The challenges of technical services excellence

Marc Sanderson

Despite an increasing awareness that technical services excellence can help technology manufacturers create critical competitive advantage, achieving and maintaining this standard remains a headache for many.

Of course, if world-class technical service and support was easy to deliver, everyone would be doing it!

But the truth is that these are highly specialised functions which have very different requirements to the core research, development and manufacturing competencies of many (if not most) technology companies.

Understanding the challenges

Achieving genuine competitive advantage in technical services and support requires an understanding of the specific challenges across a number of facets, including: infrastructure & resourcing; technical capability; service culture; and scalability.

A. Infrastructure & Resourcing

One of the biggest ways in which businesses underestimate the challenge of service and support provision is by failing to take into account the amount (and therefore the cost) of specialist infrastructure and resourcing it requires.

This might mean that workshops need to be configured for commissioning as well as return-to-base repairs, or that facilities for spares inventory, swap-out and demo stock should be co-located for efficiency.

Coupled with this, your logistics capability will probably need to include forward stock locations to support the network of field engineers you will need to deploy to ensure nationwide coverage wherever you are trading.

Forward stock locations for technical services excellenceCaption: Forward stock locations such as these smart lockers are vital to support field engineers (photo courtesy of ByBox)

Engineers will also be required as part of your customer helpdesk team, if you want to operate the kind of technical filter which can reliably and consistently resolve user problems over the telephone. To link this helpdesk facility to the rest of your infrastructure, you will need specialist service management software capable of integrating accounts, stock, customer contract details and service calls.

And, critically, this resourcing needs to be available to cover each of the territories in which you operate and sell.

B. Technical Capability

Without the right level of technical and engineering skills, all of this is really a case of ‘all the gear but no idea’.

Technical excellence is fundamental to technical service and support delivery. A service which is efficient as well as effective needs a range of technical capabilities, from technician drivers capable of managing consumable refills or simple swap-outs, workshop technicians able to commission, repair and upgrade, through to top tier engineers who can diagnose and resolve complex break-fix situations while operating alone in the field.

Of course all of this requires the right recruitment strategy, training (and continuous training updates) and retention strategies.

And remember again, you are going to need customer-facing engineering, technical and service capability in each of the territories in which you operate and sell.

Pulling together for technical services excellenceCaption: Great customer experience requires technical AND service specialists, all pulling together

C. Service Culture

But remember that, at heart, this is all about customer experience. Providing advice, fixing equipment, installing upgrades – these are all absolutely necessary.

But they aren’t sufficient.

Outstanding customer experiences require service skills and culture as well as technical excellence. A great product development engineer doesn’t necessarily make a great service engineer. And of course each day your product development engineer spends on service and support is a day they are not spending on product development – the core business of most technology manufacturers.

More than half of modern service calls, whether maintenance or installation, are about managing the customer and not the technology. However good the technology, any manufacturer or reseller must manage their customer’s expectations and concerns.

Building the right team for technical service and support means recruiting and training people for service skills as well as technical ability. And it also means putting in place specialist processes and infrastructure which support a seamless and frictionless customer experience, from early customer enquiries to rapid and effective after-market care.

D. Scalability

The final challenge is the inherent variability of demand for technical service and support.

Peaks and troughs in demand can be predictably cyclical or seasonal, or they can be all but impossible to predict. Upgrades or software patches can be plannable, or they can be unexpected and urgent responses to problems with equipment.

This makes it difficult to reliably and consistently judge the right level of resourcing for service and support. Too few resources and the customer experience drops during periods of peak demand; too many and profitability is threatened during the troughs.

Achieving technical services excellence

All of this means that getting technical service and support right is difficult, even for a specialist provider.

So how can a technology manufacturer step up to meet these many challenges?

You can read more on overcoming these obstacles with either an inhouse or outsourced strategy in our complete guide to technical services excellence.

Or contact us today to discuss the ways in which Qcom can help you meet your specific technical services and support challenges.

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