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In search of superb service centers.

IN THIS MODERN AGE OF HIGH technology, the average person is under the major misconception that all service centers are created equally. All service centers, however, are not created equally.

Service centers fall under one of three categories-consumer, commercial, and industrial. Consumer service centers repair over-the-counter household items-video recorders, camcorders, toasters, etc. Commercial service centers repair broadcast equipment found in television studios, recording studios, and other places that use high caliber entertainment equipment. Industrial service centers repair security equipment.

Some service centers may cover more than one category, such as consumer/ commercial or commercial/industrial. Since each of these fields is related, it is easy to get confused. Unfortunately, the results of this confusion can be devastating.

Take, for example, John Smith of the Smith Banking Company. John contracted with a company to install a CCTV system in his bank. He decided, however, that his buddy Ron Repair could service his equipment, so he did not set up a service contract with the company that installed the equipment.

The day finally came when John's equipment needed work. John took his industrial time-lapse video recorder to Ron for a simple overhaul and tune-up. After four weeks of pounding his head against the wall, Ron returned the recorder to John, unrepaired. John was stupefied. Ron had the best reputation in town for consumer recorder repair. What could possibly be wrong with his machine that Ron could not fix after four weeks?

Eventually, John shipped his recorder to a qualified industrial service center for repair. Seven to 10 days later the machine was returned to John-in perfect working order.

The bill, however, was more than the original estimate. The service center said that because the unit had been tampered with by someone who didn't know how to balance the on-board computer system, the labor to do the original, simple service was doubled.

The first lesson learned from this example is to be sure you are working with a service center that is qualified to repair your equipment. Most industrial service centers won't even work on consumer equipment.

Locating a qualified industrial service center is as easy as a phone call to the manufacturer of your equipment. All manufacturers have an in-house factory service center or a list of independent industrial CCTV service centers they recommend.

More often than not, independent service centers recommended by the manufacturers have a faster turnaround time and higher quality rating than the factory service center. This is due to several reasons, ranging from stock inventory of repair parts to the attitude of the employees. It's not that the factory service center doesn't want to help, but rather that they are working on larger backlogs of equipment.

But just because the manufacturer recommends a service center doesn't mean you have found the best deal in town. Manufacturers usually recommend service centers they deal with.

Some manufacturers have identified the best of their independent service centers based on past performance and customer satisfaction. Panasonic calls these independents its "Key Authorized Service Centers." Burle calls its top independents "Super Service Centers." These titles refer to the best of the best and usually mean you have been referred to a highly qualified service center where you can be assured top-of-the-line treatment. This does not mean that a service center without this recognition is bad. It just means that the service center may not be the best suited to your needs.

When looking for a service center, most people look for one that is inexpensive, nearby, and fast. Unfortunately, these qualities are not always available under the same roof.

You may, for instance be able to find an industrial service center that is close but has an average turnaround time of six weeks for repairs. Regardless of the quality of repair, the cost, or even the time it takes for shipping, most people cannot do without their security equipment for six weeks.

Perhaps you have found an industrial service center with incredibly fast turnaround times but a lousy quality rating. When you send equipment it may come back fast, but it may need to be sent back several times before a repair is done properly. This can become costly and frustrating.

If you can't judge a service center by distance, cost, quality, or return time, what do you look for? First, I recommend you throw away the notion that because a service center is close, it will save you time and money. It is possible to deal efficiently with a service center that is several states away. What may be lost in shipping costs and time can be quickly regained in quality and repair turnaround time.

The second notion to disperse is that every service center is basically the same. If you thought this about other businesses, we would all be driving the same car or living in the same town.

Service centers can often be judged by gut instinct or feelings that are developed by that first phone call. For example, can the person on the other end of the phone answer your questions quickly and efficiently? Are you given a rough idea of what could be wrong with your equipment based on the information you offer over the phone? Are you made to feel important or at least that your problem deserves attention? Can the person on the other end of the line give you an idea what the turnaround time will be for your equipment based on overall averages? How many customers does the service center have locally or nationally? Will it give you the names of some qualified references? Does the person at the service center come across as though he or she cares?

These questions do not necessarily mean you will receive great service. But if a service center is highly recommended, chances are someone has received good service at one time.

Another indication that a service center gives good service is its documentation. If you call your service center today, can it provide you with a complete listing of everything you have had repaired in the past two weeks, six months, or perhaps three years? If not, the service center may not be keeping proper records.

Documentation can be crucial when you plan next year's budget. What if one of your customers is complaining about a specific camera that constantly needs repair? Although your records should be good, the service center's should be better and available to you at a moment's notice. (There may be a small charge for this type of report.)

Another criterion for choosing a good service center is the center's policy on in-house warranties. What happens if you have a repair done and you find a problem with the unit when it's returned? Will the service center take responsibility for fixing the unit a second or third time? Will the service center offer any compensation for your time and trouble, such as reimbursing you for shipping charges or sending a letter to your client explaining the problem?

No service center, regardless of how good it is, can fix every item perfectly every time. There will always be challenging machines that take two or three trips in before the problem is found. But how the service center deals with the problems is important.

Yet another way to judge a service center is by its attitude toward field help. If you send a unit to the service center and no problems are found, does the service center have enough field or system experience to suggest possible field-related problems that may be causing the unit to fail?

In sum, to choose the best service center for your needs, answer the following questions:

* Is the service center an industrial-rated repair center?

* Is the service center authorized by the factory or manufacturer?

* Are you treated with respect, regardless of your technical abilities?

* Does the service center have a good reputation for turnaround?

* Does the service center have a qualified, in-house warranty program?

* Does the service center have a qualified list of references?

* Does the service center have a qualified documentation program?

* How many technicians does the service center employ, and what are their specialties?

Remember, service centers are there for you. Look hard and be choosy.

About the Author . . . Charlie Pierce is president of LRC Electronics Company and LTC Training Center, both in Davenport, IA. He is a member of ASIS.
COPYRIGHT 1990 American Society for Industrial Security
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1990 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:servicing your company's security equipment
Author:Pierce, Charlie
Publication:Security Management
Date:Nov 1, 1990
Previous Article:Where are the swindled savings?
Next Article:Security challenges in the 1990s.

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