“We as service persons sometimes like to joke that if our business was like a sailboat, then the service team is the wind that keeps everything moving. You can have all the parts trimmed and ready to go, but you know that nothing will happen without the wind.”
Today we meet with one of our experts who never stops supporting our customers as well as our sales team.
In the next few lines we talk with Michael Thomson, one of our top field service technicians about his role, the challenges facing our customers, his journey with Novatech and his hobbies.
Q. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what got you into “Field service”?
I would say that working with my hands and trying to understand how things work around me has always been one of my hard-wired characteristics. I can remember as a kid, getting an RC vehicle for Christmas and shortly thereafter taking it apart to try and figure out how it worked! Or, saving up to purchase my first boom box, only to open it up and solder wires in for larger speakers. The unfortunate part of those stories is then needing my father to put back together my Christmas gift, since it was easier to take it apart than it was to reassemble. Or burning out my new boom box since I did not understand the finer points of load resistances and impedances as a kid. Failures can be great motivators and those experiences, and others like them, have always pushed me to learn and grow and evolve to be better and better each day.
After graduating as an Electrical Engineering Technologist in 1996, it took me several years to slowly hone-in on which aspect of the work I enjoyed the most. During those early years I had several opportunities to travel to customers sites across North America, to help solve problems that were too complicated to troubleshoot over the phone. It was through that I slowly began to realize this was what I enjoy most. In August of 2000 I was hired in my first official field service position in the world of Process Analytical Instrumentation. The last 20 years have given me the privilege and enjoyment of continuing to grow and learn in the industry. Even more importantly though, how to apply this knowledge to help the customers I have the honor of servicing.
Q. Can you describe your role as a “Field Service Technician” at Novatech?
We sometimes like to joke (as service persons) that if our business was like a sailboat, then the service team is the wind that keeps everything moving. You can have all the parts trimmed and ready to go, but you know that nothing will happen without the wind. Of course, it is a silly illustration because in our business there are a lot of moving parts and, in fact, without any one of them the boat will not move.
I think primarily the role of field service is one of support. We support our sales team so that they have confidence to sell. They can sell with confidence, because they know that as a company we are equipped and ready to support everything we sell. We also support our customers so that they can have the confidence to buy. They can buy with confidence because they know that Novatech is qualified and able to support everything they will purchase from us. It is really an interdependent relationship in which each part works together to accomplish the goal.
“As one of those employees who must stand in front of our customers day after day, I am fortunate to be able to assure our customers, in full confidence, that we will not leave them to navigate the solution on their own. It is of no benefit to our customers, nor to us, to have systems, analyzers, and instrumentation in the field that do not work.”
Q. What are the most common challenges that your customers are facing and how does Novatech help to address those challenges?
In the last decade there seems to be a shift in the industry as electrical, instrumentation, and process control shops, which were often separate, combine thereby reducing the total number of employees. Many companies have seen older knowledgeable employees retire and have not replaced them. This has left a vacuum, in many cases, of knowledge, expertise and experience. More and more, customers rely on us to fill that vacuum for routine preventative maintenance, audits, calibrations, commissioning, and emergency services.
Q. What gives Novatech products an edge over its competitors?
To me, this is an easy question to answer. Without a doubt, first it is the partnerships we have with our suppliers, and second; the people we have in our organization. Customer satisfaction surveys have shown year after year that Novatech has a fantastic reputation in the industry. Pair that reputation with the extensive combined years of experience and expertise we offer within our organization, and the result is that we have the privilege of representing some of the best and most reliable analyzer manufactures in the world. It is a wonderful (dare I say enviable?) position to be in as a company.
“I would say that there is no greater satisfaction in Field Service than that of a job well done. Compare arriving on-site at the beginning of the job, knowing that the system is not working, often having a direct impact on the customers production – to that of leaving at the end of the job with the problem solved, the system running, and the customer satisfied. No greater reward than that.”
Q. From your experience, what is the most common concern among customers?
It is hard to pinpoint a “most common” concern, but certainly something I hear routinely is customers concern for support after the sale is made. Many customers can tell horror stories of products and promises they have purchased, only to be left holding the bag in the end when it doesn’t work. My experience with Novatech has reinforced to me how committed we are as a company to standing behind everything we sell. I am aware that it can seem like tooting your own horn, but as one of those employees who must stand in front of our customers day after day, I am fortunate to be able to assure our customers, in full confidence, that we will not leave them to navigate the solution on their own. It is of no benefit to our customers, nor to us, to have systems, analyzers, and instrumentation in the field that do not work.
Q. Do you find your role rewarding? Why? What kind of satisfaction do you find in helping customers solve their problems?
Sitting behind a desk has never really appealed to me. I would far rather get out into the field to interact with the customers and equipment. Although there are some aspects to my job that are recurring (such as routine maintenance, audits, and calibrations) by far the most rewarding experiences involve solving problems, emergency service visits, or managing the installation and commissioning of a new project. To be honest, the harder the problem is to solve, or the more complex the project, the happier I am.
I would say that there is no greater satisfaction in Field Service than that of a job well done. Compare arriving on-site at the beginning of the job, knowing that the system is not working, often having a direct impact on the customers production – to that of leaving at the end of the job with the problem solved, the system running, and the customer satisfied. No greater reward than that.
Q. Do you consider Novatech as a “Solution provider”? How is that?
Throughout its growth, the mission statement of Novatech has evolved into what it is today. Our mission is to be “The Analytical Solution Expert”. Not to just offer any solution, but to offer the right To accomplish this, we must:
- Properly understand the customers need,
- Engineer the best solution,
- Build and test it,
- Successfully install and commission it, and lastly
- Support and maintain it.
Every one of those steps are critical because if any of them fail, the chain breaks and the customer suffers.
I have been in this industry for 20 years now and during that time I have worked for, and with, many remarkable companies. What continues to impress me the most about Novatech is the constant desire the company shows to invest in every one of those steps. From our knowledgeable sales team, to our phenomenal engineering and system integration group, to our factory trained and qualified service techs, and all those who go into supporting them, we truly have an industry leading group of people within our organization.
Q. In these unprecedented times where almost everybody is working from home and many sites are even closed, how do you keep connection with your customers? How did Covid-19 change the way a field service technician operates?
For sure when this all began, there was an “apply the brakes” reaction. But as many of the businesses we serve continue to operate, the need for field service and support has not decreased. We are still on our customers sites week after week, supporting and servicing as needed. What has changed the most is the protocols, policies, and procedures put in place to make it safe to do so.
Q. Can you share with us your hobbies and interests outside of work? What else inspires you?
Ironically, to go back to my opening answer, I have never lost my interest in RC vehicles. I enjoy driving hobby grade RC vehicles as well as fully functional collective pitch RC helicopters! I confess, I do not get the time to spend on them that I would like, but they still fascinate me! The good news now, though, is that I can take them apart AND put them back together!
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