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Traditionally, when end user budgets get cut and spending stutters, large equipment takes the brunt of the blow. In place of purchasing high-ticket items, end users will try to milk existing equipment for as long as they can. Distributors that offer servicing and repair will quickly find themselves in a strong position.

"New equipment purchases are most definitely one of the first things to be put on the back burner when budgets are tight," says Matt Scoles, outside sales leader at Scoles Floorshine Industries, Wall, New Jersey. "Many times, public sectors [such as government facilities and schools] have separate budgets — one for maintenance and another for new equipment. This helps them keep their current inventory of equipment running smoothly for as long as possible, until such time that purchasing new becomes inevitable."

Scoles Floorshine launched their service offerings in 1965. The goal was to provide top-notch customer service and to become a one-stop-shop for their existing customers. They've done that and experienced financial gains in the process.

"An increase in repair business during economic downturns helps to keep our revenue strong in the equipment division overall, even if actual new equipment sales are low," says Scoles.

To help other distributors identify the benefits of a service division, Scoles sat down with the Sanitary Maintenance team to answer a few questions.

Not all distributors provide service/repairs. How do you get the word out about these offerings?

We have used a variety of online marketing tools, as well as social media, to try and reach potential customers and market segments. We also always make sure that the customers who are purchasing equipment from us know that we have our own service and maintenance department under our umbrella, if such needs arise.

What are the top three benefits to offering maintenance and repair services?

First, maintenance and repair services are a revenue stream that can be year-round. It doesn't have the seasonal inconsistencies that other aspects of our industry typically do.

Second, having control over the quality of work being done on all repairs and maintenance for our customer base adds to the value proposition of partnering with our company.

Finally, it allows us to develop new relationships with customers who we may not have had contact with before they brought their equipment in for maintenance or repair.

What challenges do you see to offering maintenance/repair services?

The biggest challenge in developing and maintaining a quality service department is acquiring knowledgeable and detail-oriented mechanics. Once you have the right team in place, making sure you have strong partnerships with the best equipment manufacturers is also very important. These companies should make it their priority to have all of the equipment parts and information needed for a repair readily accessible and deliverable in a timely manner.

Is there certain equipment that tends to require more maintenance than others?

Typically, larger battery-operated machinery — such as autoscrubbers — tend to need more maintenance. This is mostly due to the lack of attention given to the batteries themselves, if they are not absorbent glass mat (AGM). Also, this equipment tends to have more moving parts than others and, therefore, can have more issues as time goes on.

Does your sales team use maintenance information to identify when clients should replace equipment, or as an opportunity to offer training/care tips to customers?

Yes, our sales representatives are always trained to be able to help our customers in either troubleshooting issues or identifying where in the life-cycle of a particular machine they may be.

Whenever a piece of equipment is sold to an end user, our sales representatives make sure that the customer is fully aware of all operating care necessary to keep that equipment running at peak performance. However, when a piece of equipment is unable to operate at its fullest capacity, our sales representatives will help our customers make an educated decision as to how to proceed, based on the cost of the repair relative to the life-cycle and condition of their equipment.

We also offer preventative maintenance contracts to customers on any new piece of equipment — most notably being autoscrubbers — to help keep their equipment running reliably and efficiently, while reducing the costs of unexpected repairs when they do arise.