Once the king of the industry, local service, is now, unfortunately, a very undervalued commodity … until something breaks. This is incredibly true in the Plastic Card, Photo ID Industry. A complex business, with intricate printer technology, that is utilized highly by Universities. Universities that rely heavily on these machines create ID cards that aid in running many features of the campus. So when a machine inevitably has a hiccup, or worse, and requires service to get things back online, the local, highly-skilled, regional depot service technician arrives on‑site the day they are called to help. It should be as uncomplicated as this.

Service and support is a notion that should be this simple; received on-site with knowledgeable engineers and prompt response times. For local depot providers, it is merely providing the customer or University with the highest quality service available, and quickly. However, some national-level card and card printer technology companies, without even a local or on-site presence, are adopting new add-on service models for their larger University clients. These national add-on models superficially appear to be more desirable and offer additional features that current local service models do not. In reality, the features of both the national and local models are essentially the same, with one major difference. The local provider actually has a technician in the area that arrives on-site and eliminates steps in what can be a frustrating, stressful process to begin with. Declaring desirable features of the local model to be less than that makes one wonder, is there something to this? Or is it merely an interestingly crafted marketing spin on an already existing local service model that the national companies haven’t seemed to be able to capture before now.

National suppliers implementing this “new” service model appear to only recently be identifying the stresses and wait times card offices can experience when a machine goes down. This is a fact local and regional service providers know intimately already. Local integrators already do everything in their power to keep wait times down with same day, on-site arrival, and next day completion usually being the norm. However, in an increasingly instant gratification-based society, set by today’s fast-paced culture; not having an immediate solution, or having to wait for a part from a manufacturer may leave things feeling drawn-out for a customer. National providers are jumping on this, by labeling these necessary, unavoidable wait times as “lengthy”, which is interesting, especially given that that the national service model requires its technicians to fly out of headquarters to even arrive on site. The other alternatives being receiving help over the phone, or waiting until a national technician’s next scheduled semi-annual service visit to that area, and for the University to use a temporary machine in the meantime. These methods do not put someone on-site immediately and do not seem like a reassuring method for assistance. This also gives the impression of an even less timely solution if you think about it; much more so than a regional provider arriving in person, on-site, and quickly due to their local presence in the community.

Regional distributors have always strived to obtain and keep the service side of the card technology business with Universities and continually try to provide the highest level of service to their clients. Yet, the local and regional service contracts have been seen flailing in today’s economy, as schools continually opt for the lowest bids from national suppliers, and not necessarily the most convenient, reliable, and timely service models offered by regional and local providers that may come at a slightly higher cost. This concept continually happens where national providers can win on price, but that doesn’t necessarily signify that the service will be optimal for a Universities’ needs when issues predictably arise.

The local model is being rebutted by another claim of the national companies, decreeing their customers will receive more skilled service thru them. However, local certified technicians are just as qualified, if not more so, as they are on-site with customers daily and receive the same extensive certifications that employees of their national counterparts do. Receiving a more knowledgeable service expert to perform maintenance and repairs on card printers, just because someone is from a larger, busier company is a curious notion and almost seems in contradiction with the quality of service that would actually be received. Regional providers have a vast wealth of knowledge on every machine, product, or supply they carry from multiple vendors, they advocate for their customers, and this is something that should be commended and not seen as a downfall. Expert planning and implementation of new technology are also promoted as a perk by signing up for a national service plan, and yet Universities already receive this, free of charge from their depot provider.

The laurels that these new national plans are resting on are already well known to local and regional service providers and the ones that they already offer. Smaller service depot technicians have always performed exemplary work no matter the size of the school and always keep the wait times as low as can. This new add-on notion of a national service model still remains to be seen on how effective or satisfied a customer may be with it. Local providers will carry on and spring into service when Universities and any customers need them, in emergencies and problem situations that will ultimately arise that national competitors are not equipped to handle without on-site presence. Hopefully one day, the true value of great service will be recognized again, and crowned supreme, which it deserves. The importance of service may be undervalued, but not by the local depot service provider, who knows the importance to continually deliver exceptional service to its customers, and non-customers alike.