Recently, I have had some experiences with OEMs that have puzzled and disturbed me. I feel that being a customer guarantees certain benefits I can depend on with technical support being the most important. My recent experiences indicate that the benefit may be gone. However, I have found another solution that is just as good.
When I started in this industry, I used OEM tech support to help solve difficult equipment problems. I remember a time when tech support would walk you through common problems and even some circuit analysis to help get the equipment up quickly. Tech support helped me prevent the cancellation of procedures and the unnecessary movement of patients many times. I am sorry to say that my experience lately has been the opposite.
I received a call from one of my techs; he requested my assistance with a repair of a laser. After a short exchange of ideas, I decided to call tech support to find out if they could help. We were under pressure as the surgeon had a full day scheduled and did not want to reschedule patients. I called the OEM, after a 10-minute wait, I finally was able to speak to a technical support service representative. I explained the problem to the person and asked what she thought. She said it could be a bunch of different things and that I needed to have a service rep come in and look at the laser. I tried to explain to her that we needed the laser today and that any quick checks would be appreciated. She would not help. I was very frustrated and could not believe that this company adopted this sort of procedure to handle a customer’s problems.
Another common issue that occurs now, when I need technical support, is that a company will require a purchase order (PO) to charge the consult to even before answering a single question.
I know technical phone support costs money, but I feel, especially in the medical field, that it is part of the cost of doing business. I would think that if a company is going to sell a product that they naturally would build in phone support. I guess now if it doesn’t generate profit it doesn’t have a priority.
However, thanks to the power of competition third-party parts companies are stepping up to solve this problem. I was pleasantly surprised when I attended the 2019 ICE conference and discovered the number of third-party vendors making tech support available to anyone who purchased their parts. Some even provide tech support to customers who have never purchased anything from them. All this boils down to a new support mechanism for the biomed tech.
I know some are skeptical of the depth of knowledge some of the third-party suppliers have, and if they really know what they are talking about. What I found is most of these third-party companies have former-OEM employees working for them. As I spoke to them, it was easy to tell that these guys know the product as well as the OEM and they are eager to help us.
In the end, it is a win-win for everyone. Third-party companies are more customer focused, will provide tech support and have better prices for their parts. They want your business and are willing to work for it. I don’t always feel like OEMs are willing to work for our business. I would recommend that the next time you need tech support that you give one of the third-party parts vendors a call for some help. A good place to start looking is in the TechNation and ICE magazines.
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