Service Efficiencies: Don’t Roll A Truck Twice

servicetruck-1115Time is money, and, for that matter, money is money. Everything your company does needs to focus on making the best use of both.

Efficiency is everything, not just in project design and installation, but in after-install service as well. Your service techs need to follow processes and function as efficiently as your installers do.

I have a perfect example of what not to do when it comes to service department efficiencies. It doesn’t come from the AV channel, but it carries lessons that can be applied to your business just as easily.

On the Saturday of Canadian Thanksgiving long weekend, my dishwasher broke down. Never mind that it’s a Bosch and they aren’t supposed to break down, ever, but it did. Fortunately, it was still under warranty.

That said, being a holiday long weekend, there was nobody to call until the following Tuesday. The call center person was courteous enough, although it was somewhat frustrating communicating the nature of the fault to her. She wanted to stick to her decision tree and ask questions that I deemed irrelevant. That’s probably because the average homeowner is not a trained professional with a troubleshooter’s mindset, and normally can’t provide a detailed description of the fault and the likely cause (clean water is filling up the inside of the dishwasher until it overflows out the seals on the side of the door, probably due to a faulty inlet valve, in case you were wondering). I was told a service tech would call back within 24 hours to schedule a service call.

A day goes by, then two. Calling the warranty center again, I was told that the file had been sent to the service company and to call them. Calling the service company, they had no record of my file, which meant I had to call back the service company, where the phone representative then had to “escalate” my file, whatever that means.

Escalation only meant that someone actually handed off my file to the service company, but that did little good because the service company, apologizing profusely for being short-staffed, couldn’t book a service call until two weeks later.

Two weeks without a dishwasher. Argh.

Finally, the day before, the service tech calls to let me know when to expect him the next day, and to affirm the nature of the fault. So I reiterate what I already explained to the call center people. “We don’t keep those parts in stock,” he tells me. “I’ll have to order it, but I still have to come by tomorrow, and confirm the fault and the serial number of the unit.”

True to his word, he arrived on time the next day, and was a nice enough fellow. We talked, he observed the nature of the fault, and said he’d call the following week once he had the replacement inlet valve to book a second service call.

“I know it’s not your fault,” I said, “but wouldn’t it make more sense for the company to stock commonly-needed parts, if not in your vans, then in the office so you wouldn’t have to roll a truck twice for a $40 part replacement?”

“You’d think so,” he sighed, “but this is how they want us to work.”

At the risk of doing unpaid consulting for the service company, I count five or six inefficiencies that could be ironed out with proper process management.

Now, granted, even Bosch dishwashers don’t have networked functionality (at least this one doesn’t), so appliance techs don’t have the same logistic advantages AV techs do today with remote system monitoring. Today, AV pros have access to more data regarding their customers’ installations in order to identify a fault that you seldom need to roll up blind and start on-site troubleshooting from zero.

Even so, it’s still possible, and your techs need to be trained and prepared for it, both in terms of being able to ask end-users the right questions over the phone, and knowing how to proceed on-site.

More importantly, as a service manager or business owner, you need to visualize where bottlenecks may appear and prepare for them. Figure out what “mission critical” parts you need to actually keep in inventory, just in case, so your clients don’t experience weeks of downtime.

And for heaven’s sake, ensure that your people are meticulous with your record keeping and in-office communication, so you don’t lose customers’ service files!