Knowing When It’s Time to Fix – and When It’s Time to Replace

You can probably almost hear Kenny Rogers singing, “You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em” with respect to the game of poker; well, virtually the same rules apply to the equipment repair “game” as well. Sometimes it will be best for the customer to have the equipment fixed, and sometimes they will be better advised to replace either the entire unit, or just certain components of it. In most cases, however, it will be up to you to provide them with the proper “argument” for doing “the right thing” – and this will not always be easy to do.

We have all likely experienced what is commonly known as “the first car syndrome”. That is, after we have scrimped and saved for years to buy our very first car, we soon learn that every once in a while, we will still need to replace one part or another. First, it may be nothing more than replacing one or more worn-out parts, such as brakes or tires; but then, before we know it, we are spending more money than we could have imagined to replace a thermostat, carburetor, various hoses and, ultimately, even having to pay for a rebuilt transmission.

At some point, undoubtedly, we arrive at the conclusion that had we known we were going to need to replace all of these major components over time, we probably would have traded the car in for a new one – or at least a “new-used” one – months, if not years, earlier.

An ancient Greek riddle goes something like this: “If a ship is built of 10,000 planks, and 1,000 different planks need to be replaced every year for 10 years; after the 10 years, is it still the same ship?” However, a better question to ask would be, “If the ship requires so much maintenance, shouldn’t you really have traded it in for another ship already?”

The same logic also applies to business systems and equipment; however, in today’s highly technical and economically downturned business environment, it may be even more difficult for customers to consider trading in their existing equipment than it would be to consider trading in their aging car – or wooden ship!

Your company’s Sales and Services support teams will usually be in a better position than the customer to determine whether a specific piece of equipment merits repairing, or whether it is truly time to consider replacing it. This is particularly true for your field technicians because they are the primary ones who physically work on the equipment, monitor its performance, evaluate its service history, and (hopefully) understand how the customer uses it on an ongoing basis.

However, while this “experiential learning” may make them more knowledgeable in most cases than the customer, it does not necessarily make it easier for them to convince the customer that now may be the “right” time to consider upgrading or replacement – even armed with increasingly detailed call activity and remote diagnostics reports, etc.

What will make it easier to convince the customer that now is the time to “take the leap” is their ability to match the specific unit’s service history against both the customer’s anticipated usage, and your company’s product and support specs for newer lines of equipment. Perhaps your company has a formal “Return-on-Investment”, or ROI, model for determining the financial and/or economic benefits for either keeping or trading in existing equipment for newer models.

However, even if it does not, the field technician probably already has all of the information he or she needs to make an educated determination as to whether or not it makes sense for the customer to keep the equipment, or upgrade to something else that will ultimately save them money, handle greater capacity or throughput, and reduce equipment downtime in the long run.

Then, of course, there is always the matter of knowing when to cross-sell, and what to upsell. We’ll be talking about that in some of our later blogs.

Until next time – keep your customers satisfied!

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