Learn how you can create additional revenue plus lengthen the life cycle of products by adding training to your field service support.
Offering training to operate and maintain your equipment can be profitable for you as well as a major benefit for customers. Plus, it’s another lucrative revenue stream for the business. Most companies will stratify their training into several levels.
Level 1 training is generally offered to customers to understand basic operations of equipment and address simple maintenance issues. To be competent at the initial level, customers are trained on equipment operations under various production conditions and the simplest steps to maintain equipment in good working condition. This type of training is typically offered as part of the sales contract where a specific number of training credits are included in pricing.
If customers chose to send more people to basic training, they pay extra. Design your basic training so that it is short enough (just a few days) to entice many customers to attend but detailed enough to give maintenance people a good start. Wherever possible, combine classroom training with hands-on experience on equipment. Basic training will help your customers take better care of your equipment and make it safer to operate.
Level 2 training (advanced basics) may be offered to customers with dedicated personnel capable of performing advanced maintenance or outside people who service your products for fees. This more intense training requires higher level of skills. Training is likely to be a few weeks, depending on complexity of products. Training credits that were included in the sales price of the product could be applied for level 2 training. However, if you want to encourage customers to use your service offerings, it’s best to price this training at a premium. This training is longer and more intense and typically justifies increased prices.
Level 3 training is typically reserved for your own company service people or channel partners who provide the most sophisticated repairs. Very often, this type of training includes electronic and mechanical repairs as well as software repairs. As a result, it is designed for only the most advanced students. Most companies restrict this training for only the top performers and senior FSEs because it can put the operation of your equipment at risk if technical repairs are not done correctly. This is also the level at which your intellectual property (IP) is at most risk. Your company needs to evaluate the risks and opportunities of opening level 3 training to people outside of your organization and especially outside of your country where patents are not protected as vigorously.
Providing real, up-to-date equipment for training sessions may be an expensive proposition; however, the training will be much more effective with the right equipment. While you may have been selling your products for years, the majority of people taking your training are representing companies that have recently purchased new, unfamiliar equipment. They should be trained on what they bought.
Train-the-trainer is a popular approach for organizations that have limited training budgets. With this approach, your company trains one or two people who are designated “super users” in their own organizations and are expected to train others. You will have to choose superusers very carefully for their technical and people skills. “At Markem-Imaje we use a train-the-trainer approach. Our superusers are trained on new equipment for 2-3 days, then they train the FSEs. This works well for us,” says Damon Schingeck.
To avoid having poorly trained FSEs, you can require all service people to pass a certification test. In addition, most companies will charge to certify people, as certification generally involves testing and review by company product and field service experts. These certification charges are above and beyond training fees and become an additional source of revenue.
© 2013 Laura Lowell