Service Is the Star of New Invacare Program

One of the critical questions about competitive bidding is its potential impact on the service component of suppliers' businesses. Service models, anyway, are unique to each business. Some suppliers specialize in service, while others would prefer to focus efforts elsewhere.

For the latter group, Invacare's new Five Star Service Program could be just the ticket.

Introduced this summer, the program gives suppliers the choice of assigning warranty service work for Invacare consumer power chairs (those formerly bearing the K0011 code) and POVs to Invacare-contracted Roadrunner Mobility. Boasting 200 technicians in 150 locations nationwide, Roadrunner Mobility uses OEM parts, offers a vehicle loaner program to customers, and can be reached via a toll-free service number. Roadrunner seeks to schedule 24-hour repair service in emergency situations, and 48-hour service otherwise.

Suppliers can enroll individual vehicles in the optional program for the fee of $150 per power chair, $100 per scooter. The contract (which is not a roadside assistance program) lasts the duration of the vehicle's warranty.

To protect its dealers' business models, Invacare's contract requires Roadrunner Mobility to refrain from selling products to customers it serves, and to route referrals back to the dealer who sold the original vehicle.

Chris Yessayan, Invacare VP/GM of the service business group, oversees the program. He says the idea for the Five Star Service Program came about for a number of reasons — among them the fact that Invacare receives an average of 300 calls per day from end-users.

"There were a couple of factors leading up to this, and that was definitely one," Yessayan says. "You have customers calling in (and saying), 'I can't get my scooter serviced or my power chair serviced… I'm down in Florida, and no one wants to help me out here.'" In addition, Yessayan says, Invacare dealers were asking for help to fulfill their service obligations. Invacare's inside sales reps reported "that customers have steered away from getting into power (mobility sales) because they couldn't afford to develop the infrastructure. So when you add all these factors together, it just seemed like it was the right thing for us to do, to be able to have a more comprehensive solution for our customer base."

Part of the program's allure, Yessayan adds, is that it can adapt to individual dealer needs and business models. "Not every dealer loves this," he says. "Some dealers really view service as how they differentiate themselves. Our goal is not to compete with them. Our goal is to provide them with an option. The models are changing, and if (dealers) decide that this is a more cost-effective way for (them) to service the area they're in today or for them to go to service a different area, now they have some alternatives. And if you choose to (provide service) yourself, you still should be able to differentiate yourself, because you're still that local provider. We're not competing with providers. We're trying to enhance the overall infrastructure of the providers that we have today, to say if this was a stumbling block for you to grow your business before, we want to remove that stumbling block."

Suppliers can enroll all, some or none of the consumer power chairs and scooters they sell. Yessayan suggests that a hybrid approach — personally servicing vehicles of local customers, but outsourcing the service contracts of customers who live farther away — could help suppliers to be more efficient and cost effective. "You may say, 'I've got a remote location and I really can't afford to put (a service technician) out there. This (service outsourcing program) works better for me in this particular location.'

"The beauty of this is that it's not a one size fits all," Yessayan says. "It's what works for your business."

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