Chris Atkins, SSCS Service Delivery Manager, U.S. & APAC

In recent weeks, both Mark Havens (VP, Sales & Marketing) and John Kolkmeier (Director, Global Service Deliver) have shared blogs directly addressing “Service Quality” as a differentiator from the current market of Third-Party Maintainers, which many of us prefer to call Independent Hardware Support.

Both of these fine gentlemen explain that the most critical elements making up Service Quality include:

• Parts & Logistics (Mark’s blog), and
• Communications & Tools (John’s blog)
• Technical Expertise (soon to be published)

In addition to what they’ve already shared with our readers, for me it boils down to three simple “service style” traits that you want to be look for in an independent support provider:

• Collaboration
• An incredible sense of urgency about responsiveness
• A humble willingness to loop in the right parties to find the best solution, ASAP

Imagine the scenario you’ve likely witnessed when the software tech argues that the issue resides within the hardware. Simultaneously, the hardware tech argues that the issue is not the hardware, but instead the software is the root cause of the problem. Even though you’ve likely seen this and have some disdain for the memories, it is abundantly clear that neither party had the appropriate level of urgency, nor were they approaching the issue with the correct levels of humility. Real collaboration should never be permitted to reach an impasse.

The very best experts in hardware troubleshooting are not quick to find blame, or point too soon to that which is not their responsibility. Instead, they remain committed to collaboration, seeking new information or supplemental expertise, and then ensuring that information is shared quickly.

No one field engineer can be all-knowing. Nor, is it likely that backline support (Level III or Level IV engineers) can be all-knowing. Humble willingness to involve the expertise of others is critical to establish the urgency needed. From my perspective, whether a CE from the OEM, or an FE from an independent provider, you’ll see two extreme ends of the spectrum: An over-confident FE, or a CE that won’t even bother to think without involving the expertise of others and/or following established protocols/routines. Both extremes have a negative impact to your mean-time-to-repair and represent no sense of urgency to you and your team.

The only way to know whether you’re going to experience these style traits is to make some slight adjustments to your vendor vetting. Ask to interview the field engineers and their managers prior to signing the support contract.

Chris Atkins, SSCS Service Delivery Manager, U.S. & APAC

Chris has been directly involved in hardware break/fix support since 1981, and during the last 20 years working specifically in the independent hardware support industry (also known as Third Party Maintenance or “TPM”). This is his 12th year with SSCS and moved up from field engineering responsibilities to the SDM role about 7 years ago. In the early days of his career, he worked for Burroughs Corporation, one of the few manufacturers building and selling mainframes. Today, Chris oversees Service Quality standards and response management throughout the U.S. and is back-up for service delivery management in the APAC region.

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