As part of Rugged PDA Support week here, today we’re looking at typical service contract offerings and also looking at what else you can typically talk about with a reseller, repair centre or manufacturer.  This article is designed to get you to understand what you should be getting, what everyone else is tending to buy and how flexible we can be with any individual demands you might have.

Repair/Service market Shifts

A few years ago we all tended to use repair centres, then came Motorola “Service from the start” which was an attempt to bring back service into the manufacturer fold and away from the repair centres that were deemed as not delivering quality.  At the time I remember welcoming this myself as we often had to rely on competitor resellers repair centres to perform repairs and you just know how that story went…  These days I’m not so sure though as I think its key to open source your products more these days but that’s a story for the last post in this series on Friday.

Basic Manufacturer Offerings

So first came SFTS and the rest then followed!  The key here is that whether your buying Intermec Medallion, Motorola Service from the Start or any of the manufacturer offerings you’ll find the following key modules offered.

  • Improved SLA – Means you get your device repaired quicker.
  • Comprehensive Cover – Wear and tear, accidental damage all covered.
  • Postage back inclusive
  • TCO price – so all parts, labour and materials are free.
  • Improved phone/email support.
  • Access to Firmware, updates and apps.  belive it or not, you don’t get these without a service contract with some manufacturers.

What Else you can have

This is what we feel you should also be at least thinking about on top of the above, some can be upgraded on the manufacturer offerings, most have to be delivered by your reseller:

Account management – I cannot stress enough how important it is to have someone from your Rugged PDA reseller on hand throughout the life of your project.  At the least you’ll need some training and help to understand what you have bought and how to use it, however a good account management service will also be there for more complex issues as well as being able to help and guide on where you could improve on your service needs.  Our top level customers here also get access to a pro-active services which are designed at stopping your platform going down rather than reacting when it does.

OS Reloading and software services – Designed to send out devices to your users ready to go with your applications pre-installed on them.

Spare-in-the-air – Sends out a “pool” device as soon as an issue is logged.  Your broken device is then sent in and repaired but your platform is kept running.  This can be further enhanced with a Drop off/collection service.

Postage inclusive – This is very country dependent but there are services that can include your postage offering a full TCO solution to your service.

4th time replacement – Replaces problem devices with a new one where issues repeat or cannot be resolved.

How-To’s and Help – Do not under-estimate these are the most common questions asked by new customers.  Easy access to device specific information is often critical in getting you up and running.

Training Services – Bespoke onsite days where a trained expert will come out to you and your users and help them use their device and service solution.

Managed RMA/service – You can go direct but often a managed RMA service is what your users need.  This takes away the problems faced logging calls as we practically do it for you.

Accessory repair – most aren’t covered, most aren’t repairable, some are though!

There are many more we do here, we’ll leave for Fridays discussion though.

Some things you need to know about

I cannot emphasise this enough.  If you don’t buy service from the main manufacturers then they will not guarantee parts availability to you.  We used to bask in 7-8 year device refresh times in the rugged world but these days 2 years is not uncommon as manufacturers try to keep up with the latest technology demanded by customers.  This means even the most popular models can go end of line, and parts go AWOL within a 6 month period.  Buying a service contract will g’tee your devices will be fixable for the term you buy it for.

The SLA is also a point of contention for us.  I personally come from a Mission Critical 2 hour repair to fix background and so an SLA with no penalty or committment is not worth anything to me.  The SLA on most (if not all) manufacturer offerings is for simple repairs only and is used as a guideline only.  If they miss the SLA, and they often do…tough!

Abuse clauses.  They all have them, we do too and they are there to stop abusive customers spoiling it for everyone else.  However just be careful as it can be easy to get on the wrong side of this and not all manufacturers are equal.  It really does pay to have a reseller who stays committed to you and can help you out when these issues are hit.  The most common abuse knock backs are:

  1. Claiming too much too quickly for example too many cracked screens in a month and you will get picked up.
  2. If the device has been clearly mis-treated then you’ll have to cough up.
  3. If its unrepairable then you have to cough up.  Being run over by a forklift often kills devices in this manner!
  4. If the device has been clearly used out of specification then you have to cough up.  A classic here is devices dropped in swimming pools or devices coming back in bags in 30 bits after being dropped 30ft up a ladder.

OK, so I hope that helps, if nothing else it should give you a better understanding of the pitfalls and what kind of service products you can have.  Tomorrow we’ll look at the trends in the rugged/mobile service, where we think it’s going, why some manufacturers are wrong and what we’re doing to remedy this.

The Rugged and Mobile blog.