Service Department Showdown

GAWDA members debate the pros and cons of having a service department.

Service Department ShowdownThere are many challenges that come along with having a service department, from maintaining profitability to finding great service technicians and keeping them trained on the latest industry technologies. With this in mind, Welding & Gases Today posed the question to GAWDA members: Do you really need a service department? Although it was not unanimous, the overwhelming response among distributors was yes, a service department is a must. While some admit it is not the biggest profit center, the consensus is that it’s all about providing the customer with the best experience possible.

Here are a few of the reasons distributors gave for having—or not having—a service department:

“The number one reason we have our own service department is that it enables us to provide our customers with the best level of service. It is also important for us to have an in-house, factory-trained tech so we can fall back on their technical know-how when needed.”
- Andy Thornton, vice president, South Jersey Welding Supply (Vineland, NJ)

“AWISCO has a full service department with three service techs. We feel that having a service department makes us invaluable to our customers.”
- Lloyd Robinson, president, AWISCO (Maspeth, NY)

“Service is integral to supporting what we sell. Having a factory-trained staff and the official credentials as an ‘authorized service center’ lends credibility to the organization and ultimately is a wonderful sales and marketing tool.”
- Victor Fuhrman, vice president sales and marketing, AWISCO

“We have been in business a long time and never had a service department. We always used outside service centers. Recently, we decided it was time to open our own service department, and we’re in the process of looking for a service tech. Being able to do repairs in-house will allow us to respond to our customers in a more timely fashion, and will give us more independence and control over the service cycle. Service can make or break you when it comes to customer relations.”
- Joe Churilla, president, Cameron Welding Supply (Stanton, CA)

“We had a great service tech for over 25 years, but we could never make any money. Some of our customers have their own service techs, and would only use us to fix something they did not want to repair. We still service our customers by outsourcing our repairs.”
- Dave Fischer, president, General Welding Supply Company (Denver, CO)

“We have a service department because we support everything we sell. We feel that the value associated with this often wins us business at a higher price than our competitors.”
- Michael Clay, president, Miller Welding Supply (Grand Rapids, MI)

“Noble Gas Solutions has an equipment repair department because we believe that it is important to have the ability to service what we sell.”
- Dave Mahoney, president, Noble Gas Solutions (Albany, NY)

“We have had a service department for over 30 years. We believe that the ability to service what you sell makes us more valuable not only to our customers but to our suppliers as well.”
- Kevin Brancato, vice president – general manager, AGL Welding Supply Company (Clifton, NJ)

“While our service department is not a great money maker, it provides an invaluable service to our customers. We are able to solve problems quickly and pick up business with large contractors who have immediate needs. Having a repair shop allows us to repair and return malfunctioning equipment quicker than our competitors. The knowledge and expertise we have in our shop is trusted and is a resource for many of our customers.”
- Bryan Keen, president, Keen Compressed Gas Company (Wilmington, DE)

In spite of the challenges that come along with service departments, for many distributors, the benefits outweigh the costs. It’s all about customer service, and that means having great technicians who know how to gain customers’ trust and keep them happy. As we progress through Service Technicians Month, we’re hearing about some of the industry’s best technicians in the Service Technician Honor Roll.

Do you agree that a service department is a must? Add your thoughts by adding a comment below.

Gases and Welding Distributors Association