out,” said Vision Office Systems’ Williams. “Some manufacturers, like Canon, won’t let you sell their copiers without training.” He himself runs in-house training sessions, either in the morning or evening before or after field calls are handled. “I like to give my guys real-life tidbits based on actual problems I’ve encountered,” said the 40-year service veteran.
Retaining Copier Service Techs
Putting dealer money where their mouths are with the aforementioned incentive bonuses and equipment certification perks helps to retain field technicians. Kelly Office Solutions’ probationary period is 90 days. “If they make it past that, techs tend to stay with us. They don’t leave; they retire,” Reneger half jokes, citing average tech tenure between 15 and 17 years. What’s the secret? Paying above scale helps.
Also, despite having GPS systems installed on their cars, copier service techs still have some freedom with scheduling. Williams noted that providing company vehicles and gas cards has been a plus for Vision Office Systems. To compete in the present labor market, the dealer was forced to hike hourly wages by double-digit percentages. For the financially motivated, “the goal is to become a senior tech,” he added.
“I try to create a positive environment and do not micro-manage,” said Williams of his supervisory style. “Most techs hate that.” He makes it a top priority to keep his key people on staff because they can be such rare birds, so to speak. “Good techs are scarce and difficult to find. And, even coming in with no bad habits, trying to retrain new people is usually harder than keeping the ones you have.”
That said, if someone who possessed solid mechanical and electrical skills came his way, Williams would hire that person even if Vision Office Systems didn’t need another tech and even if he had no copier background at all.
Perhaps the best benefit of keeping clients happy by maintaining high field-service standards is what Marco calls “warm hand-offs.” This happens when a tech passes along leads for other opportunities at a customer site. “They feel good [about us] and might be interested in diversifying into managed IT or VoIP services,” noted Kantor.
Whatever it may be, the result of an add-on sale is a win-win for the dealership and the tech.