By Rich Lindblom, YSN
Despite being in what is likely a very demanding new role, Marc Peremans, Whirlpool’s recently appointed Senior Manager of Field Service, took time out of his busy schedule to speak with YourSource News.
From my perspective as a former Whirlpool/Maytag authorized servicer for over 40 years, the manufacturer seems to be making a concerted effort at stepping up its training efforts and enhancing communications with its dealer service network, both of which are perhaps a sign of good things for the future.
We asked Marc a number of pointed questions that are probably on every servicing dealer’s mind these days. We share his open and in-depth answers below.
Whirlpool has put a strong emphasis on virtual service training during the pandemic. Do you believe virtual training is as effective as in person training?
Virtual training definitely brings along its challenges. It’s always more effective when during training you can feel and touch the equipment you’ll be working on. That said, Whirlpool has made our virtual training sessions as interactive as possible, allowing individuals to engage with the trainers instead of simply playing a video, and that has been well received by our service providers. And while we’re continuing for the moment in a virtual setting, we are looking forward to the day when we can interact again with our exclusive network and train in person.
What impact has the pandemic had on service requests by Whirlpool consumers? Has there been a big surge in demand? If so, how well has Whirlpool been able to keep up?
With consumers spending more time at home, the interaction with appliances has increased as well, leading to an increase in service requests. At the start of the pandemic, the challenges we found ourselves in had more to do with which geographic areas our service providers were still allowed to operate in, as well as understanding the guidelines regarding PPE [personal protective equipment] and safety. Working through those difficult challenges, our service providers have been able to adjust very well to meet the consumers’ needs and provide a five-star experience.
What are the biggest challenges facing the appliance service industry today, from Whirlpool’s perspective?
Our world is becoming more and more connected, and that includes how we interact with our appliances. And while that provides exciting opportunities, appliances are becoming increasingly complex to service. Combine that with how consumer expectations are changing very rapidly these days. In an Amazon world, where quick turnaround and consistent execution is the norm, we need to be agile and adjust to what consumers are now demanding of a service incident. So, while items like schedule flexibility and first-call completes are ever more important, having the right technological capabilities to access and interact with the appliance are becoming equally important.
We’re all well aware of the nationwide shortage of qualified appliance service techs. How is Whirlpool addressing the problem?
We recognize that the shortage within the technician labor force continues to be a challenge for the industry. We’ve found that looking through our competency development lenses, it takes more than a technical-minded technician to perform against today’s customer expectations. Whirlpool has found that service extensions, such as home delivery, are a way to create further career trajectory for technicians. By partnering with our exclusive network, we’ve learned that expanding the job criteria and skill sets for recruiting top talent is a requirement to be successful in capturing good talent.
Balancing the technical and relational components of service recovery is key, and diversified talent/skill sets are critical to accomplishing those objectives. We found success in engaging with technicians through ServiceMatters University and continue to make investments in learning and development. We feel a positive outcome will be that technicians will be great at what they do and, more importantly, will enjoy doing it.
How long has ServiceMatters University been around, and what kind of feedback have you received from servicers?
ServiceMatters University was launched in early 2019. Through this platform, service providers are able to sign up for Technician Competency model training curriculums, complete eLearning Modules, and can monitor the learning journey of their teams. We’ve also launched Business Management models to develop the next generation of home appliance personnel, and we’re looking toward service extensions like Home Delivery; those would be available as well.
The feedback we’ve received on SMU, ranging from technicians just starting their careers to those with more than 30 years of experience, is that this has enabled them to expand their knowledge. We’ve also received testimonials from business owners and managers, that this helped them prepare for succession planning.
Whirlpool’s Second Quarter Virtual Training is available through the ServiceMatters.com portal now through June 18.
BrandSource, a unit of YSN publisher AVB Inc., is a nationwide buying group for independent appliance, mattress, furniture and CE dealers.