In my last two columns I have talked about building your personal brand and keeping a good reputation, and the importance of good communication skills when dealing with customers. These are essential to being a successful imaging engineer. Because your customers see and talk to you more often than anyone else in your department or company, it is also important to recognize that you are "the face of the company;" you represent the company or department for which you work to them. This can be a difficult part of the job, and is even more challenging if you work outside the office most of the time. That is a reason good service managers make an effort to keep field employees connected to the company or department, through conference calls, meetings, company events and communication such as newsletters.
Because your customers see and talk to you more often than anyone else in your department or company, it is also important to recognize that you are "the face of the company;" you represent the company or department for which you work to them.
When you have gained a level of mutual trust with your customer and converse with them on a regular basis, you may find that they trust you enough to tell you things they probably wouldn't say to anyone else in your department or company. If they share personal or confidential information or rumors with you, my advice is to keep it to yourself and try to keep your conversations on a professional level. If what they share with you is business related, then you probably have an obligation to share the information, or at least an expectation by your boss to do so.
If they complain about something like the uptime of the scanner(s) you service, your company, or the performance of one of your coworkers, use your customer service communication skills. Acknowledge their concern and ask them what they want you to do with the information, and/or tell them what you believe you need to do with it. Try to be objective as possible and not take it too personally, the same as you would when probing the customer about a problem with the scanner. You may need to ask questions for clarification and to get additional information, such as dates and names. At the least, you probably need to pass the info to your supervisor. If their complaint has to do with safety of the scanner(s) and could possibly result in patient injury or death, it must be reported to a regulatory authority. (FDA in the United States.) If you work for an OEM or ISO, there should be a complaint handling procedure for you to follow and notification of proper authorities would be done by a designated person as part of the process.
In my experience, the best salespeople realize and recognize the value of the service engineer's relationship with their customers and nurture a team approach.
Sometimes the customer tells you about plans by another hospital or clinic to purchase a scanner, or something going on with their facility that constitutes a sales opportunity. Typically, because of the relationship you have with them they are much more likely to say something like that to you as their service tech, than to the salesperson. Often, when you ask them, they will tell you it is OK to pass that on to someone in sales. If they are concerned about the salesman hounding them to death or say they don't want the salesman to call on them, I would report that to my supervisor and possibly to the salesperson's manager. If you know the salesperson well, you might be OK telling them what you found out. Most salespeople are thick-skinned and want that kind of feedback, and know how to handle it so that your relationship with the customer is not damaged. In my experience, the best salespeople realize and recognize the value of the service engineer's relationship with their customers and nurture a team approach.
So while most of us servicing scanners typically don't have some of the traits generally associated with sales people, such as charisma and charm, we often are the company or biomed department to our customers, and we will hear valuable information from them that needs to be passed on.