Rugged handheld support

I was going through our blog this weekend and realised that we’ve not talked about rugged support for some time so today I wanted to focus on what options there are, what the trends are and what people ultimately do when buying rugged handheld support.

Support options

So firstly of all what are your options in the murky world of service and support? Well i’ll make it nice and easy for you, no matter what the products are they usually break down into the following 3 or 4 major products.

Manufacturers warranty

Right at the bottom of the pile, there’s the free manufacturers warranty. Usually 12 months, this is the basic warranty that ensures the hardware you bought performs in the expected manner for the expected time.  It’s not really a service product and if you value your business you need to be doing something more so never rely on basic warranty as it’s only aimed at the hardware, and isn’t a tool to keep your business running, and here’s why:

  • Warranty only looks at your device in an isolated manner.
  • warranty claims are slow, usually taking 3-4 weeks to get anything resolved.
  • Issues are not usually warranty related and manufacturer based repairs are also expensive.
  • You normally need more than 12 months cover.

Extended manufacturer warranty

So why not use extended warranty?  Well the answer is that it addresses none of the issues above.  Sure you get the odd main board related failure dealt with at 18 months but it’s still slow, and has all the other issues mentioned above.  What do you do if you crack a screen and what does you business do whilst your devices are being repaired?

Warranty with an SLA

You’ll find that warranty but with an SLA is what many customers are looking for these days. However manufacturers don’t tend to like running this type of product as they’re looking to upsell (See below).  However Warranty with a 5 day SLA and access to inexpensive repairs is a model that works for many customers who don’t fancy spending a huge lump sum up front for s service product that they may ever use and it’s probably our most popular product we sell here now.

Comprehensive Service

This is an all inclusive style of “service” product that makes an attempt to give customers a TCO (Total cost of ownership) usually over a 3 or 5 year period, although 2 years is usually the offer on less expensive rugged smartphones with shorter development turnaround times.  Very much like your own iPhone type insurance product, this level of service basically gives you an all you can eat cover for anything that goes wrong with your rugged handheld, including accidental damage like screen breaks/drops.  It also usually uplifts the repair time to a 3 day span so you’re getting devices back in a 5 or 6 day time frame.

These service style contracts come in all shapes and sizes. Watch out for the caveats and the abuse clauses because they do require a degree of responsibility from the customer and the contracts do have some small print but by-and-large they give you peace of mind.

The catch is that they’re expensive, usually about 30% of the cost of the device itself and you have to pay up front, if you use it or not.  The SLA still essentially leaves you without a device for a week.

Swap out

Or as we call it “spare in the air!” Is becoming more popular as a 24 hour replacement service because it’s a lot faster and also doesn’t leave you without a device for any period of time either as you send the faulty unit back in when you want to. It’s an easier process too and is certainly becoming more popular with smaller, cheaper rugged smartphone style products.  Beware of some catches here too though! The swap outs are not brand new, but reconditioned units and often you have your own pool of devices that are used for the swap out pool so you still need to look after your kit.

The other negative is price again which is more expensive still and again you have t pay up front for a product you may not need.

What’s best for you

This really is the $60,000 or £60,000 question in our case and it really does depend on your users, the task the rugged PDA’s are being used for and also the choice of rugged devices you make.  What I can share with you is some things i’ve seen that don’t work!

Make sure you don’t use your support cover to buy into a cheaper, unsuitable device.  We’ve seen some customers think “Great we can buy that cheaper device, buy the service for 2 years for £140 and then send anything back that fails,” thinking they can send back 10% of their estate every month with no hassles.  Here abuse clauses can come into play, not only on the amount of service you are expecting but also due to the device not being suitable for the task at hand so anything water damaged and dropped from height was simply being knocked back as unrepairable and quite rightly so in my view!

Another customer I had the misfortune of dealing with was one that would not use the screen protectors on the devices but expected a new touch screen replacement every 2-3 months. Again here the device was considered user abused and the repair was not accepted.

Rugged handheld support trends

So just what are customers doing these days?  Well 4 or 5 years ago when Motorola first launched their service from the start product I’d say we had a 50%+ number of customers took up the service, but today it’s a lot less and don’t let anyone fool you into thinking it isn’t.  Sure there are still customers paying £1000+ for their devices who have a mission critical model and they want to protect their investment and the business they’re running and usually over a 5 year period. These guys are very suitable candidates for a service based contract.

But, and it’s a very big but!  The mobile world is changing and dragging the rugged world along with it, whether it likes it or not.  Everyone is going mobile now, its not just about supermarkets, big companies and couriers any more.  So the trend is that people want less expensive devices, that do more, but they want to change them more frequently.  Software further fuels the issue for hardware as it has never allowed businesses to innovate and update more so hardware needs to change with it. So the whole market is becoming comomditised and by definition service becomes less of an issue.

Add to this businesses and their users are getting a lot more savvy with mobile kit.  Everyone has a smartphone now so the rugged Handheld at work is no longer looked at, at some kind of witch craft they’re forced to use any more!  People understand mobile these days and so they have expertise, a little bit of common sense and knowledge to keep their own businesses running.

Businesses aren’t going it alone though, they still need help, advice and resellers with deep knowledge and great relationships with manufacturers.  But they don’t want to be tied in to expensive contracts that they might not use or have the bit they value only available through buying into something they don’t value.

The morale of the story here is that the reseller is ever more important but in a different way. Make sure you buy kit that is loved, understood and you can talk to someone when it goes wrong.

About The Author

Dave's one of the founders of Raptor, his rants are memorable, his thoughts are stimulating and his heart is set on helping, entertaining and making things like mobile, Android, ruggedness, 3D printing and IOT simple.

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