The Industry Needs to Improve Technical Support

Companies want to use RFID to solve their problems—they don't want to become computer or RFID experts.
Published: November 19, 2013

I recently received an e-mail from Tom Fernandez, an associate professor in Michigan State University‘s department of horticulture. I think it’s worth sharing at length:

“As a user of RFID technology, I have run into an unfortunately very common problem with many of the vendors of RFID products—their customer service and technical support is extremely, frustratingly, aggravatingly poor. As in other computer-related industries, RFID technology providers expect their users to be computer- or tech-savvy, whereas we have other areas of expertise. We want to use RFID to solve our problems; we don’t want to be computer or RFID experts. I believe one of the greatest limitations to more rapid expansion of this technology is this attitude by the vendors.

“I work in a challenging field that integrates logistics, decision support, chemistry, water quality and plant growth. RFID has plenty of applications, but I don’t need to add computer or RFID technical skills to my overloaded brain. I understand how RFID works, how I can integrate it into practices that will be beneficial to a large national industry, but there are glaring limitations—mainly in support. I want plug-and-play, reliable technology with good customer and technical support. I haven’t found this with tag manufacturers, printer manufacturers and reader manufacturers. They are all extremely slow in response, and usually very difficult to contact in the first place. Until this happens, the technology will be limited to the large companies with their own technical support, and a huge market of medium to small companies will be frustrated if they try using it in the current climate, and may drop it and never come back.

“It is a great technology, but if it is not easily adoptable or integrated into existing systems, adoption will be slow once past the early adopter stage.”

I agree with Tom. I’ve heard complaints like this from several end users, and even from systems integrators who need answers from hardware manufacturers in order to serve their customers but cannot find the answers they seek. This is frustrating and can slow adoption. I tend to see the problem as being due to the fact that companies have cut expenses to the bone during the recession, and do not have enough staff assigned to tech support. It is part of the growing pains of a new industry.

A few years ago, everyone was complaining that as much as 20 percent of ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) tags being delivered did not work. I said then that the industry would fix the problem over time, and today, you no longer hear any complaints about dead tags. This will likely be a similar situation. But in the meantime, the poor customer must struggle just to get a little tech support.

Mark Roberti is the founder and editor of RFID Journal. If you would like to comment on this article, click on the link below. To read more of Mark’s opinions, visit the RFID Journal Blog, the Editor’s Note archive or RFID Connect.