When many technology companies are broadening their scope of services, one of the most common is hardware organizations providing IT Support Services. At first thought, this may not seem like an easy transition. The technical requirements may appear to be very different. Let us take a look at the reasons why this transition seems to make so much sense.
Well-Developed Support Structure
For the past 60+ years, office hardware companies have had to develop extensive support structures to properly attend to their customers' needs. The hardware products have changed, but the need for service and support of those products has not. These organizations have decades of experience in providing their employees with the right tools, training, and support to continue to elevate their ability to meet customer expectations. Competition in this space has been fierce for many years. Organizations cannot survive if they do not provide excellent service and continue to look for ways to improve continually. Technicians have also had to expand their capabilities as expectations for the skills needed continue to involve.
Existing Response Time Expectations
Hardware support organizations have become accustomed to customer's expectations going from days to hours to now, possibly minutes. When a client cannot print, scan, copy, or fax, they cannot wait for the support vendor to arrive when convenient for them, they need uptime immediately. The imaging industry understands that "response time is king." If these companies cannot respond in less than 2-4 hours, they could lose customers. Numerous industry organizations measure these factors and compare them to hundreds of others across the country. First Call Effectiveness, Response Time, and Calls on Hold for Parts are measured continuously against other industry organizations to improve continually.
Experience in the IT World
For the past two decades, hardware support organizations have understood how to interact with the IT world. The first office connected products began to bridge the gap in computers and imaging/printing devices. Since that time, the world of these two areas is continually overlapping. Today multifunctional devices do more than just print paper and scan documents. With applications currently available, the MFP is widely considered an "onramp into the companies network." Multifunctional devices are a vital tool to; create an office with less paper, support Digital Transformation, create Automation and Process Improvement and provide the ability to improve Business Intelligence. Hardware providers now need to have the capabilities to seamlessly connect to a client's network, integrate with databases, and utilizes a customer's Active Directory. These capabilities can no longer be supported by personnel that can turn a wrench and replace some gears. Support must have training programs that continuously improve their people's training to stay aware of new developments and changes. Many hardware technicians are required to achieve level 1 and level 2 IT Support Certifications to have the ability to care for network issues affecting their equipment.
Security is the Key
Cyber Security is a non-negotiable for most organizations currently. Every organization is experiencing an increase in phishing emails that are no longer from individuals but come from automated programs that learn your behaviors. You do not have to look hard to find stories of ransoms paid to get data back or never recover at all. Companies today spend large amounts of money protecting servers and firewalls. One of the areas that frequently gets overlooked is the susceptibility of peripherals on the network. Printers, copiers, scanners, and even phones are infiltrated as a way around those expensive firewalls. Hardware organizations have been addressing these concerns thru a variety of methods. Closing open ports in devices, setting schedules for overwriting hard drives, and incorporating "whitelisting" to ensure no black-market software is loaded on these devices connected to the client's network.
Large Current Customer Populations
Most hardware support organizations have, at minimum, hundreds, if not thousands of customers. Many of these relationships have spanned numerous decades. These support organizations have grown and evolved with their customers thru the years to truly understand where they have come from, where they hope to go and what challenges they incurred thru this journey. Customer service and retention is a core focus to support organizations in this area. The industry expects that you need to go over and above customer expectations to protect the relationship.
At first thought, it may seem that hardware and IT support organizations are mutually exclusive. As we have discussed here, the line has become blurred if not erased. As companies use less paper, work remotely, and become more dependent on technology to communicate, organizations must adapt to stay relevant. Thought challenging at first, the decades of experience, structure, and measuring against industry standards will show that they can and will provide the same generous support that their customers have come to expect.