Hardware support needs fixing up

Providers of technology maintenance and support services need to deliver more streamlined and connected services if they are to survive, writes Glyn Doddin

Whilst the majority of the changes in technology have been positive for everyone, I feel there is a real issue for the technology support industry.

We’ve seen great strides in technology innovation, but the way field service engineers are deployed to service products has not changed, which in turn has led to an antiquated approach to servicing technology in a variety of sectors. We have ended up in a field service industry which does not always put the customer’s needs first - hampering not only satisfaction but reducing any value that can be added in servicing technology.

When compared to wider technology development, the break fix market has fragmented, only progressing in each distinct element of the service supply chain – the diagnostics and scheduling, parts, logistics, triage, repair and field service. Although these have all developed in their own area, the result has been the formulation of silos, leaving the industry fragmented and confused with little or no accountability.

The advancement of the industry is emerging as an issue now because technology products have been simplified and the need for traditional, high-end engineering skills required in the field is diminishing - almost to the point of extinction. The result is that continued market pressures are pushing the legacy fragmented technology support - the service supply chains - into a non-competitive position.

This has come to a head as customers no longer require high-end expertise to repair retail, hospitality or print technology; the priority is to replace the unit in the shortest time possible, ensuring an immediate return to productivity at the lowest possible cost. 

There are three key components that have put this service provision into a state of flux:

The first major issue in the break fix market is the price structure of hardware maintenance support.  We’ve seen hardware technology commoditise, which has changed the perceived value of product hardware and the way that it is serviced.

The second component (and possibly a result of the price pressure) is the accelerated silos of multiple suppliers throughout the supply chain, increasing the number of ivory towers and the chasms that exist between them. The number of suppliers and subcontractors involved in a single IT hardware support has culminated in fragmented, confused and complex supply chains.

The third and probably one of the most key issues, is the price of engineers, as service suppliers can no longer afford skilled field service engineers to respond to low level incidents.

It’s clear that the current technology support model is not fit for purpose. We all talk and think about putting the customer first, but taking a bird’s eye view, it seems no one is designing these services with customer satisfaction in mind.

The solution? In my opinion, the delivery infrastructure needs to become more streamlined and connected. Redesigning the interaction between each element of the supply chain will breed high-quality service. Technology support will then profit from a lean, customer first service supply chain, once again adding true value for the customer.

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