By Paul Mac Donald, USA Executive Director
In February, the United Servicers Association hosted the 23rd Annual Service Training Institute, also known as ASTI. The event is an opportunity every year to bring together some of the most experienced individuals in the appliance and service industries to share their insights, expertise and intuitions on how the industry is evolving, and how members can thrive. ASTI is our main event each year, but in fact our organization is active all year round, providing our members with the support and resources they need to evolve with the technology, trends and processes that define their work in the service industry.
We all know that the last several years have seen a sea of change in the appliance industry. Manufacturers are incorporating increasingly complex technology into their products. But is the training keeping pace with the advancements? Not always. In many cases manufacturers have cut their training budgets, meaning field technicians have a hard time providing knowledgeable and timely service to their customers. And, of course, in the service industry, time is money. Even a slight delay in determining the source of problems or knowing what parts are needed will have a huge impact on the bottom line.
The answer? Keep up with training. Trade groups such as the United Servicers Association can help, by acting as a liaison between manufacturers and service technicians. We collect and categorize the challenges, questions and obstacles technicians face in their day-to-day operations, and can serve as your voice to communicate with manufacturers. The result is a better dialogue between all parties, and faster solutions to the most pressing issues. Each year, ASTI brings field technicians, small business owners and managers together with the original equipment manufacturers in one place (this year it was in New Orleans), and the outcomes always exceed expectations. This year we heard from OEMs about anticipated product evolutions, and we heard from technicians and SMBs about what customers are saying about the products. It’s the very definition of a win-win scenario.
We also welcomed presentations from experts in the fields of marketing, communications, finance, accounting and small business consulting, who provide invaluable support to the work you do every day. Marketing in particular is a field that is under constant change, with new tools and technologies with the capacity to make life easier for businesses. Again, the key is training, and understanding what technologies are right for your business, market, industry, and sales model.
Social media has huge potential as a communication vehicle, but is it right for you? Websites are absolutely essential for nearly all organizations, and they are getting easier to prepare and publish, but do you keep yours up to date? These are some of the questions that trade associations and member gatherings can help you answer. One of the guest speakers at ASTI 2015 included Nick Salvatoriello of Hubspot Academy, an organization focused on helping clients generate sales through inbound marketing. We also welcomed Brett Relander, a digital marketing expert, who talked about how to engage customers through social to drive profits.
All in all, ASTI 2015 in New Orleans was another huge success. It’s a testament to our members that ASTI has been going strong for over two decades and continues to gain momentum despite the many changes in the work we all do. It’s a valuable lesson in the realities of business today: you don’t have to be able to anticipate every change that’s coming, but you have to be conscious that the customers, technologies, trends and tastes are constantly evolving.
The best way to stay relevant—and profitable—is to continually engage with customers, partners, marketing experts, and other members of your industry. The Annual Service Training Institute is a chance to do just that. If you attended the event this year in New Orleans, we commend you for investing in your future success and growth. If you’re considering attending next year, we invite you to visit ASTI.us for more information. We think you’ll find it rewarding and refreshing.