Retailers who sell big ticket products that include a service contract, or have ongoing maintenance requirements, know that they need to have a system in place to manage the service part of their operation. This includes both preventative maintenance programs as well as regular repairs. Since there are often spare parts that need to be ordered, or there are labour charges involved in the service, it makes a whole lot of sense to tie your service management system into your POS. Better yet, service management should be an integral component of your POS.
In some retail operations, the only real margin comes from service. So, it makes sense to manage your service desk as effectively as possible. So, what needs to be in place in order for your service operation to be managed effectively? Let’s start with the obvious stuff.
Track a Unique Item
Sometimes a regular UPC code isn’t enough. UPC codes typically refer to a product – not a specific instance of a product. What does the heck does that mean? Well, if your customer bought a $1500 racing bike that they’ve ordered and customized to meet your needs, then you want to make sure that the bike that comes back from the service department is the one they bought and not another one that just happens to have the same UPC code. So, if you have a service desk, you need unique serial numbers for each and every individual product – not just the generic UPC. You need to track the washing machine, flat screen TV, computer or guitar that you sold to a specific customer.
Customer and Product History
In order to track a particular item that was purchased by a particular customer, you need a customer database and a product database. When I speak of a product database, I don’t just mean a generic inventory management system that keeps track of how many Brand X bike’s you have in stock, I mean a database that keeps track of the Brand X bike that was purchased by John Smith in February two years ago. You’ll want to make sure that bike gets back to John Smith and you will also want to know if there have been issues with that bike in the past. Have there been a lot of issues with that bike? Well maybe it’s time to invoke a warranty claim with your vendor. Or maybe you can add value for your customer by teaching them how to take better care of their gear.
This is very obvious but let’s say it anyway: when the customer drops off their $1500 racing bike, they want to walk out with evidence that you have their gear and when you left it with them. Your system needs to be able to generate a receipt for the customer that ties them to the product they left with you.
Instructions for the Technician
While we’re still on the obvious stuff, you need to be able to leave instructions for the person or people who are doing the work. You need to leave them symptoms for troubleshooting, specific instructions to swap an wearable part for a new one, notice of a rush job, etc.
Another great reason to tie your POS to your service desk is that you will often need to order parts or pull parts from inventory in order to deal with the maintenance issues at hand. At this point, you want to be tied to the system that creates PO’s, receives PO’s, pulls items out of inventory, and knows how much to charge for these replacement parts.
If the customer wants an update, you should be able to pull up the notes in the system and find out when it’s scheduled for repair, what parts you’re waiting on, when they are due to arrive, what problems your technician encountered, etc.
When it’s all over, you need to charge the customer for parts and services. If it’s a warranty situation, you need to be able to make the claim to your vendor. If it’s on you, then you’ll at least want to keep track of the number of hours and cost of parts that it took to complete those repairs. Again, this is the most important reason to have your service desk tied to your POS system.
A Deeper Dive
Okay, I think we’ve covered all of the obvious stuff. Now let’s take a look at some of the things that you may not have thought of that can really impact the degree of satisfaction or dissatisfaction that results from your choice of system.
A good search tool will allow you to look up items, customers, vendors, and service history in the fastest manner possible. You want to be able to search by a variety of methods. For example, you may want to be able to search by customer name, phone number, service ticket, etc. Or you may want to search by product code, serial number, product description etc. Extra time searching results in lost money and lost customer satisfaction. Make sure you spend the time to explore your system’s search capabilities before you buy. You will definitely thank me for this one!
Customer Updates – more than the basics
A modern system should also be able to give the customer some idea of costs. Again, that requires a tie in to the POS and inventory management system. It would be really nice if you could email your customer with status updates that are directly generated from your system. This feature should be standard in a modern solution.
There are occasions when a retailer will send the repairs to another shop (for some retailers, that would be 100% of the time). Your system should be prepared to manage the process of subcontracting to a vendor.
Think of the value of knowing which technicians are your best performers. And let’s go even farther: if you had a system with a flexible report generation tool, you could watch to see if certain technicians excel at certain types of work. You could do a more effective job at scheduling and assigning jobs. You may also be losing money if jobs are taking longer than estimated. It will be more difficult to find out how well you’re doing if you don’t have a good reporting system.