A brand is only as strong as its customer service. For manufacturers in the HVAC industry, optimizing customer service means providing value and support at numerous levels — distributor, contractor and end user. Fortunately, the correct investment in one will serve all.

Fujitsu General America hosted its first Technical Service Advisors Conference in late 2018 at The Borgata in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The event, themed “Building Our Team,” was held to strengthen manufacturer-distributor relationships and empower in-field technical support staff.

“The Technical Service Advisor Conference is a team-building event between the distributor support staff and Fujitsu,” said Victor Gomez, Fujitsu’s VP of technical services and aftermarket. “It enables both parties to work together as one team to deliver on all the support that matters most to their contractor customers.” 

The three-day event, which was attended by 200 distributors, featured breakout sessions covering everything from commercial and residential training to warranty, parts and marketing. While planning the event, Fujitsu hoped to provide TSAs with a broad view of the company, including upcoming product releases and corporate culture; all things that tech support staff might not otherwise experience.

“We recognize the importance of strengthening relationships and service to our distributors,” Gomez continued. “Technical service advisors are the individuals with boots on the ground, supporting the brand and addressing contractors’ needs. We wanted to get their feedback and give them new tools for success.”

The emphasis was to make service and support easier, more effective and more efficient. Streamlining the correspondence and flow of information between the field, distributor and corporate support was a welcomed change.

“Until now, Fujitsu support has been geared largely toward the contractor, with distribution being an afterthought,” said Mark Elmer, customer support and training manager for Lebanon, Pennsylvania-based APR Supply Co.  “That’s changing.  Now there are a lot more opportunities for us.”

“What I’ve learned at this event will help me respond more quickly and accurately to requests I receive,” said Rob Donnelly, of Associate Refrigeration, Inc., headquartered in Philadelphia. “From an innovation and quality control standpoint, Fujitsu always has been the best vendor we’ve partnered with. With the addition of this event and the new support tools, I think they’re also becoming a leader in technical support.”

According to Tom Carney, director of sales at Halcyon Products, Fujitsu wanted every TSA in attendance to leave feeling empowered, with the tools and ability to go out into the field with all available solutions at their fingertips.

“I’m looking forward to using Zendesk more frequently now because Fujitsu and the distributor can always be certain of what’s been done to a specific piece of equipment,” said Craig Chadwick, of Rhodes and Stafford, a manufacturers rep agency based in Greenboro, North Carolina. “Fujitsu also has supplied us with a direct tech-support phone number exclusive to distribution.”

In addition to Zendesk, many attendees appreciated the recent expansion of the Fujitsu Portal. Here, engineers and contractors can find just about everything they need for system design, pricing, etc. Expanded training opportunities also were applauded, for both beginning to seasoned technicians. 

“We hosted the event to provide distributors with information and tools,” Quality Control Manager Ruben Marcucci said. “But learning is a two-way street. Through the feedback we have received from attendees, they’re helping us strengthen our support structure.”

Marcucci said networking wasn’t the primary goal of this event. “But we heard numerous times how much attendees appreciated the opportunity to connect with us on a personal level, and also with their counterparts across the country,” he said. “The activities, the meals and the classes — all were designed to promote interaction.”

A welcome dinner took place at The Water Club Pool on the first night. On the last night, the dinner and party were combined with a variety of competitive games. Attendees broke into several teams. Scores were tallied across digital bowling, golf, basketball, corn hole, foosball and table hockey. The winning team took home prizes.  

“We went into the meeting separately as the Fujitsu Service Group and distribution’s technical service advisors,” Gomez remarked. “True to the theme of the conference, we’re walking out as one team.”

“In our channel, the one thing we as a manufacturer have is technical knowledge,” said Andy Armstrong, Fujitsu VP of sales and marketing. “Whether that be training, tech support, application support, etc., helping our contractors win in the marketplace is so crucial, and this meeting guarantees we’re going to have more knowledgeable people closer to the customer.”

“We want to thank all the TSA folks from across the country for attending the event,” President and COO Matt Peterson said. “It was a great week.”


This article was originally titled “Technical service advisor event creates united front” in the February 2019 print edition of Supply House Times.