The Basics of a Succesful Service Call

In this article I’ll give a basic outline of what I do on service calls.  I know that after several years in the field most technicians get into a routine of how to approach calls so I know it will not be the same for everybody and every company. But, this information may be particularly helpful to “new to the field” technicians in getting an idea of where to start and, as time goes on, how to develop a personal service call system. As for you seasoned techs, well, I’ll try to provide useful information on things you may have used in the past and have forgotten and can re-apply to your routine in the future.

Preparation Before the Service Call
First, make sure your service coordinator is getting all the pertinent information such as make and model, problem reported on the machine, customer contact name, phone number, full address, hours of operation, and department. Pricing should be talked about so there are no surprises once the service is complete. Nothing is worse than showing up on site and then finding out that either you or your customer, or both, don’t know the full situation. 

Second, dress appropriately.  No tee-shirts and jeans! Most techs wear a nice polo style shirt with a collar and casual dress pants. Dark colors usually work best since there will be times when ink and toner get on you. Dark colors tend to hide the mess so you don’t spend the rest of your day looking like you just returned from a paintball war.

Third, if you get the call while you’re in the shop make sure you gather any parts or special tools you might need to fix the printer on the first call. This is our number one priority and even if you have a rather low stock of parts the customer will think otherwise if you pull out a maintenance kit, fuser, gear kits, or feed rollers.

Fourth, take a look at your tool kit. You’ll need either the traditional black hard shell case with several pockets or a nice mid-sized tool kit you can be pick up at Sears, Lowes, or any local hardware store. Whatever tool kit you buy, it should have several pockets or dividers to organize your equipment. It can be very frustrating digging through an unorganized tool kit while the customer looks on in disbelief.  Make sure you have a wide variety of different size and types of screw drivers, a spring hook, needle nose pliers, and a miniature flashlight. A magnetic screwdriver that has interchangeable bits is also essential. Cleaning supplies should complete the kit. Clean shop towels, cotton tipped applicators, a general cleaner, alcohol, a small container of grease and/or oil lubricant, canned air, and if possible a portable vacuum to keep in your car for emergencies.

Finally, when you arrive at your customer’s site, make sure you carry in a few blank work orders (just in case they have more for you to do) and company service tags. And always have a smile on your face!

Service Call Arrival
First impressions are lasting impressions. If you have followed everything from the first section you’re off to a good start. Upon entering the job location introduce yourself and be sure to give the name of the company you work for. Inform the receptionist of the contact person you need to see or the machine you are to be servicing.  Having an already partially filled out work order can be very helpful here if the person you are talking to gives you a confused look.

Always observe and follow any procedures that might be unique to the situation, such as turning off your cell phone, no cell phone calls in the lobby, or visitor sign in forms.

Once you meet your contact, introduce yourself again. Tell them what you already know about the machine’s situation. This lets them know what you have already been told and gives them an opportunity to explain more if needed. Ask questions like “how long has the situation been going on?” “What if anything has been done to correct the issue,” and “have you noticed any other problems?”

While being directed to the machine, if this is a first time customer, observe your surroundings and make a mental note of the office’s atmosphere. Is it very professional or laid back? Make mental notes of other office equipment you see.  These observations can open the door for future business and give you a better idea of how to converse with your customer.  Some customers just care about getting the printer back up and running and have little time for polite conversation. Others, while the overall goal is to get the machine running, will care more about making sure you are someone they can relate to and will feel comfortable about having you in their office space.

Servicing the Printer
All right we finally have gotten to our goal…the broken machine. First thing I like to do is take in the overall condition of the machine. Does it have any noticeable broken covers? How clean is the outside? Does the control panel seem to be functioning correctly?

Next, print off a configuration page. This will allow you to listen to the machine, observe the print quality, and find out the copy count. Many have a small error log of the most recent codes, and, in most cases, the machine prints off network config info in case it gets reset. Page counts and error logs will greatly help in knowing where to proceed from here.

If the machine is jamming from the tray and it has 25,000 to 50,000 copies, you probably need to focus on the feed rollers. If the print quality is poor around the edges or middle and the machine has 100,000 to 150,000 or so copies you probably need to focus on the fuser.

At this point I will leave you alone to concentrate on your repair. The main thing I will say here is to isolate the problem. If you’re unsure if it’s jamming from worn pick up rollers try the bypass tray to see if it still jams.  If you can’t tell if the toner or fuser is giving you quality issues do a Half Test; print off a config page and when it’s half way through the machine open the top lid. If the image quality is poor before it has been fused then we can focus on the toner, transfer roller, or laser/scanner. If the print quality is good before fused then we can focus on the fuser. Anyway, I could go on forever about the different possibilities. Perhaps in a future article I’ll focus on actual troubleshooting tips.

