Why Your New Appliance Will Not be Repaired

By Steve Sheinkopf, Yale Appliance

In advance of this Thursday’s kick-off of Service Day, a virtual event for BrandSource’s servicing members, Yale Appliance CEO Steve Sheinkopf has graciously shared his recent company blog on the challenges of appliance repair. Excerpts from the essay follow.

Today is like any other day. Then you wake up, and your refrigerator is warm. Then the mad scramble happens.

You attempt to find a service agent, thinking it’s as fast as ordering groceries online and having the Amazon van pull up in an hour. You will track him through an app on your phone like Uber, and the problem will be rectified before work.

But as you call the multiple service agencies and are placed on hold for hours, you have a sinking feeling your refrigerator will not be fixed.

I originally wrote this article in 2016. At that time, I never thought appliance service (or any support) could become worse. But, when you need to repair the most during a quarantine, it has become even more dreadful.

In this article, you will learn why appliance service is so bad and why it will become even worse.

Service Repair in The Age Of COVID-19

The most stressful job in this company is service management. It’s tough talking to less than happy people all day.

I held that job when we started in 1994. Back then, it was five of us. Now it’s 90-plus people in parts, management, fleet and inventory supporting 35 service techs.

However, every day there is a list — this list is for unavailable parts. You may have heard that COVID-19 has affected appliance shipments, but essentially, it’s a parts problem. The global supply chain for manufacturing appliances has broken. So, if that Chinese circuit board company was closed in January and the Mexican wiring harness factory is shut down, those appliances will not be repaired. Parts problems will continue probably until 2022 at the earliest.

The Sad State of Appliance Repair

Service is a huge part of any appliance store, whether they embrace it with techs or have operators finding service agents for you. Most appliance stores do not offer any service. Of all the big-box stores, only Sears still has in-home service. In the words of a dealer I met from Boulder, Colo., “It’s way too expensive.”

He has a point. Manufacturers pay about $95 to fix an appliance under warranty. You have to order and pay for the part and send a qualified technician in a van to your house. Servicers also have to pay for workman’s comp and insurance against damage. Not to mention, $95 is all manufacturers typically pay whether you repair it the first time or the sixth, even if it is a manufacturing defect.

Thus, most retailers have exited the service business.

Manufacturers have decreased service as well, if they even have it. For example, there are five Bosch techs and two Miele techs in all of New England. We have 35 very busy techs just in Metro Boston.

The appliances are also becoming way more complicated. This is a video I shot of a tech replacing a light bulb ten years ago:

There are simply no technicians to fix your appliances anymore — sort of. Most of the self-servicing dealers will only fix appliances bought from their store due to overwhelming demand.

Why Do I Invest in Service?

I invest in service for two reasons:

Most of our significant builders have told me they use us exclusively only because of service. They want their clients satisfied and not calling them.

The second reason is there is no better marketing form for Yale or your business (if run correctly). Good service is far more compelling than any ad. It’s just a lot harder from a resource standpoint.

I, like you, also really hate being yelled at. I really do. It’s much easier to fix the problem than to provide excuses as to why I cannot.

Steve Sheinkopf is CEO and third-generation principal of Boston’s Yale Appliance + Lighting, a 97-year-old premier destination for premium appliances, plumbing fixtures, lighting and service.