Service Calls

November 10, 2011

Q: Any advice on dealing with service and warranty calls that end up being operator error or a lack of training problem – and the owner doesn’t think they should pay?

A: Well, some things never change. An age old problem, yet it’s never really addressed properly in most companies. First, never apologize for your rates, but do show empathy if operator error occurred. If you do find yourself wanting to do a write down, always escalate the situation and tie any compromise to a future piece of business or relationship building plan.

I just got off the phone with an angry end user complaining that a member of ours who sent them a bill for $375 just to press a button. In reality the site was an hour drive each way, it took an hour of onsite time, the standard rate was $85 per hr and this was on a weekend. OT and mileage was added. $375 was expensive, but very legit. The explanation on the invoice was inflammatory to the person who simply forgot a procedure on a device. It made the operator sound like a complete fool. Make sure you are mindful of the explanation of services on the invoices for this reason.

Know what it costs to “roll a truck,” and never write down the service ticket below that number. Many people think that a write down on a disputed service call should be a percentage of the bill or rate, but it should be based on true cost. It might be okay to not make any money on a trouble call from time to time, but never lose money.

Warranty and training are two separate things. The key on warranty work is getting to substantial completion as soon as possible. Too many of our members let this slide for various reasons allowing the warranty period to extend. Be very diligent about this.

Open ended training time is a problem. People leave, people forget, different shifts, and so forth cause repetitive training concerns. Video can be very effective if done well. I find the best practice is to agree on a fixed number of hours included, not and endless level of training. The blame game is often played in training as it is very common to have this come back as your inadequacy in training, not the customer’s ability to learn. Keep good records for when you provided training, a training guideline and checklist and have qualified people doing the training. These tips will serve you well when properly implemented. — CW

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