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By Petra Popp
Your diagnostics equipment business is growing in leaps and bounds. And no wonder—BCC Research reports that the global market for in vitro diagnostic (IVD) products is growing at a rate of 6.7% and should reach $102 billion by 2022.¹ The faster your diagnostics equipment business grows, the harder it may be to deliver the level of service your customers expect. The right service support partner can help you keep pace with growing demand.
Here are six essential criteria to consider when choosing a partner.
Service support overload: the unexpected price of success
Like most IVD equipment businesses today, chances are your state-of-the-art equipment is being used by an increasing number of customers, in laboratories all over the world. And those customers expect superior support. Especially during periods of rapid growth, you may discover that because of a limited service organization your company is stretched to meet the demand for servicing sensitive and complex IVD equipment. And if these are instruments that absolutely require preventive maintenance throughout the entire product lifecycle, then that growing service demand can quickly become a problem that won’t go away on its own.
A small and growing business often lacks the infrastructure or personnel to meet customer service demand. Instrument downtime translates directly into lost revenue, which directly impacts profitability. In-house customer service departments can rarely scale easily, build out repair parts stock, or have the processes and resources in place to meet a sudden spurt in geographical coverage for their customers. Meeting that kind of demand is cost-prohibitive for a smaller business.
Advantages of service support
Customer service can be a critical competitive advantage for your company, provided that it is implemented well. A study from market research firm Gartner showed that 89 percent of companies expect to maintain a competitive edge mainly on the basis of customer experience.
A service support partner can help ensure that customer service does not suffer as your business scales up. Having a partner take care of service allows you to ensure the continuous high-quality operation of your products, protecting your hard-earned reputation in the market. In addition, a knowledgeable and reliable service partner will help extend the life of your products and provide predictable cost of ownership.
How to choose the right partner
If you decide a service support partner is the best option for you, how do you go about choosing one? What makes a good partner? What is most critical for ensuring that your instruments are serviced properly and cost effectively? Having answers to these questions will help protect one of the most important aspects of your business: your reputation.
Here are six important criteria to keep in mind when choosing a service support partner:
1. A sufficient infrastructure
Ensure that your partner has a sufficient infrastructure and processes in place to handle the full range of likely service support challenges. That includes:
- Service capabilities, qualifications and certifications that assure maintenance will match your high-quality standards
- An organizational structure robust enough to deliver the support reliably, day in and day out
- Service management and delivery processes that are tried-and-trusted, but also flexible enough to align with the changing needs of your business
2. A well-trained field force
Trained service personnel are key. Complex IVD instrumentation often requires engineers and preventive maintenance specialists who can quickly troubleshoot issues and make the necessary repairs with minimal downtime. The bottom line is that it pays to check whether your potential service support partner has sufficient training, expertise and bandwidth to respond to any need.
3. In-depth knowledge of your products
It is critical to have a service partner that really knows your products and can offer you customized support rather than taking a one-size-fits-all approach. With knowledgeable field engineers at the ready, you’re more likely to see a proactive response to service issues, carried out with minimal disruption to existing processes and workflows. A partner with real insight into your products is the best guarantee of quality over the longer term.
4. Rapid response time
Keeping diagnostics equipment in peak condition is essential in the IVD industry. Physicians depend on timely results to make effective clinical decisions especially in the emergency department, where the results can determine whether patients are admitted to the hospital, discharged, or held for further investigative tests.² Accurate lab test results are also critical to the safety of organ transplants, as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) makes clear.³
When IVD equipment fails in scenarios like these, service response times must be particularly rapid, often within a matter of hours. This means that service support must be on hand with 24/7 availability. Not being able to manage that level of urgency could jeopardize the quality of your products and services, causing customer satisfaction levels to plummet. Laboratory turnaround time is considered one of the most important indicators of work efficiency in hospitals.
5. Global reach
As your business grows regionally and globally, you want to be able to focus on the many business challenges to expand your reach. A large and experienced service partner with a wide geographical network can take on the responsibility of ensuring customer service, so there is one less item to check off your list.
Sophisticated instrumentation requires the experience of those who know the precise performance requirements in order to preserve quality and functionality. Ideally, you need a partner with experience of maintaining thousands of instruments globally—a partner who will be familiar with the wide variety of problems that can arise in the field.
Evaluating potential partners
Smart businesses invest in customer service to stay ahead of the competition. Sometimes service support provided by original equipment manufacturers (OEM) can be the way to go.
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1. BCC Research, In Vitro Diagnostics: Technologies and Global Markets, Jan 2018. Retrieved from https://www.bccresearch.com/market-research/healthcare/in-vitro-diagnostics-technologies-and-global-markets-report.html
2. Sorofman, J. (2014, Oct 23). Gartner Surveys Confirm Customer Experience Is the New Battlefield. Retrieved from https://blogs.gartner.com/jake-sorofman/gartner-surveys-confirm-customer-experience-new-battlefield/
3. Transplant Safety: Donor Screening and Testing, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Jan 30, 2019, retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/transplantsafety/protecting-patient/screening-testing.html#anchor_1547480047
4. Khalifa Mohamed; Khalid, Parwaiz, Improving laboratory results turnaround time by reducing pre analytical phase,PubMed (2014, Jan 1). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25000018