ADI’s Systems Sales & Support group receives more than 1,000 calls in a single day — and that is just one distributor.

At some point or another you’ll probably need the technical support your distributor provides. Obviously, the first step to great technical support is working with a distributor that offers the quality technical support you are looking for, but there are some additional steps you can take yourself to make the most of the technical support available to you.

Before You Call

Lee Duncan, branch manager at Tri-Ed in Dallas, understands that technical support can be critical, and he has specific suggestions that can help improve the success of your call and keep it easy.

“Especially on the dealer side of things, technical support can be a lifesaver,” Duncan said. “Take some simple steps to ensure things move quickly and accurately.

“First, take time to look at the basics,” he pointed out. “When things just won’t work, most of the time it’s something simple that was overlooked. Also write down the model number and version number as well as the steps you have taken up to this point to correct the problem. That way, you can convey to us exactly what you have done thus far, and we can provide the technical support you need to troubleshoot the problem.”

A careful approach can cut time off the call.

Sooner Is Better than Later

If you take advantage of the pre-sale technical support that distributors offer from the very beginning, you can help get your project started on the right foot and decrease the possibility of stressful calls as an installation deadline approaches.

“At ScanSource, we encourage our customers to utilize our pre-sale expertise,” said Greg Dixon, chief technology officer for ScanSource Inc. “The more time spent carefully compiling and completing the order to ensure all of the right components are included, the less time we, along with our reseller, have to spend correcting issues after the order is shipped.”

Make the Call

Distributors sell vast product lines, so it is inescapable that at some point they might not know the answer to a question, especially if the question is highly technical. But don’t fail to make the call just because you think the question is too technical. Your distributor can still be the quickest path to the person who can answer your question.

“For more in-depth assistance, Graybar representatives are always ready to identify the supplier’s appropriate technical team and connect the customer with that team to receive the proper support,” said Paul Koebbe, Graybar national market manager.

First Time’s the Charm

The odds are pretty good that you’ll only need to make that first call to your distributor, though. Distributors do everything they can to be able to answer your question themselves, engaging in an enormous amount of training each year. In 2007, Graybar representatives completed more than 340,000 courses totaling approximately 349,000 training hours. That’s an average of 43 hours per representative.

Tri-Ed systems specialists and business development managers also spend several hours on training each month. “We believe that, as a distributor, we need to know as much about the products we supply as the manufacturer,” said James Rothstein, senior vice president at Tri-Ed.

Training is a huge part of every distributor’s approach to technical support, and all that training usually pays off with quick answers for you. “The vast majority of calls are resolved in 15 minutes or less and without involving the manufacturer,” said Dixon at ScanSource Inc.

Make sure you take advantage of all the areas in which distributors can assist you. As Doug Hoerle, director of systems business at ADI, points out, ADI’s technical experts can help guide dealers through complete integrated system design, not just answer questions after a product has been purchased.

“Our team can help dealers determine the right solutions for each job and assist with many things — price quotes, code compliance, product specifications, and more,” he said.

Utilize All Options

The phone isn’t your only option for getting technical support. Many distributors answer questions via e-mail. You also shouldn’t miss out on the technical support resources distributors make available on the Web. The best part is, all those resources are available 24/7.

Technical support is invaluable to your business, and keeps your projects rolling towards completion. Make sure you are taking advantage of all the various forms of technical support distributors make available to you.