He is the first person your customer meets. He is usually summoned at the first sign of trouble. He is your Man Friday and your customer’s ray of hope. You have to always rely upon him and he will always bail you out of many a tight situation. It is time you took a second look at your service engineer.
Expectations and rewards
The maintenance industry typically prefers diploma holders with at least one-year’s experience in electronics or telecommunication engineering as their key technicians. While some hire engineering graduates from any discipline, others take those with an ITI background. For networking projects, companies look for certifications like CNE, MCSE or
Most companies opt for experienced engineers. At the same time they do not forget to keep their doors open to freshers. Some actually prefer freshers so that they can be molded according to their requirements.
Pay package varies for freshers and experienced hands from organization to organization. It also depends on the quality of experience and qualifications. Romit Dalal, Chief Executive, Xpress Care, says, “We look at quality of experience from several angles. One, the nature of jobs the person was handling formerly; second, the projects he was working on; and third, the product exposure he got in his previous job.”
The industry offers around Rs 2,000-Rs 3,000 to a fresher, whereas an experienced hand gets anywhere between Rs 5,000-Rs 10,000. There are organizations whose pay packages go beyond Rs 5,000 and Rs 15,000 for incumbents and the experienced, respectively.
Training the team
Majors in the industry give internal as well as external training to their people. Most of them, who are the authorized service providers for IBM, Compaq, Cisco, Epson, HP, Sharp, Redington, Panasonic and so on, get training from these vendors also.
Most of the maintenance organizations have lots of training programs conducted to enhance soft skills such as customer interaction, management, goal-setting and so on. Nevertheless, some organizations do not believe in any external management training. “Rather than having an external person trying to understand our people’s needs, we would prefer to have an internal person, ” says
Stemming engineer turnover
Maintenance industry majors believe that IT is the only industry that has the highest turnover – about 25-30 percent. Naturally, this has affected the maintenance industry. “If a person decides to leave the organization, there is nothing to stop him,” says Manoj Wanvari of Growmore Computer Services. “But”, he adds, “we resort to incentive-driven measures to check this problem. We provide them with better incentives, mobile phones and motorbikes. We also give them more responsibilities, and make them feel as a part of the organization.”
Maqsood Patel, Country Manager -Services, Thakral Computers Ltd, says, “There is a limit to increasing salaries. Therefore, we also resort to giving our engineers wider exposure to newer technologies. A typical engineer craves for technical knowledge”.
Is poaching inevitable?
All agree to the point that poaching is common. But surprisingly, hardly anyone seems to have experienced this first hand. Some say that poaching is more probable in the case of REs (resident engineers) and facilities management service providers. These are full-time engineers provided to customers only for their requirements. “This kind of poaching has affected our organization thrice,” says
According to Hirji Patel, MD, ACi, poaching is bound to happen in competition and he is all for it. He says, “Poaching is good. Good resources are gained through poaching.”
Keeping pace with time
Maintenance service providers are in a position to provide the benefits of latest in technology for the benefit of their service engineers. They can open various windows of communication, which can facilitate easy communication between service engineers and the customers. For instance, voice mail service after the office hours. There can also be fax lines dedicated only for receiving complaints.
Though some organizations have already initiated these endeavors, more centers have to come out with these facilities. While some have their own mail service, others have online complaint section on their web sites where the customer can just put his name and the number of the equipment to lodge complaints.
In Xpress Care the maintenance engineers have formed a technical e-group to share the experience and knowledge from each other from the field. They share information among themselves using a single e-mail ID.
Technical coordinators or call coordinators nowadays play a greater role in the day-to-day affairs of any maintenance service center. In fact, they are operators who do not know anything about the technical side of things. Usually, they attend the calls and send the engineers accordingly. Romit says, “We call them technical coordinators because they are trained in various technicalities.”
As they talk to customers, they give them online guidance. Romit believes that almost 20-30 percent of the problems arise due to the ignorance of customers. These can be sorted out on the phone itself by the coordinators. In fact, they turn out to be good communicators between customers and engineers.
In the present business scenario, the command and control structure has less chances of succeeding. Also, the days of hiring and firing engineers are gone for good. Today’s engineers want to feel better and flourish. “Apart from the monitory side of things, there should be a human touch to everything”, says Anand Sarnaik of
It is, of course, a healthy trend that now the service centers provide a lot of value to engineers. Hence, it is necessary to provide them a lot of avenues to learn on the technical side. What the management needs to do is empower the front liners who will then take care of customers.
Maqsood says that his organization has adopted the inverted pyramid concept of ‘front liners being at the front’ and the management supporting them, a concept developed by Jan Carlzon of the Scandinavian Airlines, to create a better work atmosphere. In most cases such initiatives are taken because the front liners are scared to take decisions. They tend to do what they are told to do. Maqsood says, “We try not to take any decision, but force them to take decisions.”
Retention of engineers depends greatly on the quality of environment. Enhancing quality of environment essentially includes development of the individual. The management has to perceive whether an individual wants to grow in the commercial side or the technical side and encourage accordingly.
The way engineers interact with customers is extremely important for the success of a maintenance organization. In fact, these are people on whom customers repose their trust. The customer feedback obtained from maintenance engineers is more authentic than sales persons. Therefore, the companies have to ensure that service engineers rise up to the expectations of both, the company as well as the customer.
If an engineer is unable to understand the requirements of the customer, he/she is not going to provide him/her the right solution. On the technical side, the engineer may be very sound, but on communication level he may turn out to be a failure. “Seventy percent of the customers never complain, but they just walk away. When specifically asked, they may complain”, says
Foreseeing the future
According to Maqsood, the trend in service industry is shifting from hardware to software maintenance. The concept of engineers coming down to resolve problems would gradually shift to customers replacing them at field replacement units or at their own place. Tomorrow’s maintenance service need not necessarily be rectification of breakdowns, says
In some quarters, there is a feeling that with the arrival of MNC service centers, the entire scenario looks bleak for indigenous service centers. But, almost all in the industry believe that there is no need to panic.
Even if multinationals have their own service centers all over the country, the indigenous service centers will still have an edge because MNCs want customers to bring their machines to the workshop. Also, most of the MNCs provide service only within the warranty period.
Be it MNC service centers or indigenous ones, the success of these depends on service engineers who can make or break the service business. Giving the engineer his due would go a long way in recognizing his self-worth, which in turn contribute to the growth of the organization that he/she is working for. A service engineer’s needs have to be carefully taken care of since he/she takes care of the organization’s needs.
A CI Report