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Sep 09 . 5min read
Developing new products, especially with advanced technologies like microbolometers (thermal infrared detectors), is particularly risky for smaller businesses. Which is why the support of experienced suppliers is vital. And smaller businesses that successfully build strong, long-term relationships with their suppliers are more likely to add value and grow.
The challenge is to find a supplier capable of supporting you as you develop new products and integrate new components. And when it comes to choosing a supplier, customer support should be at the top of your list. Whether it is day-to-day technical support or earlier-stage R&D-driven support, your supplier should have proven and effective customer support systems and processes in place.
1. Technical support backed by technological research
The mission of technological research organizations (sometimes called contract research organizations) is to conduct research with and for their partners in order to support their partners’ innovation strategies. In France, most technological research organizations are government-owned and have ambitious partnership policies targeting businesses of all sizes. Today, many of these organizations have specific programs to help smaller companies enhance their innovation capabilities.
One such organization is Leti, a CEA Tech institute, located in Grenoble, France. Leti conducts some of the most advanced micro and nanotechnology research in the world and provides smaller businesses with many different types of support. This can include developing new products and processes and acquiring new technologies.
Partnering with this kind of research organization is one way that smaller businesses can get the high-level expertise they need to innovate. Smaller businesses can leverage R&D partnerships to access highly-specialized equipment they may need to develop a new product, ensure that their development projects are economically competitive, and stay at the forefront of innovation. Research organizations can conduct lab tests, assess different technological choices, or improve a manufacturing process.
Smaller companies in the process of ramping up their manufacturing activities need these kinds of services more than any other type of company.
Often, partnering with a supplier that already has a relationship with a research organization is the best way to achieve this goal. As a smaller company, you can benefit directly from your supplier’s R&D partnerships with high-level research organizations. And you get the assurance of a strong partner that will support your growth and help you keep innovating over the long term.
2. A broad range of in-house technical support services
a. Customer support
Customer support is one of the keys to maintaining close cooperation between customer and supplier. Once sales and purchasing finish their work, customer support takes over! Once contracts have been negotiated and signed, the customer-supplier relationship is embodied by customer support. Customer support is the customer’s true partner and will support the customer through all stages of the project lifecycle, from testing and scale up to manufacturing. Therefore, your supplier’s customer support team has to be available, approachable, and responsive.
But that’s not all. The customer support team has to be knowledgeable. They have to know the technology inside and out and have the necessary equipment to resolve any problems that arise.
When it comes to very advanced technologies like thermal imaging, your supplier’s customer support team should be made up of technicians and engineers capable of liaising with R&D and engineering departments.
So, make sure that your supplier has a strong, dedicated customer support team with the capacity to support you and actively meet your needs, whatever the scope of your project.
b. A training center
Some suppliers take customer support to the next level, especially when they provide an advanced technology like infrared. This often takes the form of a dedicated training center for their customers. Customers can come to the training center at the supplier’s facility, where they benefit from specialized fabrication and testing equipment and practical product documentation like user guides and technical specifications.
Imagine a customer that would like to integrate an infrared sensor into one of their cameras. They need to run some lab tests, like measuring NETD, response time, and noise. Ideally, the infrared sensor supplier will be able to provide these services. This is where a training center plays a crucial role, helping customers validate or improve a product or process.
c. Dedicated sales staff
When it comes to advanced technologies like infrared, sales reps are often seasoned engineers. Their job is to recommend the best product for their customer’s needs at a price that will enable their customer to see their product through to completion. Sales reps also provide their customers with insights on the latest market figures and trends and share their customers’ needs with their own product development and strategy departments.
So, as you can see, sales reps are valued advisors and partners.
3. Technical support and beyond: The importance of recommendations and training
For smaller businesses, your supplier’s customer support team can provide access to the facilities and equipment you need and give your people recommendations and training to solidly anchor their new know-how for the long term, both by sharing experiences and by transferring knowledge.
The last word
Whether it is from a technical, economic, or strategic standpoint, technical support, whatever form it takes, is crucial to developing new products and, more broadly, growing your business. This is even more so for projects involving high-tech innovation and nanotechnology.
Technical support is important, of course. But a strong partnership with your supplier is crucial. A strong partnership is the foundation for your company’s long-term growth, and today’s customer-supplier relationships align with this vision.
If you have specific questions relative to your projects, talk to one of our experts. Claim your free, fifteen-minute call with a member of our customer support team now.