This article is the first in a series uncovering service and support for Rugged PDA’s. We take a look at the main differences between a service contract (support) and manufacturers warranty.
Most Rugged PDA’s come with a 12 month warranty so what is warranty and why do you need more?
The key difference is that warranty is designed to protect against manufacturer defects. So if there is a genuine fault with the device that has come about due to manufacturer or design of the device then its covered here. What a lot of people forget with rugged equipment is that they are still complex pieces of electronic engineering and they do go wrong from time to time. If we take our number 1 problem device right now, the Motorola ES400 we are sending these back with loose stylus holders, non-working GSM radios and even a scratch on the LCD that are all covered off under warranty. Basically if the device has a fault, then it’s covered under warranty.
So what does a Service or Support contract add?
The short answer is a lot more! For a start you usually don’t pay for any labour costs, and parts and accidental damage and wear and tear are often included. It takes away the debate of whether a 9 month old device failed due to a warranty failure or wear and tear. You also get increased SLA responses. We’re seeing non-service warranty only repairs hitting 20+ days with many manufacturers with 10+ being normal. A service contract brings this down to 5, 3 or even 2 days. There are many more modules you can buy depending on who your service is with and we’ll talk about these later in the week but essentially;y with a service contract, everything is covered, TCO can be worked out far more easily and, bar theft and abusive use of your contract, you are pretty much covered for anything.
When is it a good idea to add service?
The short answer is with line of business applications now pretty much all being moved to Mobile in some way, it’s rare that a service contract will not add value to you. However you do need to be careful that you have the right level of service for your needs and this is where the reseller’s own repair centre and services will come in to their own. Manufacturer service products are great but they’re not for everyone and you often need help using and managing the use of them. One thing I will add here is also to look at your users, your environment and especially account for any outsourced workers or a solution that is also seeing some resistance by your users. If you have any risk, then get covered with a service contract.
When might it not be a good idea to add service?
We genuinely have customers that have used PDA’s for years, have great users and an environment where they simply have very little risk of breaking. For instance one customer of ours has had 1 LCD crack in 18 months in an 80 device estate so, whilst hind-sight is a wonderful thing, we were correct in not selling service in this instance. We have other customers who simply prefer the up front cost saving or can more easily budget for ongoing work opposed to larger up front costs. We still see a lot of mobile experienced users who prefer the repair route but with improved SLA’s as they already have a good idea of their likely repair bills.. We also have customers who simply do not have the money. We like to remember we were small and cash strapped once, it’s where innovation comes from and sometimes these guys need some help.
A shift from hardware to business thinking.
What I think is important with the service is to shift your thinking from a pure hardware one to a business focussed one. We rarely sell service to an IT or accounting type, it’s always the business bods or management who see the value. The burning question here is to put a value on the business applications that you are running on your Rugged PDA’s, try to assess the pain lost devices will cost you, weigh up the risk of how this can impact your solution and then that extra £5 per month more might seem a lot better value in the face of a service that’s down and costing you £5 per minute. I gave an example of someone who didn’t need service above, however we also have customers that are clearly intending to run major line of business applications on their Rugged PDA’s but either do not value service or worse still simply think they will bully us into helping when the worst does happen. It never works out well in this case.
Hardware Repair is not everything
Don’t forget that day to day simple repairs will usually run to plan but you will encounter a lot of issues during your Rugged PDA usage. You’ll need help with firmware, OS images can go wrong and there will be many issues in the software and SDK area of your devices. Not to mention account management and someone who can talk to you at a service level and also understand the manufacturers and even pull strings with them will be worth their weight in gold. Just because you buy 100 devices from a reseller it doesn’t mean they will be able to (or even want to) help you out after they get their hands on your money. Always ask what service your reseller brings to the party with or without Manufacturer based service contracts. You’ll be very surprised, some practically never pick the phone up to you again, some give you their mobile phone numbers. The difference in service is stark, find someone who wants to help and can help.
Don’t belive the hype!
Too many manufacturers are getting on the Service bandwagon with very little understanding of what individual customers actually need. I think proof of this is the lower and lower costs that we’re seeing for some service products. My final tip is to always make sure you’re talking to a reseller who is not pushy about service but is still very knowledgable. See what they think and always ask if there are any PAYG type of products that could be the answer for you. Like I said in yesterdays article, service is a tricky one to sell because none of us have a crystal ball. The answer in a nutshell is how much you value the business your rugged PDA’s are running and how much you need to ensure it.
The hidden pitfalls and last tips
Firstly we’re seeing most manufacturers resisting warranty repairs with vigour. In fact some even seem to have a “Told you so..” attitude that is clearly a company line as we hear it too often from too many people. Be warned that for certain larger manufacturers the cost of a non-service covered or out of warranty repair is going up significantly, £300 for an LCD repair seems to be our general quote for Motorola so be warned.
Parts are also an issue and I personally think one of the most compelling reasons to have a service contract is that parts are guaranteed for the life of your service contract. The MC55 is a great example of this. It has only just been discontinued, but for anything out of warranty we are already starting to struggle for parts. If you need key parts replacing then its going to cost you.
Software and firmware is also an issue with some manufacturers now not even giving essential firmware updates for their non-service customers. We have genuinely had to go out of process to get hold of firmware for some devices even when they are clearly faulty in our view. It all adds to the risks though.
Personally I think this is the wrong way to go. I think you can view this as manufacturers adding risk in an effort to sell their own service products and if they stopped to listen to us they would find a whole bunch of customers that need something different but that corporates for you!
Tomorrow we’ll take a look at what kinds of services you can have when buying a support contract.
The Rugged and Mobile blog.