When shopping around we place value on price but how do we value technology service and support?
We are all guilty of it: searching for the very best deal on technology online. It is like a game or competition sport where the end game is to WIN! We then bask in the warm afterglow of shopping well done! But does the cheapest price or best deal ultimately cost us more than we bargain for?
I love a good technology bargain as much as anyone. When it all goes well everybody wins. But when something goes wrong you often find yourself on the road to hell trying to rectify problems.
The reasons for this are manifold: supplier is actually overseas and is not bound (or doesn’t feel they are bound) to our consumer laws, the supplier is using grey import channels rather than going through the legally appointed responsible distributor or agent, or the supplier doesn’t invest in training or technical staff to provide the required support, or the turn around time for a replacement is weeks rather than days. Other suppliers may be after a quick churn with very low margins and import their stock without care and attention to Australian laws around electrical interference or electrical safety.
It is a requirement by law that all electronic equipment must have an RCM or C-Tick label placed by a responsible supplier. This ensures the device or power supply is safe and wont burn your house down. The label allows the authorities to track the supply chain in case a product needs to be banned or recalled – and we all want to know any device we purchase is safe and managed and from a responsible supplier! Also note that grey imports usually will not have an enforceable warranty in this country.
So it seems fairly clear – the costs of support, distribution, and Australian regulatory compliance are going to add margin to any technology product. If the device arrives with one of those flimsy plug adapters or there is no C-Tick or RCM label on the device or power supply it is probably a grey import or has been supplied from overseas. With technology devices this may also mean they are not compliant with radio emissions, software licencing, and may be dangerous!
Technology Service and support
As a technology supplier we are often asked to support products purchased elsewhere (cheaper) after the buyer realises the instruction manuals are missing, in another language, or the seller does not respond to support requests. As much as we would like to help everyone we would quickly go out of business supporting sales that we did not make.
On the flip side we support all sales well past the warranty period and are always available to our customers.
Support usually starts at the quote stage where we will look at each customers specific situation, often investing considerable time and knowledge providing a workable proposal, and a reasonable percentage of those prospects will convert to customers based on our support. Of course there is a proportion who take that support and purchase elsewhere, and here is the thing: some of those people then expect support for the new product from us! We politely decline and send them to their supplier – every time! Other than the obvious reason for declining support there are also issues around whether the product is safe and compliant with Australian regulations which could lead to a claim against us if something should go wrong.
As a customer you should know that the best price may not equate great value. If everyone buys from the grey importer on an auction site because it is cheap then the value adding (support) sellers will disappear. Knowledge and expertise takes time and experience and this is a cost that must be realised lest it disappear for good. Of course everyone at this point says but why should I miss out on the deal? The answer is: what personal risk is involved in the deal and at what cost?
In summary: technology products are complex and require specific knowledge to install, setup, and operate. Cheap supply is only possible when costs are reduced somewhere in the chain. In most cases costs are cut from the support and compliance areas of sales and post sales and service. Warranty is usually held by the supplier and is costed in the margin so if the price seems too good to be true it probably is. Buyer beware!