A properly functioning technical support department is an essential part of any company that wants to offer any technology. Today's products are not trivial, whether they are programmable substations or building materials such as sealants and adhesives. To deploy them, it is necessary to know a number of rules and procedures. We learn something from manuals, something from training, but sometimes it happens that we are stuck. Then it is the support's turn. In the following, we will look at how Domat Control System technical support works and how you should proceed to get the most out of it.
It provides technical information and assists product sales customers, designers and customers for whom turnkey orders have been commissioned. It provides training, webinars and collaborates in creating help and technical documentation. Product sales customers, so-called integrators, together with designers are the creators of the system topology and shop drawing documentation. They also provide assembly and production of switchboards, either on their own or with the help of specialized assembly companies. However, their most important task is the creation of application programs, including graphics and commissioning of the devices. These activities also raise the most queries. Technical support communicates in Czech, English, and German. The documentation is available in Czech and English. If you need a translation into your language for your foreign customers, we will provide you with source files.
Or, more precisely, what the technical support should not do: to provide general information, such as the principles of operation of building technologies or the basics of electrical engineering and physics. Dew point, serial or parallel connection of loads, principle of a current protector, function of a hydraulic dynamic pressure equalizer or protection against legionella are quite often addressed. However, this enlightenment is provided with pleasure, because we see that the problem does not concern our own products or services. Technical support also does not provide pricing information, please contact your dealer or Domat logistics to be redirected. The support technician also does not know when the goods will be delivered to you, this is the task of the logistics department. Loans of standard products can also be handled directly with logistics.
A technical support usually has several levels. In Domat we use three levels:
Support level 1: This is the level you will encounter the first time you contact the technical support line. These are engineers who have most probably already solved a problem like yours. At the same time, they have experience with building technologies and can see the problem in a big picture. This results in their questions, sometimes seemingly strange - see below.
Support level 2: These guys are approached by the first level support in case of doubts. These are programmers, test engineers, documentation writers and other specialists who have deep knowledge of hardware and software. Basically, they should do their job in peace, customer support is not their main business. They may only be available at certain times of the day or week.
Support level 3: The greatest "magicians", software architects, hardware developers, often external specialists. They are contacted by second-level staff if they need advice themselves. Their time is the most expensive and therefore we do not unnecessarily bother them with problems that the first two levels can fix. This principle of escalation explains why solving more complex or non-standard problems can take some time.
Each company has several channels, the most common being telephone and e-mail. If the matter is not urgent, give priority to e-mail please. The technician then has more time to work on the problem, thinks about the solution in advance and does not delay the customer. In addition, the customer is in full contact in the e-mail, so the support can call back or send a file without having to have the e-mail address spelled. The e-mail message is also easier to find if you want to get back to the issue later.
We recommend using the central support telephone number, +420 461 100 666, as this is always redirected to the mobile phone of one of the first level technical support staff who is on duty. If the customer calls directly on the mobile phone of his favorite or well-known technician, the call may not be answered - the technician is providing a training, has a meeting etc. He is not guaranteed to respond. Thank you for not opening multiple phone sessions with several technicians at the same time. If the number is busy or unavailable (e.g. another call on Skype), the technician then calls back, he has the number from which it was called in his missed calls. Therefore, call from a number where you will be available later please.
E-mails sent to firstname.lastname@example.org are usually processed on the same day, at most on the next working day. Please provide your full contact in the report, the technician may need to find out some details quickly and prefer to call you back instead of writing mails. If you do not receive a reply to your email within two days, write or call again please. The message may have wandered somewhere. When we know that the solution will take us a long time, we will always respond with at least a short message to let you know that your request has been accepted and we are working on it.
The web form here is a convenient way to ask a question directly from our website. It is especially useful in situations where you are browsing the web from a computer on which there is no e-mail client - for example, from a SCADA station. We do not want to collect your personal data unnecessarily, so phone and e-mail are optional. However, if you want us to reply, you should include a valid contact. The query does not lead directly to technical support (it may also concern business issues), so technical questions are redirected to support manually, which may lead to a slight delay in our response.
Sometimes a short meeting in person is better than dozens of emails. However, always arrange your visit in advance please, it could happen that the support technician works from home or from another office.
Sharing a desktop is usually the best way to fix a problem while showing its solution in practice. Domat uses Teamviewer, which (Quick Support V13) can be downloaded from our website, the Windows Remote Desktop, or AnyDesk. If you need remote assistance, get ready one of these programs and make sure your computer is connected to the Internet before you call. The support technician is usually ready to start the session right away.
In order to solve the problem as quickly as possible and to the mutual satisfaction, it is good to follow a few simple rules:
It means being able to describe what I really want, how I proceeded and where and why I ended up.
Correct: “We have installed FCR013 controllers, so far only in autonomous mode - without a central bus. Most rooms work properly - they heat at the setpoint of 21 ° C, but several of them heat only to 14 ° C and the temperature does not rise more, even if we change the setpoint using the knob."
Wrong: "We have your thermostats here and it's cold in some rooms."
