The 10 Biggest Challenges Faced by Today's Service Techs
- By Scott Cullen
- May 01, 2013
Wasn’t it only yesterday that service techs were out in the field fixing analog copiers, fax machines and, yes, typewriters? Sometimes it seems that way, even though when you start reflecting on how far we’ve come, the reality is that those days go much further back than yesterday. Today, however, there’s digital technology, connectivity, color, MPS and now MNS. Holy cow! Today’s service techs have a lot more on their plates than ever before.
With that in mind, I thought it’d be interesting to find out what gives service techs the biggest headaches in the digital, connected, color, managed print and managed services age. The challenges they shared with their owners, who then passed them along to me, range from the obvious to the obscure.
1) Heightened customer expectations
Customers have always had certain expectations with respect to equipment performance, but the tenured techs who work for Ray Belanger, president of Bay Copy in Rockland, Mass., find that those expectations are even higher now. “They want results faster,” he said.
Back in the day, it wasn’t unusual for a service tech to be on site dealing with machine issues much more frequently than today. But my how perceptions have changed, and it seems as if no one remembers how it used to be. “Now when we make a service call — and it’s not that often — the reaction is, ‘You here again?’” Belanger said.
2) Communicating with the customer
This isn’t anything new, and techs have always had to deal with different personalities within a client’s organization; however, now they’re dealing more closely with different personalities at various levels within an organization — all of whom have a stake in the technology.
According to Belanger’s tenured techs, people are more reluctant to accept responsibility for some of the issues they create on the devices, even when their actions are the cause of the problems — something as simple as the way the paper is loaded into the machine, for example. “Often, to get that message through (to the responsible or irresponsible parties), you have to be careful about how you explain it,” Belanger noted. “Communicating with an IT manager can be just as tricky as communicating with an office worker who doesn’t have a clue and doesn’t really care.”
3) Digital technology and connectivity
Generally speaking, digital technology has made office technology inherently more reliable, but that doesn’t mean service issues have been completely eliminated. If that were the case, good service techs wouldn’t be in such high demand across the industry.
“It’s good machines are more reliable, but it’s become much more complicated,” Belanger said. “It’s not like you have the problem in the box. It could be the computer, the network — a whole bunch of variables. It’s not just a copier anymore. They’re printing, faxing (and) scanning, so the (devices have become) more crucial to the customer’s total office environment, and understanding the problem is more complicated.”
“If it’s a printing issue or a scanning issue, it becomes an IT issue,” added Chip Miceli, president of DPOE in Des Plaines, Ill. “Some of my techs have the (IT) skills, and some of them don’t. We have an IT department, so if they don’t have the skills, they can go to the IT department for help. The biggest hang-up is dealing with the IT personnel in the customer’s organization because they don’t like us involved with their networks.”
4) Identifying the true source of the problem
“Years ago techs had the ability to troubleshoot; today everything is at a component level,” Miceli explained. As a result, he said, techs have become board replacers more so than problem identifiers, and that has caused a lot of them to lose their problem-solving skills. “When you call the vendor’s help desk, many times the response is, ‘Change this board, change that board,’” Miceli said. “No one is troubleshooting down to the component level anymore.”
5) Customers with no knowledge of their email accounts
No ifs, ands or buts, this is the biggest issue encountered by service techs at Saxon Office Technology in Morrisville, Pa. “When we do an installation, everybody wants copy, print and scan, and they all want scan-to-file and scan-to-email,” said Al Aaron, president of Saxon. “But our guys can’t go in and set up the email without … customer(s) having knowledge of their email accounts.”
Aaron estimates that 60 percent of Saxon’s clients have no knowledge about their email accounts whatsoever. “It’s been set up by who knows who — somebody’s brother, somebody’s cousin, by an IT guy who’s no longer working with them, whatever it might be. Of course, you’ve got to give the copier an email address like it was a new computer. That’s where we run into a problem. We have to troubleshoot, contact their email provider, find out what their POP server is and who’s this and who’s that so we can set it up. That’s the most time-consuming task our techs encounter at installation.”
6) Software updates
Depending on the model, software updates can occur frequently enough that they become a major headache for the service tech, especially when those updates cause what Russ Jacketti, vice president of sales at WJS Enterprises in Metairie and Baton Rouge, La., calls “unintended consequences” for the customer.
“That’s a term I hate, but whenever you have a software update, things sometimes happen that you or the customer weren’t expecting,” Jacketti said. “I understand there’s a reason for those updates, but they can sometimes cause additional problems, which leads to additional service calls. For example, it may change the layout of the control panel, and that has to be explained to the customer. It doesn’t sound like a big deal, but all of this adds (up) to a service call.”
7) Keeping up with new technology
The faster technology changes, the more that everybody — including service techs in a dealership — must learn to keep pace. “They’re in a constant learning process with new technology,” Jacketti said.
Keeping techs educated can often mean sending them all to OEM training at distant locations, which can be costly for the dealer. That’s why some dealers — like Rick Bastinelli, president of Centric Business Systems in Owings Mills, Md. — spends a lot of time on in-house training of service techs. He’s got a full-time trainer on staff who was originally hired to keep pace with Centric’s growth and the flexibility of doing the training in house. “Manufacturers have specific schools in specific cities (in session) at specific times, and sometimes we need to attend them. But a lot of times we’re able to avoid that by conducting the training on our timeline in our facility,” Bastinelli said. “Our trainer is able to do a lot of the basic training on the architecture of the products that we represent, and in addition to that, all of our vendors have tremendous online tools, and they can do a lot of the training through that method as well.”
8) Having the right car inventory
First-call effectiveness is often dependent upon having the proper parts upon hand. When techs have to service a wide array of devices, ensuring that they’ve got the right mix of parts and the room in their service vehicles for them is paramount. “You want to have the right amount, but you don’t want the cars overstocked because there’s limited space,” Jacketti noted. “If a technician doesn’t have a part or component and … (has) to come back to the office to pick it up, that slows things down.”
9) Weather and traffic
Anybody in a dealership (or any business, for that matter) who spends time on the road can relate to this ever-present challenge. It’s especially frustrating for service techs and service managers because they must navigate those weather and traffic issues to ensure timely service calls. “Weather and traffic can be a real bummer, and you can’t control or predict it in most instances,” Jacketti said.
10) The decline of on-site manufacturer support
This is an issue that Jacketti and his service managers have watched increase gradually over the years. “It’s not that often we need on-site manufacturer support, but it’s become more difficult to get,” he said. “We have a great group of technicians, but sometimes you need that additional support. Manufacturers don’t have as many folks in the field as they used to, or they haven’t kept up with the equipment population. It’s good to have them on site for a lot of reasons — escalation procedures, or for unusual problems the manufacturer may not be aware of, or that warmth and fuzziness customers feel when they realize that the manufacturer has sent someone from parts unknown to take care of them.”
Contact Scott Cullen at email@example.com
This article originally appeared in the May 2013 issue of Recharger.
Scott Cullen is the editor of The Week in Imaging (www.theweekinimaging.com), a weekly online publication, and a frequent contributor to office technology and imaging industry publications, including The Imaging Channel. He has been covering the office technology and office products industries since 1986. When not writing and editing, Scott can usually be found at a concert or sporting event somewhere between Philadelphia and New York City.