Is Your Service Department Screwing You Over?

five-stars-0916Recently, my husband had a major service issue with his car. This was a service issue so major, he contemplated leaving his car at the dealership and getting a new one somewhere else. The details will likely be for another post (lawyers might get involved). But I think there is a lot that we can learn just from the knowledge that a terrible service department can completely wipe out the vestiges of someone’s brand loyalty.

At many integration firms that I know, service is considered to be a stepping stone on the way to the installation side. Service calls are *hard.* You never know if they will take you five minutes or five hours. You’re often dealing with a customer who is angry and frustrated with their system. Documentation can be sketchy or non-existent. If someone cut too many zip ties, you might be dealing with a mess of wires.

The problem with letting your best techs move “up” to install is aptly demonstrated with my husband’s car woes: Service touches your system last, and they work with your customers over the long haul. You might love the people who sold and installed your equipment, but every time the service department gets something wrong, it undermines that relationship. The service department is what your customer remembers. My husband had no problem with the salesman who sold him his car. But if he ends up walking away in favor of a car that’s not in and out of the shop all the time? You’d best believe he will be buying that car from another manufacturer.

So how do you keep your techs and your customers happy? My company is small enough that we all wear many hats. I work on brand new installs and I do service calls. Our customers know that they’re always going to get the same level of support, be it a new install or a service call. But many companies are big enough that they need to split up service and install. So how do you keep that quality consistent?

First things first, you need to appreciate and support your service techs. A good service call takes a customer’s bad day and makes it better. That’s a value add. Let your techs know that you recognize that value. At the end of the day, most people just want to be treated well and given respect. If your crew works late to fix big problems, do you send them home early (with pay) if another job ends up being a quick fix? Do you give them all of the tools that they need to get their job done? Do your company policies make things easier for them? Are you giving them training and helping them to grow their skills? Do you let them know that service is an important part of your organization? Nobody should ever say that they are “just” a service tech.

You also need to set yourself up for success. Value engineering a system might get you to the numbers that a customer is asking for, but budget systems (especially ones that resort to inferior components) can be costly in the long haul. There are other important considerations as well, such as remote access, and automated monitoring and reporting. A service contract that includes preventative maintenance checks can protect both your customers and you. And what tech doesn’t like rolling up to a job site to update firmware, touch base with a customer and verify that everything still looks good?

The last thing you want is a customer picking up the phone, calling a competitor and asking if they can make this room work right.