But for now, let’s move on with the service call.  Within the first 30 to 40 minutes you should have diagnosed the problem, repaired it, and been able to clean up. Also you should have gone through the rest of the machine to look for any possible issues that might appear within the next six months; check the fuser for toner build up discoloration around the edges, worn bushings, squeaks in the exit or transport area, faded print around the edges indicating dust build up on the laser mirrors, check the feed rollers for wear, and clean excess toner out of the printer cavity.

If parts are needed, take the time to talk again with your customer. Inform the customer of your findings and give them pricing, which can be quickly found for any service part using Market Point’s Easy Search tool.

If you have the parts with you let them know that as well. If they OK the additional repair(s) and you have the necessary part(s) with you then complete the service.  If you don’t have the parts with you, make sure the machine is in the best working order possible and let them know when you will be able to return.

Call Completion
Typically service calls last between 40 to 60 minutes. The first 30 to 40 minutes should be diagnosing, fixing the problem, installing parts if necessary, cleaning out the machine and evaluating the rest. Once all of that is done, it’s very important to clean the outside of the machine and the surrounding area.  The customer typically has little understanding of the maintenance you performed but by cleaning the outside of the machine, in most cases, you’ll make the machine look ten times better in the customer’s eyes. I typically use Simple Green which, after reading about it in early inkjet service manuals, I have used for the last ten years. It does an amazing job of cleaning up just about any mess or stains left on printer covers. It even cleans up ink stains on carpet if it accidentally happens. Next, I wipe down the machine with alcohol, which helps remove any residue left by the cleaner, any tape goo, or pen marks.

After cleaning the covers always tag the machine with one of your company’s labels, fill out the necessary paperwork, and have the customer print to the machine to make sure it is communicating with their computers. It’s never fun to get a call 15 minutes after leaving a customer’s site to find out they can’t print.

When everything is complete, have the customer sign the work order, give a copy to them, inform them of the tag on the machine, and ask if there is anything else you can do at this time or if they have any other questions. If it’s a first time customer you might want to expand on any further services you provide like other office equipment you have seen in their office. I, for example, work on all makes and models of copiers, faxes, typewriters, printers, and plotters. If a customer calls me out to work on a printer they might not understand that I can provide service for the rest of their equipment too. I have gotten a lot more service by providing the customer with just this little bit of information.

One of the main things to understand is that it’s important not to rush through the service call. It’s easy to install a maintenance kit, reset the counter, and clean the cavity and covers, switch out some feed rollers or remove a jam. Most customers frown upon a twenty-minute service call and getting charged $100. So, if you have some extra time, clean other areas that you wouldn’t normally clean like the control panel buttons on the HP 4000, which get corrosion on the metal contacts. Now might be a time to disassemble the control panel and clean them out. On a HP 8000 series clean up the exit rollers or the PIU pre-registration rollers. You get the point. Make it look good. Make sure the customer understands they are getting what they are paying for.

Tagging the machine is very important. While machines stay in the work place employees may not. I had a customer downsize a few months ago and my main contact for the past ten years was let go. If it weren’t for machine tags the new person would not have known whom to call.

The company I worked for years ago went out of business and the company I work for now bought the old phone number. So while the old tags have the old company name they still called the number and got our service coordinator. Also if you get ID numbered tags it helps track service better on individual machines in large companies.  If you purchase service software it will greatly help entering them into the system.

Another thing to remember if you handle in-house service machines is that it’s easy to get in the mind set that working on the large company with 20 machines is more important than the individual that brought in their throw away inkjet. Be careful! You never know if it is a CEO for another large company trying you out to see if you can fix their own personal machine. Each call is as important as the next so make sure you handle all with the same professionalism.

Kevin Gumpp is a certified printer technician and freelance writer for Market Point. If you have a question for Kevin regarding this topic or have any other printer repair related questions or topics you would like more information on, please send an email to

2 thoughts on “The Basics of a Succesful Service Call

  1. Pingback: My Websites Directory

  2. Excellent info! I have been servicing printers for 11 years and can attest to the fact that even the best technician can get into a routine of short-cuts, and just plain lazy habits which are all too apparent to the customer. This can be detrimental to the customer as well as the technician’s employer and ultimately can affect the technicians themselves (in the form of layoffs, cutbacks, etc.). An employer is always going to make exceptions and go out of their way to hold on to the best, most conscientious employees. It only takes a small amount of extra effort to separate yourself from the average technician and make yourself an invaluable asset to your employer. This usually requires a balance of technical skills with customer service skills. Kevin has highlighted many of the important customer service skills which are typically overlooked and often forgotten. Good job!


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