Today, almost half of all healthcare providers rely on service agreements purchased from the manufacturer to maintain and repair their medical equipment. Salespeople may promise the moon and the stars in order to make a service agreement sale. However, in many cases, a customer’s expectation of what they thought they purchased is not always in alignment with what is actually written in the service agreement. One area that often falls into that category is response time guarantees.
Equipment buyers are greatly encouraged by the salesperson to buy a service agreement at the time of instrument purchase. They will explain that a service agreement will make it easier for your organization to plan for annual maintenance and repair charges. Several large, unexpected repair bills can wreak havoc on a healthcare organization’s annual budget, making it a valid reason to buy the agreement. Nevertheless, be wary if the salesperson tells you that you should purchase the service agreement because only service agreement customers will receive guaranteed response times for repairs. If you have been told this, here are some important questions to ask before signing on the dotted line:
Is it in the Service Agreement?
It’s important to seek clarification on any terms and conditions that are difficult to interpret. If a guaranteed on-site response time was offered to you, it should be mentioned and defined within the service agreement. Verbal promises not in writing, lead to unhappy service clients. Ambiguous phrases such as a target response time of X hours, a service goal of X hours, or preferred scheduling of service should be questioned and defined further.
Do they have adequate support?
You may have been told that service agreement customers receive priority for all service calls. Corporate restructuring has forced many manufacturers to reduce their workforces in order to improve profitability. It is important to ask if the service organization will have adequate technical support in your area to accommodate a guaranteed on-site service response time. If you are going to pay more for expedited service, a reduced workforce may hinder the promise. Ask what the typical wait time is for a service call in your area.
What is their definition of “Response Time?”
Depending on the manufacturer, the definition of response time guarantee can vary greatly. In some instances, it can be fulfilled by simply returning a phone call or sending an email. It is important to get the service organization’s definition of what they consider a response. This will dispel any myths and curtail any unrealistic expectations that may arise.
What if they break their promise?
Does the agreement include a penalty if the service department fails to meet the response time guarantee? In most cases, excessive delays or unsatisfactory repairs does not give the customer the ability to terminate their agreement without penalty. It is rare to find a service agreement that penalizes the service organization for not meeting their response time guarantee. In some cases, a credit to the service agreement renewal is the customer’s sole remedy.
When you buy a service agreement from the manufacturer, you are contractually locked into using that manufacturer’s service technicians, whether they provide good service or not. You have essentially eliminated any competition for your business until the agreement expires. Without competition for your business, a service organization can lack the motivation to meet your needs and improve the customer experience. Take the time needed to weigh your organizations needs and set aside enough time to do the necessary research. Asking the right questions before paying top dollar for a guaranteed service response time will help to eliminate confusion and frustration down the road.
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