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Many channel partners claim “break-fix” business is dead. But the need for maintenance, service and support for on-premises IT equipment and software is still alive and well. That opportunity can still be monetized without having to make extensive investments in tooling up. Here’s how.

There’s an old joke about getting a great deal on a set of tires only to have it pointed out that you don’t own a car.

Now that cloud computing is becoming the “standard” way companies do IT, and many channel partners deliver IT, it’s easy to forget that customers still do own the tech equivalent of cars — and still need enabling maintenance and repair services. 

IT service management (ITSM) is spelled o-p-p-o-r-t-u-n-i-t-y

While cloud computing delivers “server” and “storage” functionality, and even some processing and working memory services, users still need devices to access those services across the network and actually use them. 

Especially now with many companies’ personnel widely dispersed working from home, the sheer number of routers, modems, switches, access points and other networking equipment devices is enormous. Yes, these residential devices might be smaller, but there are dramatically more of them to be concerned with. Fortunately, far fewer users are dependent upon any one router. Still, when that router goes into disrepair, work stops and someone must restore that ability to work fast.

End-user client devices have also proliferated. Few users only use one device anymore. Most have a desktop computer, a laptop computer, a tablet, a smartphone, wearables or a combination of these. Some even have all of them in use for different purposes and environments. If any of these cease functioning, once again, they must be restored to full function as soon as humanly possible.

As with most problems or challenges, these potential equipment failures represent significant opportunities!

An IT employee performs maintenance on on-premises infrastructure.

You don’t need to be all things to provide all things

Many IT channel partners speak of “break-fix” service as something they would never again be involved with. Truth is that most of us came up from fundamental hardware and software service and support. More important truth? Customers still need those fundamental services. All of them. Their ability to purchase and use your services begins with their having working endpoint technology.

This does not mean you should immediately start building your own break-fix service capability. The old saying is true: You should never try to be all things to all people. But you can supply or provide most things to most people. Simply find someone else you can trust to do the right job for your customer. Well, perhaps it’s not so simple.

Existing alternatives

The first value requiring your focus when planning how to obtain hardware and software service and support for your customers is the all-important value of “account control.” When you bring another provider of any related service to your customer, you must first be certain your subcontractor will respect and honor your relationship with your customer. If fact, they must treat you as their customer, keeping you fully informed on the progress of any and all service calls. Notifying you of completed services and delays as well. 

Before you even become involved, your customer has many choices as to where they will obtain needed hardware and software services. 

Original equipment manufacturers (OEM). Upon purchase, their equipment will come with an OEM warranty, usually openly referred to as a “limited” warranty, and limited it is. Most warranties provide service only during “regular” business hours, assure a fixed response time and then a committed restore time — most often measured in days, not hours, and almost always resulting in nothing more than “best efforts.” When that warranty lapses, most IT managers clutch their wallets tightly in anticipation of enormous warranty extension costs.

Third-party maintenance companies abound. Some make the investments in becoming trained and certified by the OEMs whose products they serve. Others simply do not. Some will integrate and become an apparent part of your own organization. Others will not, insisting to stand-alone from a go-to-market perspective. Some will bill you for services delivered to your customer, allowing you to bill your customer however you choose, letting you maintain full account control.

National/global service networks. Extending the “all things to all people” observation, we include “you can’t be everywhere.” The biggest advantage to partnering with one of these networks is that they have done all the provider vetting for you. When you’ve developed trust with one network, you can extend that trust to some extent to all members. At the very least, violators attempting to interfere with your customers will likely be fewer and further between. 

Authorized service partners are usually competitors of yours to some degree, though many of these will gladly sign agreements to never poach, interfere or in any way damage your customer relationship.

It’s all in the vetting

Similar to having great personnel, the management magic begins with selection. To select the best possible endpoint service provider, you must begin by interviewing the candidates to identify which ones will best reflect you and your company’s quality. Check references. Read reviews. Talk to existing clients. You really are selecting an extension of your company, and your choice cannot fail — otherwise everything else fails.

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