Feb 1, 1998 12:00 PM, Nathaniel Hecht
Do you want to know a secret? At just about every manufacturer, large andsmall, there is a person whose job it is to be your greatest resource.Often, if the company has the budget, there are numerous people. In fact,these special people are paid to have all the answers and are availableevery day to talk about their employer's products in minute detail. Youcan't find them in the manufacturer's advertisements, and they do notalways attend trade shows (after all, someone has to hold down the fort).They are experts in customer service, and they are paid to help you byanswering your product questions. They go by different names-productmanager, technical support, product specialist-but most often, if you askfor the applications engineer, you will make it to the right place.
Many applications personnel have heard it all. If you have a question, youcan bet your bottom dollar that 10 others have asked it before. Becauseapplications engineers are the face forward to the public for theircompany, they are usually quite thorough and detail-oriented. Whatinformation they do not have at their fingertips can be carefullyresearched for you. Applications engineers typically have access toengineering personnel, drawings, product people, design specialists andsales-and-marketing types. These personalities, hidden within most companystructures, are often off-limits to the average phone caller, but you haveaccess to their knowledge by calling applications.
Being an applications engineer, however, is a mixed blessing. Everyonewants a piece of your time when you hold this position, which sometimesmakes it difficult to get through to them. They get very busy, so busy, infact, that they can rarely be reached because they are constantly on thephone. Fortunately, there is always voice mail (a necessity, as much as wehate it) and message-takers for those occasions, but what if you need theanswer now? In such an instance, it would be wise to ask for the servicedepartment.
Another hidden asset, the service department staff, is familiar with theproducts both inside and out. These technicians are normally avid users ofthe products they repair, and they can answer all the basic functional andspecification questions. Don't be surprised if they are eager to helpbecause after all, they are also trained customer-service professionals. Ifthey cannot answer your questions, then they will help you find someone whocan or, at the worst, send you back to applications.
The next time you have a burning product question that keeps you awake atnight, call the manufacturer's applications department. You will find thata wealth of knowledge awaits you.