Ask before you buy; Service & Support

Service and Support should be one of the most important factor in your purchase.  In fact, having a right support could affect your business in great deal.  And having right medical device support and service isn’t just about having a piece of paper that says warranty either.  In fact, many times people will sell you a warranty without support, which is worse because you’re not getting what you’re promised.  In this article, we’ll discuss what you need to know, what you should be asking, and find out how to determine who has good service & support.

kicking computerIf you purchased an electronic, like GPS of digital camera, service you’re looking for at least for first 30 days or so would be who has best return policy.  [Article: Ask Before you buy; About Company]  Because if your brand new electronic breaks, you’d want to bring it back and return it and get a new one.  And in most cases with small electronics, you rarely have any issue with it after first few weeks of ownership, which makes the concept of long-term support, not very important.

And in certain medical supplies, the same concept applies because there is really no support needed in box of gloves or bandages, you just get another one.  But what if the product you’re considering to purchase is not just a small part of your operation?  What if you’re purchasing equipment that will be in the center of your surgery room or imaging center?  Examples of these devices would be: CT, X-ray & DR, C-Arm, and Ultrasound to name a few.  In an OR, having a working C-Arm is crucial because without a working C-Arm, you cannot do a surgery.  Same goes for a X-ray & DR system at an urgent care facility.

warranty-label-template_mainOften times, when you purchase middle to high priced units like C-Arm, you’ll find out warranty or service contract is written out separately in specific details on your order sheet.  And often times, you’ll run into situation where rep will try to sell you a second year warranty and you wonder, do I really need second year warranty?  [Article: Service contract, worth the money or not?]  And unfortunately, you’ll never find what COSTCO often offers, ‘Lifetime Warranty’.

Who provide the service? 

One thing you MUST remember is unlike other retail environment where manufacturer provides warranty regardless of where you purchased the item from, often times in medical device purchase, whomever is selling you the unit will be your service provider.  This is often because manufacturer doesn’t have capacity of cover everyone at once or they choose not to.  One of the most typical relationship in medical device sales and support looks like this: Manufacturer would sign a contract with a dealer/distributor where manufacturer will provide parts for the warranty and dealer will sell the unit and provide labor.  So this is where it gets tricky for you.  You’re now not only discussing feature and price of the unit, but also negotiating your service contract at the same time.

So… what should I ask then? 

If you find a product you want at price you think is reasonable.  [Future Article: Price of a unit]  Ask them how the product is supported.  In most cases, you’ll hear something simple like ‘It comes with one year standard warranty’.  And that answer should be followed by another question like: ‘Who provides services?’ & ‘What would happen if my unit would stop working one day randomly?’  And this will prompt explanation on how they handle service issues and how skilled they are at it.  Yes, I meant to say skill.  You want to hear a short story of how they usually handle their service issues in a confident tone.  If you ever run into a situation where they’re not sure how to answer that question or they’re nationwide_network_coveragenot confident on how to handle issues, that’s a big red flag.  What you want to hear is something like, we got a technician nearby or we have nationwide service coverage.  Sounds good?  A bit too early.  You should find out if their tech who’s near you have been trained on the unit you’re purchasing.  And you need to ask if the company you’re buying from has experience with the unit you’re buying.  These seem like such an obvious and basic questions but you’ll be surprised how often you’ll hear answer you don’t expect.  And when you ask these questions, don’t let the salesman steer you away without answering them.  [Future Article: Sales Reps]

Once you got this far, congratulation may be in order.  But there’s one last question you must ask.  If you recall, earlier on this article, I mentioned that while your dealer will provide support, manufacturer is responsible for sending you the parts you need.  And we totally forgot to ask about how that works out.  And yes, if you’re used to Amazon Prime, you might think, of course they’ll send it via express mail.  Well, it’s a good idea to make sure that’s true and maybe even have it in writing.  And make sure your dealer is working with a supplier/manufacturer who has a full parts warehouse in U.S.  And when I say full parts, I mean every parts you’ll ever need.  Often times, you’ll see companies only stocking parts that breaks often or common parts they can afford.  And guess what happens when you happened to be a customer with unusual issue?  Have you ever ordered an Ebay item from Hong Kong or China?  They are cheap… but you won’t get them till next month.  [Article: Difference of having manufacturer’s support & presence in your territory (aka. USA)]

‘Ask Questions and be Skeptical.  It’s your right as a customer’

If you ask all questions in this article and listen to their answers carefully, you should have a good sense as what kinds of service you can expect.  If not, leave me a comment or send me a question using form on right.  And remember, if you find someone who offers you comparably better warranty and promises stars and moon, start asking more questions.  Because if I’m shipping everything from China with an overseas call center, I can probably offer you a lifetime warranty.

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