Service Department’s Hidden Costs: Think 411 not 9111 May, 2010 By: Susan Cardot imageSource
Service Department’s Hidden Costs: Think 411 not 911
Business expenses exist in many shapes and sizes: capital
purchases, salaries and benefits. Yet, some of the most critical costs may never
appear on an invoice, statement, or receipt. These hidden costs stem from the
shortfalls of a business strategy that neglects service as a key element of its
organization. Service can significantly impact customer service, brand
reputation, operational efficiency and worker productivity.
With an effective service department, a business
consistently meets its customers’ needs. The right type of support structure
galvanizes trust in the organization’s brand, with strong reliability, and
furthermore, credibility. Service helps businesses work effectively, creating
cost-savings across various parts of a workflow. It encourages and enables
employees to work with firm confidence.
To eliminate hidden costs, businesses need to establish
proactive service practices. In achieving this approach, businesses should
involve key decision makers when evaluating service needs and capabilities. This
includes the input from chief information officers, chief operation officers, IT
managers, end users — even customers. This will provide key insights on specific
requirements, affected aspects of the business, as well as potential areas for
cost-savings and productivity gains.
In today’s economy, access to information is key. As a central driver of
critical business applications, easy access to information enables employees to
work faster with greater accuracy and efficiency. Technology drives new
capabilities, which help businesses to compete and innovate. Technology commonly
includes a consideration and selection of hardware, software and consumables.
When joined together, these individual components represent an entire platform
of connected assets.
Without comprehensive service, technology can become the
source of growing pains and shortfalls. Service represents a major way for
businesses to effectively utilize technology for addressing key issues,
including disaster recovery, business continuity and corporate governance.
Businesses commonly think of their service department as a
lifeline, an outsourced toolbox, or a backup plan. Yet, as technology continues
to evolve from a back-office burden to a boardroom priority, service represents
a critical part of how business gets done. From the installation to maintenance
and replacement of technology systems and units, service represents a primary
If businesses think of their service department as a
hotline, it should resemble calling 411 more often than 911. Effective service
departments require a team of professionals to serve as a resource of
information. This will include technicians, field engineers, consultants and
advisors needed to answer questions, provide recommendations and keep businesses
informed about upcoming changes or critical updates. For some organizations,
this team exists in-house. However, an outsourced team of experts can offer a
valuable advantage, which allows workers to concentrate on its core business.
Think of service as an extension of other business departments. For an
operations department, it means the difference between smooth, seamless output
and a severe logjam. For marketers, businesses rely on service to back the value
propositions stated in an advertisement, or the unique specifications on a
product fact sheet. In a finance department, hidden costs eventually appear—
translating into a balance sheet with results ending in the red or in the black.
Since many costs of an insufficient service strategy are not immediately
apparent to workers or decision makers, it is common for businesses to view
service as a burden to profits, rather than an asset. Service needs to be
integrated into a larger strategy. This requires a comprehensive look at areas
where service can provide value. Uptime is essential. Without capabilities fully
operational, businesses cannot serve their customers. For a service department,
this requires a look beyond instances of the classic “break-fix.” It demands
regular maintenance, expert insight and advice, inclusive coverage of products
and solutions, as well as innovative approaches, such as remote diagnostics and
Resolved customer calls require more than just repair and
troubleshooting. Service professionals need to quickly assess situations and
create lasting solutions. Thorough problem solving requires an examination and
understanding of how individual components can affect the entire business, all
the way to the customer. Uptime also requires rapid response times and fast
shipment of replacements parts, consumables and devices.
As businesses grow, expand and change, service must provide adaptable
capabilities to meet shifting demands and needs. For instance, Kodak Service and
Support develops service packages that provide quality care and consultancy
beyond our own branded portfolio to other manufacturers. In the document imaging
industry, multi-vendor services are often utilized to provide consistent levels
of care, consulting and maintenance to third-party manufacturers’ scanners. End
users will have far more benefits and cost-savings without the need to invest in
additional service teams and training for multiple brands of hardware and
software. Hidden costs often emerge when businesses fail to ensure proper
maintenance of their technology investments. Regularly performed maintenance
prevents unexpected costs, while preventative maintenance reveals potential
oncoming challenges, and with the right expertise it can help businesses assess
areas where new equipment, updated software or a consolidation of components can
eliminate excessive spending and lost time. To eliminate hidden costs,
businesses need their service department to function as a critical backbone. As
a central resource, beyond break and fix, service provides the foresight and
knowledge to keep any business running effectively. Service needs to act as a
sound engine for driving ROI and preparing the foundation for business goals to
be achieved. Service intersects all aspects of a business, and most importantly,
enables a business to maintain strong connections with its customers.
Susan Cardot is the Worldwide Marketing Director,
Service and Support, for Kodak’s Business Solutions and Services Group.