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Pandemic Wake-Up Call for Repair Businesses

New normal

An estimated 300 million electronic devices are repaired every year globally. At least some of these will remain in a state of disrepair — some forever — because of the restrictions that have shuttered or slowed down most repair shops during the global pandemic.

Unsurprisingly, not all governments see repair businesses as being an essential service, and this is likely to have a detrimental impact on the environment. Closed down repair shops have made it difficult for users to fix the devices they need in a lockdown.

Not to mention the millions employed by or running repair businesses. If technicians and service managers could travel to work, the challenge then was to to keep the workforce healthy.

Repair centers also had to find ways to manage customers with restrictions on the number of people who could walk in for a repair. It became a logistical distraction that took away important working hours from the actual repair process.

Apart from the obvious restrictions, the pandemic caused more problems for the repair industry. A 2021 market report found that the US, the UK, Germany, Italy, the Middle East, and India all reported an increase in labor costs due to shortages. In many cases, it is too expensive to repair all devices that can be repaired.

The answer is neither revolutionary nor new. A digital platform can intervene to improve much of this.

Digitizing the repair business

You’d expect the ICT repair and service industry to be among the most digitized. It’s not. And, while it’s unlikely that we’ll face a similar pandemic, the advantages of digitization aren’t limited to managing an emergency. It’s just a better way to do business.

Software as a service (SaaS) is the future of work management. There’s a custom solution for every sector. The repair industry doesn’t have to rely on a generic ERP solution anymore. Fixably, for instance, is developed to make ICT repair as efficient as possible.

From intake to inventory, custom macros, data management and customer communication, every feature is tailored to make the repair process that much better. Considering the cost savings, there’s a legitimate business case for adopting platforms that meet unique requirements.

Consider Apple Authorized Service Providers (AASPs). When running an AASP, Apple has tight regulations regarding repair and service. They set the rules on quality and customer experience. Global Service Exchange (GSX) is then how Apple supplies AASPs with parts that are needed for repairs. If GSX is not integrated into the repair management software, it results in inefficiencies and increases the number of errors.

The tech industry is also changing to ensure repairability in line with changing legislation. For instance, major device makers, including Apple, Samsung, and Microsoft, have now decided to adopt France’s new repairability rating law. The European Commission is set to discuss eco-design regulations for smartphones from 2021, including access to spare parts and repair information.

A repair workflow that benefits your customers

This is why a specialized platform like Fixably exists. At its core, a repair management system must understand technical work and must be ahead of industry needs.

For example, Fixably customer MacRent, an AASP in Sweden, switched platforms just before the pandemic. So the whole process was managed remotely, a huge benefit of cloud services.

“We actually started using Fixably the second day after the APIs and the Apple tokens were in place,” says Noah Gibson, CTO. “Considering that we launched a new workflow for one of our biggest revenue streams in one week, I think it went really well.”

It went well because the software was designed to be an integrated solution that understood the repair workflow, rather than redefine it in impractical ways. Then there are macros that can be set up to reflect the most efficient workflow for your business and integrations that keep repair documentation on one platform.

“One thing that technicians really like is that they don’t have to use the GSX portal to create repairs anymore,” adds Gibson. “With GSX integrated, you have all information on parts available within the platform. You just add a part to the repair via the integration. It’s also easier to track repairs.”

What integrations offer is a pipeline of data that flows through all the services you use. Most modern SaaS solutions have a rich API that makes it convenient for customers to plug it into their workflow. Fixably is no exception.

The gains are not just in ease of use. It’s saved work hours and increased productivity. Let’s take the GSX integration as a feature. Switch, a Premium Service Provider in Belgium, was sold on the idea because of it.

“Before, we had to go into GSX, look up the serial number, go through all of the steps set up by Apple and then copy and paste that information from GSX into our system. That was maybe a minute, a minute and a half that we saved per service order and we do about 40,000 of those. The calculations added up.”
Sven Busselot, Operational Services Manager, Switch

“It seems normal now that we’ve used it for a year. It seems normal to be able to have a unit and a serial number and order the required part all from within one system,” says Sven Busselot, Repair Services Manager at Switch.

“Before, we had to go into GSX, look up the serial number, go through all of the steps set up by Apple and then copy and paste that information from GSX into our system. That was maybe a minute, a minute and a half that we saved per service order and we do about 40,000 of those. The calculations added up.”

These improved efficiencies will have a business impact at any point in time, but even more so during a pandemic that has caused disruptions across the industry.

This is just one example of optimizing the workflow. Sven’s estimates showed that they were spending only a third of the time on the repair platform after moving to Fixably. The technicians were spending far too much time on documentation and other administrative tasks while doing repairs.

Managing customer expectations

The most visible disruption, though, is the impact on customer service.

A repair is a transaction that begins with an anxious customer. Something is broken and needs to be fixed. It’s usually a device that features daily in the customer’s life. Understandably, they’ll appreciate clear communication. But not all repair shops can put in the extra effort needed to do this.

Fixably automates a big part of this and a repair shop now has the opportunity to provide regular status updates with minimal effort.

“Being able to send an email or a message (SMS) from within the service order itself, and receiving a reply within the same workflow so that the technician can move on, that got our attention,” says Sven.

“The communication functions raised MacRent’s CSAT (customer satisfaction) score by about 10 percent or so. To be able to automate that, it saved a lot of time and gained a lot of customer trust through communication.”
Noah Gibson, CTO, MacRent

It’s had a measurable impact for customers.

Sven explains the estimates he made for Switch’s operations: “We get between 1,000-1,200 calls a day. About two years ago, that was the last time we checked, 70 percent of those calls were service-related. And most of those would be about repairs. ‘I have an issue with my iPhone or laptop. What do I do? Do I come to you? Which store? What are the prices?’ Things like that.

“But there were also calls about the status of repairs. And it’s something that was very important for us because I did some calculations. And if we could divert most of the calls to a customer portal, we would save a lot of money and a lot of work.

“The customer can track the repair — ‘I agree with the quote. Can you send me some pictures? What is the status?’ — that direct connection impacts our customer care center. Now we see that there are fewer calls.”

This, obviously, also means happier customers. “The communication functions raised MacRent’s CSAT (customer satisfaction) score by about 10 percent or so. To be able to automate that, it saved a lot of time and gained a lot of customer trust through communication,” explains Gibson.

This satisfaction extends to the actual shop experience as well. Gibson says that MacRent has a check-in macro for the front desk. “Since Fixably helps us register a service request quickly, there’s a smaller queue — which has been great especially during the winter.

“It’s quicker for the customer to come in, leave the unit and get out. Without Fixbaly, we would require more time with the customer for things like writing everything down, copying and pasting this information, and so on.”

The future of repair and service

Post the pandemic, market reports estimate that the cost benefits of repairing old equipment, rather than disposing of it, are expected to drive the consumer electronics repair and maintenance market.

Global consumer electronics repair and maintenance market is expected to grow from $15.11 billion in 2020 to $16.44 billion in 2021. Ironically, the report attributes this growth to companies rearranging operations while recovering from the impact of the pandemic restrictions.

Research also suggests that device manufacturers are now shifting their approach, with new laws encouraging them to build products that are relatively easy to repair.

In any case, with the right tools, a repair and services business can rebound from a tough year. Fixably could be that tool.

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