Respond to and document a customer’s troubleshooting questions
A field application specialist (FAS) is typically a primary customer-facing employee of a company. One main responsibility of a FAS is to help the customer use their company’s technology in-person (e.g., in the field). An FAS job requires excellent communication and interpersonal skills as well as broad and in-depth technical and scientific knowledge. The specific responsibilities of an FAS job can vary depending on the size of the company, the technology/product catalogue, location of customers, and whether the FAS professional is involved in pre-sales and/or post-sales interactions with the customer.
The FAS is often the first person to respond when something goes wrong with a technology/product. FASes need to be able to quickly assess the situation and clearly explain to a customer how to solve their problem over the phone, via email, or in-person.
A FAS’s contact information is often placed next to or on the equipment/technology when a customer receives the technology, so this is often a way FASes are contacted for troubleshooting. A FAS might also be emailed or contacted through a company’s help desk. A FAS may also be asked for help troubleshooting when they least expect it, such as during a routine client visit or after a seminar.
This is an sample process once a customer has the FAS’s email after a sale:
Eventually, customers naturally transition (or an FAS helps them) to ask tech support for troubleshooting if such a group exists in the company so that the FAS can use their time for other responsibilities and new customers.
For this exercise, you in your first year as an FAS at Bio-Rad. Respond to a troubleshooting email. Then practice your skills in real life!
Task 1: Read the email and research the technology
Pick one of these sample emails with anonymized questions sent in by actual Bio-Rad customers and research the technology/protocols in the email.
Research the technology using the product’s user manual and protocols available on the company website (http://www.bio-rad.com/).
Task 2: Respond to the email
Pay attention to the tone, brevity, and manner of answering. Don’t worry about having the ‘right answer’ at the moment. At some companies, the onboarding process for an FAS would include several months of becoming familiar with protocols, instruments, and concepts before interacting with customers.
Task 3: Write up a log
Write a summary of the troubleshooting emails to enter into a log of customer questions. Create a table with the following columns, and type in the information according to the email:
Other possible fields:
In most companies, FASes create and close a case (write up a log) like this for every interaction (phone, email, in-person) so that the company can (1) keep track of the most common issues, (2) spend less time finding a solution to an issue if a solution has been previously found, (3) identify what trends there are in the use of their products, and/or (4) provide feedback to R&D for product improvement and sometimes even new product development.
Task 4 (advanced): Troubleshoot on the spot!
FASes can sometimes find themselves in a situation where they need to help their customer in-person. FASes must then be able to think on their toes to help their customer. FAS training sometimes includes a job shadow experience where you learn to troubleshoot on the spot and get feedback on it.
Tell a labmate, rotation student, or colleague that you’d like to practice your troubleshooting skills with a technology that you know very well. Bring a notepad with you. Ask them explain to you a problem they’ve had with the technology recently. Ask them to include details of the experiment, any data they obtained, etc.
Remember to listen patiently before providing an answer and ask clarifying questions. Answer their question briefly in a 5 minutes or less. In crafting your verbal response, it might help to refer to the guidelines from Task 2. For tips on how to actively listen, check out the resources list.
Then, ask your colleague the following questions:
Be sure to thank them for their time!
Task 1 & 2 – Email response 2-3 short paragraphs in a word processor.
Task 3 – Case log entry as a table.
Task 4 – Report of your troubleshooting in real life with feedback in a table. Include columns for Technology name, Description of the problem, Your answer, and Their feedback
Task 2 sample – Once you have written your own email response, compare your email response to the corresponding replies sent by Bio-Rad professionals.
Skills used to perform this task:
Skills used in this field:
Additional tasks in a FAS career:
A professional in the field of Field Application Specialist may also perform these tasks:
In recent years, FAS roles have evolved to include a sales perspective or actual sales responsibilities. In this case, a FAS needs to balance how much time they spend troubleshooting and generating sales leads for the company.
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Simulation author: Linet Mera, PhD
This simulation vetted by FAS professionals in the Bay Area