Peer Exchange Moderators Share Lessons from FEDA Annual Conference

Among the sessions at the FEDA Annual Conference in April were two peer exchange discussions that provided attendees with an interactive way to digest a topic and determine how it related to their business. Drew O’Quinn, vice president at Thompson & Little, led a discussion on warranty work, startups, and performance checks; while Michael Keck, president of Concept Services, moderated a session that covered tech recruitment and training, priority dispatching for large customers and chains, and creating store opening parts kits for select customers.

As a follow-up to those peer exchange discussions, FEDA reached out to O’Quinn and Keck to complete a Q&A that builds upon their topics.

Drew O’Quinn (photo right, center):

How can dealers learn how service agencies operate and work with them to eliminate pain points?

Dealers need to look at our service agencies as partners. We both service the same customer, the end user. We both have the same end goals in mind, which is to get the kitchen equipment up and running properly.

Dealers should consider making a sales call to the service agency to build better communication and a partnership. Maybe have a lunch-n-learn at the dealership to discuss the working relationship? Dealers and service agencies need to understand each other’s pain points, and identify them, so that we can better understand what each side is going through.

Just ask! Ask your service agency what they enjoy and do not enjoy about working with your dealership.

What were some of the best out-of-the-box ideas discussed during your session?

There was a lot of great discussion during the session, and many good ideas were suggested. Here are a few of the talking points from the session:

  1. Dealers cannot always expect the service agency to get to a job in one or two hours just because the service call is labeled “hot.” Service agencies get booked up and cannot be everywhere at once.
  2. Dealers need to give the service agencies better information when placing a service call. Always have the model and serial number, as well as specific issues happening with the equipment. Also have a contact person and address for the location of the call. Lastly, let the service agency know the best time of day to perform the service, or if there are restrictions on the time of day to enter the facility.
  3. Service agencies should always communicate with the dealer for which they are working. When service agencies communicate with the end user onsite first, it can often lead to misinformation and lack of trust from the end-user side if the service agency doesn’t talk kindly about the piece of equipment being serviced.
  4. Service agencies should provide realistic expectations for when they will arrive for service. The dealer rushes off to tell the end user what time the service company committed to being there, so if it doesn’t happen, it makes the dealer look foolish to the customer.
  5. Manufacturers should always have the most popular parts on hand and ready to ship out for service calls. Dealers, and service companies alike, should not have to wait on parts that are in high demand, which ultimately provides poor service to the end user.


Michael Keck (photo below, standing-right):

Why was your session important to FEDA members?

Every dealer has their opinions of the service industry. Who doesn’t get frustrated when service techs are unable get to your customer on the day you called for service, even if you called it in at 2 p.m.? We scratch our heads when we get invoiced for three hours of drive time and one hour of overtime for a warranty call for a customer repair that was 75 miles from their office? Who hasn’t dealt with the aftermath when you learn the field tech told the customer the equipment they are using is, “a piece of junk”?

Just so you know, the service industry has a few complaints about the dealer industry. Yep! I said it and its true! Every time we call for service, it’s an “emergency.” Then we get angry when the tech can’t get to the call when we want them to. Dealers tend to make promises or commitments to a customer before consulting with the service agency, and when the tech is unable to resolve an issue, they find themselves in a tough spot. The expectation that service techs carry every part known to man on their truck is unrealistic. Dealers and the end users tend to believe every call ends with resolution. In the real world, it doesn’t work that way. Basically, service agencies tend to feel they are unfairly criticized due to the ignorance of processes and procedures and unrealistic expectations of dealers and end users.

Rather than continue to complain about the challenges, let’s do something about it. The service industry is open to discussion. They want things to be better, just like we do. Their leadership team has great ideas. We have great ideas. It’s time we put some action behind the words.

What about your topic may surprise members?

After my discussion with CFESA board members [last March], it became clear that one of the main reasons the dealer/service tech relationship is challenged is the basic lack of understanding of how our respective industries operate. I want to encourage the leaders of our respective organizations work together to understand how we can create new lines of communication, new revenue streams, and employ new initiatives that will be implemented at the local level to improve the overall end-user customer experience. This requires open, honest and candid dialogue and solutions at the leadership level and at the local level between the individual dealers and the service agencies in their market space.

What are some things service agencies want dealers and distributors to understand?

  1. Service agencies want the dealer community to know how things really work at their organizations. Not how dealers want them to work, but how they have to deal with dispatching techs, overtime, parts, warranty work, startups, tech recruitment and training, etc. 
  2. Service companies want to do installations. They plan to show how having a certified CFESA tech perform the installation can avoid costly repairs and service calls.
  3. Service companies struggle with long distance drive times - especially for warranty calls. It costs them money and, even more importantly, time. They told me they sell time. So anything we can do to help them save time is a big deal to them.
  4. Service companies are interested in exploring performance check services as an added value service that dealers can sell and support.
  5. Service companies are open to discussing priority dispatching for large customers and chains. They confirmed, as a group, with some cooperation that this could potentially be a nationwide program.
  6. Dealers need to explain the issues we deal with regarding service so service agencies can better understand how we work. Bottom line…it is all about setting expectations.
  7. Dealers tend to approach every service call as an emergency. However, common practice is first come, first serve when it comes to service dispatching. We need the service agencies to figure out a way to address urgent calls first and address less important calls in between. This may mean the service agencies front-line personnel need to ask more questions. Maybe they can spend a little more time trying to troubleshoot the problem over the phone. Maybe they need to understand the customer is a priority chain customer and they move closer to the front of the line.
  8. End users need better solutions when it comes to replacement parts. Expediting parts should be standard practice for certain end users and chains. Manufacturers need to work with the service agencies to ensure parts inventories are up to par, and non-inventory parts must be readily available and ship overnight as a rule. The exception should be ground freight.
  9. Service agents must get better at establishing expectations when it comes to arrival time and final completion of a repair. We want to avoid the cable guy scenario as much as possible. Late arrivals and no shows make the dealers look really bad.
  10. Dealers, service agencies and manufacturers can explore the idea of creating store opening parts kits for select customers. This could be an add-on sale for the dealers and ensure parts are available for replacement in the market.
  11. Everyone agreed that service techs should refrain from expressing their negative comments and opinions regarding equipment and products to the end user. This is a major challenge for everyone involved. CFESA knows this is a legitimate issue and it deserves to be discussed in a bit more detail.