The role of the technical service


Promoted by ASAP SMF Service Management Forum, it was held at the SCSM-ASAP SMF Research Centre of the Brescia University a convention focused on the present situation and on the future prospects of the technical after sale service in Italy, with the participation of sector operators and of the Service managers of some important enterprises.

Roberto Papeschi

Today the technical service, which is framed in the wider context of the After Sale Service, represents for the manufacturers of technological goods not only a strategic element for the brand visibility and customers’ fidelization but also a business opportunity related to the sale of accessories, consumer products and added value services. On the other hand, the market evolution, with the stronger and stronger presence of the Large Organized Distribution has hindered the direct contact between the producer of the good and its final user, while the general levelling of the performances and of the quality of products according to a market standard, has decreased the perception of the differences among the offers of the various producers. In that context, the demand for the after sale service intervention represents for the finished product industry an opportunity to reinforce customers’ trust in the validity of the purchase choice made in the past, as well as to recover their confidence when some problems in the product use have occurred.

The survey results
Nevertheless, if you want that the After Sale Service is economically sustainable for after sale service operators and determine an image improvement of the enterprise producing the goods, it is necessary that some determinate organizational conditions have occurred and that adequate technological instruments are used, as highlighted by the survey, recently carried out by Asap SMF in the ambit of the activities of the Technical Service Observatory about the present situation and the future sector prospects.
After the introduction by Nicola Saccani, Francesca Plebani of the SCSM–ASAP SMF Research Centre of the Brescia University illustrated the state-of-the art of the Technical Service Centres, reporting also manufacturing companies’ point of view. The research has been carried out through on-line questionnaires, sent to TSC, to manufacturers and their Service Managers, referring in particular to the sector of white and brown goods, of small appliances, of consumer electronics, of thermotechnics and conditioning, as well as of professional appliances.

The vast majority of the interventions executed by service centres is included in the typology of “out of warranty” interventions and are mostly referred to the main assisted brand (60% of the total), while those performed “under warranty” amount to 31%. They are then followed, with 17%, by the interventions of “warranty extension” and finally installations, with 10% of the total. Significant differences of technicians’ productivity have been surveyed in the various fields and for different business sizes. We range in fact from 4.7 interventions/day per operator in the enterprises with 5 employees maximum up to 6.7 interventions/day per operator in the companies with more than 20 employees. Concerning then the reference sectors, the highest productivity was found in the white good industry, with an average of 6.5 interventions/day per operator, irrespective of the business sizes.
The Asap investigation has also reported the companies’ opinions about Service Centres, drawn from the answers of 24 Service managers, who have however shown different strategic visions about the importance of service for enterprises. It has anyway been pointed out that, in most cases, there is a historical relationship between company and network, with a duration that exceeds ten years for over 80% of service firms and even twenty years for over 36% of cases.
In the majority of cases and referring to the last 5 years, it has not been observed a process of concentration, rationalization and growth of centres, whose technical competence has anyway been recognized as satisfactory by about 70% of companies, unlike the managerial competence deemed satisfactory only in 30% of cases. On the whole, the network has been deemed more efficacious than efficient.
Finally, as far as the centre structure is concerned, a scarce level of technicians’ computer knowledge has been surveyed, as well as of computerization of internal processes, in particular concerning the management of orders and final balances. Numerous areas of possible improvement have been then indicated, including the aspects of accessibility, offer of services and use of technologies.

The prospects for the future
Even if the context is considered difficult and about half of the interviewees expect a decrease of revenues, there are some people who believe that a growth of revenues and employees is possible, especially among those (30% of the sample) who achieved good results in 2012. Optimism prevails especially in bigger-size service Centres.
The forecast is naturally opposite for the future, considered in dropping phase both for revenues and for the staff by those who attained a negative result in 2012 (47% of cases) and by small centres, which have minor growth opportunities and difficult investments in enabling technologies. 11% of TSC, in fact, are not planning to make investments, while the average amount of those who invest is 13,000 Euros for 2013, mainly allocated to equipment for repairs, office and software facilities and for the replacement of transports.
Concerning the answers given by companies, we deduce that Service managers foresee a substantial stagnation (45% of cases) or a gradual reduction (32% of cases) of the number of Centres, whose average size should remain unchanged (68% of cases) or will grow (18% of cases). In 50% of cases companies will maintain their relationship with the service network unchanged, while in the remaining 50% of cases a structural rationalization or a network upgrading are expected.
The reports presented by ASAP were completed, in the course of the convention, by several speeches by the Service managers of manufacturing enterprises, including Samsung Electronics Italia, Ariston Thermo Group and Epson Italia, as well as by owners of Service Centres.

– the reference sample included 487 enterprise of which 236 TSC of Northern Italy, 124 TSC of Central Italy and 127 TSC of Southern Italy and Isles
– More than half of these enterprises employ less than 5 people, with significant differences depending on the geographical area
– One third of the companies have been recently established and the best represented fields are constituted by heating and white goods
– half of the sample registered a revenue drop in 2012/2011 and only 35% their rise
– 57% of served customers are only or prevailingly private
–  58% OF TSC work on Saturday and 8% on Sunday, too
– About half of the sample has no Internet site
– Direct marketing actions have been undertaken in 56% of cases