If an out-of-warranty dishwasher breaks down, there’s basically got three options (assuming you’re not the kind of person who can fix it yourself): 1. Call the manufacturer to schedule a repair; 2. Call the store you bought it from to ask about a repair or a replacement, or; 3. Call an independent repairperson.

Is one of those any better an option than the others?

It’s hard to say — each has its own benefits and drawbacks. But typically with a straightforward repair like a dishwasher, they’ll be minimal. So a customer, in that case, is probably making their repair decision based on cost, how quickly a repair can be scheduled, or perhaps based on reputation. In other words, it’s a total crapshoot.

G.E. Getting a Leg Up on ISOs

General Electric, the mega-appliance manufacturer, is trying to make that decision a bit easier. It announced a new service tool this week, called the New Field Inspector System, or NewFi.

NewFi is a technology that allows G.E.’s appliances to be outfitted with computer chips that repair techs can tap into to pull diagnostic information from. So, for instance, if a fridge is on the fritz, a G.E. repairman could conceivably hook his computer up to the machine, and instantly tell a customer that this pump or that one was failing, without even rolling up his sleeves. That leads to quicker fixes and lower costs, G.E. says.

According to a company press release, “This technology gives the technician precision and accuracy to immediately identify a faulty part and reduce time in the customer’s home. And there’s a direct correlation between shorter service calls and customer satisfaction.”

Apart from making life a little easier for repairmen and field techs, G.E.’s program also underscores a distinct advantage OEMs, or original equipment manufacturers, have compared to third-party repair outfits: By building in technology that allows them to make a better, quicker diagnosis (and thus a quicker, easier repair), they can begin to differentiate themselves from the hordes of ISOs (independent service organizations) ready to step in to perform generic repairs.

A Big Decision

In the larger picture, fixing a dishwasher is a pretty small-potatoes repair. (No offense, dishwasher repairmen.) But what if instead of a dishwasher we were talking about big medical equipment like a CT Scanner — stuff that costs hundreds of thousands of dollars? Suddenly the decision between an OEM repair and an ISO repair becomes really important. By giving themselves a distinct advantage in the repair business, G.E. (and other OEMs) can not only keep the ISOs from eating into their market share (and potentially converting their customers to a new brand), but also start to ensure they land those precious long-term service agreements.

Focus on Field Service

Between the NewFi rollout on appliances and a separate announcement that it would send field techs to London to service any G.E. jet engines in town for the summer Olympic Games, it’s been a big week in field service news for Tom Edison’s company. “Our engines have world-class reliability, so the need for unscheduled service is low,” G.E. spokesperson Laura Schreibleis told the SmartVan. “But we are there, ready to help the customer anytime, anywhere.”

Ya know … just in case.

Click here to download a free whitepaper, “Five Steps to Make Field Service Profitable.”