This is probably the most important thing. If we look at the problem systemically, we often come up with the solution ourselves, even before we call for support. The system view consists in dividing the whole (for example, a non-functional temperature measurement in the PLC) into parts that are interconnected via known interfaces, and then checking one interface after another.
Correct: The outside temperature shows -50° C. I disconnect the passive outdoor temperature sensor from the cable and measure its resistance directly on the sensor. I know that at 0° C the Pt1000 measuring element has a resistance of 1000 Ohm, with increasing temperature its resistance increases. The ohmmeter shows, say, 1023 Ohm. According to the table that is attached to each sensor or can be found on the Internet, this represents a temperature of around 6° C. If it corresponds to the estimated outdoor temperature, the sensor is OK. Therefore, I proceed as follows: I reconnect the sensor and disconnect the opposite end of the cable at the terminals of the switchboard or input module / PLC. I will measure the resistance again, this time it is a combination of cable + sensor. The value should not change significantly, only the parasitic resistance of the cable will be added. If everything is OK, I focus on the input module or PLC and continue by trying only this input and disconnect all the others (pull out the connectors) so that the measurement is not affected by any interference from other inputs. I can also try to connect another, demonstrably functional sensor to this input...
Wrong: I'm calling for support: "My outdoor temperature sensor isn't working!"
Especially with equipment that has already been put into operation, there may be a problem elsewhere than in the building management system itself. We often encounter problems in IT infrastructure, air conditioning, or heating.
Correct: “The hot water pump in front of the storage tank is running, but the heating does not give the required output. The tank temperature is 25 ° C. I'm going to see what the temperature on the primary looks like. There was no outage in the heating plant, is the emergency valve in the autonomous control of the exchanger station not closed? Is the strainer in the charging pump circuit clogged? Isn't a valve accidentally closed by hand somewhere?”
Wrong: "The hot water pump is switched on and only lukewarm water is flowing from the tap, fix it!"
The problem that is bothering you may have been solved by several people before you. The technical support staff will be better able to come up with a solution if you mention even seemingly insignificant facts.
Correct: “Passive temperature sensors at all inputs show tens of degrees more than the actual temperatures. It is an air handling unit with frequency converters, which are unfortunately installed directly in the switchboard. We control the inverters with analog outputs from the PLC. The cables to the sensors are in parallel with the power supplies of the cooling towers... "
Wrong: "All temperatures show wrong values, nothing is right!"
The technologies we work with are not simple. It is all the more important to describe the situation clearly and concisely so that the dialogue is not misleading.
Correct: “I can't connect to the PLC from the development environment. The notebook is connected to the PLC via a simple unmanageable switch. Physically, it is most probably OK, the LEDs on the switch and on the Ethernet socket of the PLC are lit as usual. I haven't tried to ping yet.” (It was the test of IP connection and setting of IP addresses, so-called ping, that would be the first thing a support technician would ask.) The problem was a wrong password.
Wrong: "Ethernet communication does not work!" This may also be true, but in this case Ethernet (together with several other layers of network communication) was without problems...
Exceptionally, it happens that the customer leaves for the site completely unprepared: he does not have application software ready, or even a development environment installed. One of our colleagues described this situation by comparing it to "hello, I bought a guitar from you yesterday and I have a concert the next day, what should I press?" These are, of course, extreme cases. However, it is advisable to check the documentation before leaving, prepare for the task I will solve, download all sorts of configuration programs and, if possible, try the settings in the peace of the office or home. It may turn out that we need a special cable (such as RS232 between the modem and PLC), a reducer, a tool or a 12 V power supply.
The last, but no less important rule. The support technicians are actually thinking out loud. They try to proceed systemically - see above - and sometimes they may seem to ask unnecessary questions or underestimate your abilities. Note that the technician does not see your situation over the phone, he does not know that you have been solving the problem for several hours and you may be in mental and time stress. "Is the switchboard energized? Is the green LED on the PLC lit, is the yellow RUN LED flashing? Is the red TX light on the I/O modules flashing?”
Correct: “Yes, other devices under the same circuit breaker are working properly. I measured the voltage at the PLC supply terminals and there is 26 V AC. The green LED on the PLC is lit, the yellow RUN flashes about once per second, and only the green LED lits on the I/O modules - the red one does not flash."
Wrong: "Sure, everything is looking as it should, I've checked it THREE times!!!"
Some customers are unnecessarily shy and lose hours in experimenting. This is also not correct. We recommend that you spend twenty minutes, a maximum of half an hour, and then call or write for support. Usually, nothing new will come to light after this time. On the other hand, we welcome when the caller first thinks about the problem for a while. This will also get ready all information for a smooth call. It has even happened several times that the customer answered himself during the inquiry - all he had to do was sort out his thoughts. Our aim is to solve as many problems as possible immediately. Here, too, the 80:20 rule applies, so twenty percent of the problems take 80 % of the time. In particular, issues where the problem occurs only occasionally and therefore they require long-term testing, may take weeks or months. In all cases, however, we do our utmost to make our devices and programs user-friendly and open at the same time, and your feedback helps us significantly. Thank you for it, and we look forward to further cooperation!