Although not as flashy as some other product-specific features, the warranty on a specific piece of foodservice equipment plays a critical role when an operator makes a purchase.
That’s because the warranty represents an insurance policy for foodservice operators, assuring end users that they are not alone once they take delivery of their foodservice equipment. But during a time when each member of the distribution chain faces growing pressure to keep in line or even reduce operating costs, the way manufacturers and service agents interact when it comes to warranties threatens to add another layer of expense to the system.
Generally speaking, warranties are important to most every member of the foodservice equipment industry. They represent the manufacturers’ commitment to their customers regarding the way in which the factories will support their individual products, for a specified period of time, once these items are in the field. If handled correctly, warranty and general service work can minimize costly down time for foodservice operators, enhancing their productivity and generally allowing them to have a positive experience with a specific piece of equipment or a brand.
For these reasons, every member of the distribution chain, starting with the factories and working all the way through to the foodservice operator, is developing an even better understanding of the importance of warranty and out-of-warranty service.
Online tracking of service data has improved the service agent’s ability to provide value to both their operator customers and the equipment manufacturers. By collecting the data associated with a service call we can track specific pieces of foodservice equipment by model, serial number, voltage, and actual service details. For foodservice operators, particularly those with multiple units, this data allows them to track life cycle performance for specific pieces of equipment. Manufacturers sell to distributors, so tracking and collecting this level of life cycle data once a piece of equipment leaves their factory can be challenging if they try to go it alone. Service agents provide them with invaluable field-level data that can help the factories understand how well their products are actually performing on the industry’s front lines. All in all, the data the service agent collects is invaluable data for everyone involved with the sale and installation of a piece of equipment but we are not collecting and handling it in the most efficient manner.
The way the system is structured today means the service agent has to enter all of the data twice: once in our system so we can get paid and once into the system administered by the manufacturer’s third-party service provider who tracks all of their warranty claims. At this point, our systems can’t exchange data so it basically takes twice as long to process warranty claims because it’s double the work. This represents an added expense the service agent is not recouping at the moment.
Sooner or later the cost of double entry is going to show up on the service agent’s warranty rates billed to factories and generally charged to foodservice operator customers. Someone has to pay that bill. Service agents and manufacturers can take a step to help avoid passing these costs along to foodservice operators. The thought here is to work together to develop a technical standard that guides the way both sides collect and administer warranty information. That way, no matter what third-party solution a factory uses to administer its warranty service, everyone involved can send and receive the same data using this standard format. Doing so will allow the service agents to have a single point of entry for the data, saving valuable time and expense on the street level. And during these times when no member of the foodservice industry can afford to not lower costs, this seems like a natural step we should all take together.