It is important for any business to ensure that the cost and quality of after-sales support is part of the buying decision. This means reading fine print stating how long a vendor will support the product, when that support will lapse and what you need to pay after it has lapsed. Today, after sales support has become a product and paid service in itself. Over the past 2 decades, the cost of this product and service has been gradually passed onto the customer where once upon a time free local after sales support was part of your purchase.

A popular offering are tiered levels of support service, for example from basic to premium to advanced, you pay to upgrade to each level of service you receive. The problem is when an issue does occur that is not included in the basic service tier you are forced to upgrade before you get assistance. This a hidden cost that can have a significant business impact.

The added cost does not necessarily equate to receiving quality support from a specialist. Whether it’s on the phone or chat, you can usually tell on a call if the person you are talking to is reading from a script and giving you cookie cutter responses or if you are speaking with a specialist who not only resolves your issue but gives you advice and guidance on how to better use your product and avoid future downtime.

Although customers can generally research and uncover support costs prior to your purchase, the quality and level of support you receive are generally an unknown and you won’t find out until you have a problem.

Brother’s Lead Technical Support Specialist, Glenn Gleeson, provides some insights into the level of support Brother customers can expect.

Glenn Gleeson – Lead Technical Support Specialist

How long have you been working at Brother?

Glenn: I’ve been working in our product support department for 11 years, I started out as level 1 Technical Support and then progressed through level 2 and 3. I’m now the Lead Technical Support Specialist.

What does the Lead Technical Support Specialist do?

Glenn: I provide technical support, along with the rest of the team, and I help the team with enquiries that are more difficult to resolve. I also communicate with our head office in Japan with feedback on the software we provide and make special requests for firmware changes. We’re unique in a way that our global head office has a direct line with our customers when needed.

I also keep track of 3rd party applications, new operating systems and devices, learn how they interface with our software and products, then present findings back to the team

In a nutshell, I support our customers and also our team.

What type of customers contacts technical support?

Glenn: A wide range of customers contacts us, from home users, university students and home businesses, right through to large corporate customers and IT support.

For example I’ve had customers who were going to be using a computer and printer for the first time. I remember once speaking with an elderly gentleman. He had received a laptop as a gift but he had never used a computer before and needed help installing a Brother Inkjet MFC to print photos of his grandkids. It was very rewarding personally, as I know how important these memories are as I have kids of my own.

We also have customers who are IT support for companies contacting us to get help with configuring our products. For example our PDS-6000 desktop scanners are used for very specific purposes and I had a customer who had to scan hundreds of invoices, proof of delivery and other sales documents every day into specific archive locations for each of his customers, so we helped him configure scan settings and destinations so all he needed to do was press one button on the device so any employee who has completed a sale can just walk up to the device and archive the documents.

So you have to guide people with varying degrees of technical abilities – what are some of the tools you use to support them?

Glenn: We are all trained in troubleshooting software and provided with hands-on experience with our products before taking any customer enquiries. We have most of our Brother products released within the last 10 years available here in our Sydney office so we can walk customers through enquiries specific to their product and conduct testing for them when we need to.

We have phone and email support and a range of FAQs and ‘How To’ guides that we provide customers for reference as part of our support. These can also include videos which some customers really benefit from.

If a customer contacts us via phone, we have remote desktop software for Windows, Mac and Linux so we can also see and troubleshoot the issue together.

We do have a lot more tools available to us to troubleshoot. When I started 11 years ago, we didn’t have a lot of these tools, such as remote desktop, and had to memorise troubleshooting steps and every button or click to get customers to where I needed them to go. It’s a good skill to have, but it definitely took a little longer.

How many products do you have to support?

Glenn: I don’t know the exact number because we support any Brother product for the lifetime of the device – we even get enquiries about our 30-year-old typewriters and every year we have new products released that we support so that number increases, but definitely at least 100.

What do the majority customers contact technical support about?

Glenn: It used to be mainly on software but now it’s predominantly networking because that’s just how people use technology now. Majority of our products have wireless and the devices they are connected to a range of devices from smartphones, tablets, laptops and computers which can all be networked.

How much do you charge for support?

Glenn: We give free support to all Brother products for the lifetime of the product and customers get access to all levels of support from level 1 to myself. Our products are extremely reliable so we get a number of enquiries from customers with machines that are 10 years old or more and have gone through quite a lot of use in that time. We received really positive feedback from customers who really value our free and local service.

Understanding the actual cost and quality of after-sales support should be an important part of your buying decision especially for products like printers and multifunction devices, so when you do have an enquiry it can be resolved with minimal impact to your business.