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5 questions you should always ask before buying GPS telemetry products
Otherwise, you may be leaving yourself open for some very unpleasant surprises.
Not all wildlife biologists will agree on which company to buy their telemetry equipment from. Here are 5 questions every biologist, regardless of who they buy from, should ask before issuing that purchase order.
What will this product actually do?
Now is the time to get this information, not later after you already own the equipment. Just because the ad or the website indicates X number of locations for Y number of months that doesn't mean the product is going to work that way for you. Most websites and advertising media will qualify the conditions under which the advertised battery life estimates are made but it's up to you to read and understand them. Chances are that your work will not fall within the parameters used to create that advertising. Remember, someone is trying to sell you something so the advertising will reflect the best possible performance. And find out what kind of battery life testing has been done at the factory to validate the claims. If this information isn't provided when you ask, wonder why not.
Is the product about to reach end of life status in the product line?
At a wildlife gathering a few years ago I was approached by someone who asked if we could make battery packs to fit onto some other manufacturer's product. This biologist had invested tens of thousands of dollars in a particular brand and was happy with the collar performance. The collars were sold to him with user replaceable batteries but when the time came to replace the batteries he was told that the product had been discontinued and the battery packs were no longer available. This is a situation that you can avoid by doing a little detective work up front. Be specific and ask if the product will still be serviceable on a certain date in the future. Get your answer in writing and in the purchase agreement.
What kinds of customer support are provided after I buy and who provides it?
Have you had occasion to call the phone company for service lately? Or how about your credit card company? Recently I spent 15 entire minutes pushing 1 for yes and 2 for no before I got a human on the telephone! Then he had to listen to me complain about their service for an additional 15 seconds before we even got to my issue! Do you need this kind of hassle when dealing with a telemetry company? Find out the truth about the customer support you can expect. Customer support is expensive but it's part of what you pay for when you buy your equipment. Best to know what you're buying so just ask who will support you and how many different ways can you contact support...skype, phone, email, SMS, FAQs on the web? Are there tutorials and videos available to help get you going with your equipment? Find out what the policy is for answering customers' support questions? We all work globally now but there should be a policy regarding the maximum amount of time you could have to wait for an answer to your questions. You might not be thinking of this now but believe me you will be thinking of it when you're out in the field trying to solve an issue without the help of customer support.
Can you please send me a copy of the user manual?
I've been around GPS collars for 15 years but I have seen user manuals that even I could not make heads or tails of. If you think you're getting close to making a decision about a particular brand, ask for a copy of the user manual. Then read it! Better yet, compare a couple of manuals from different companies and you will truly begin to understand the nuances of the products. Again, if your request is refused, ask yourself why.
What is required of me when the order is placed?
So you did your research about the equipment, you got your three quotes from different telemetry companies and you have finally placed your order with your firm, drop dead delivery date. Everything is all lined up and now you think you're going to lie in the hammock drinking mint juleps? Maybe before you pop the umbrella into that drink you might want to find out if there is some information you need to provide to the telemetry company? Everything was discussed in a million emails right? What more could there be? Believe me, there's more. Ask for the order form, fill it in and return it promptly. And don't be shy about adding your two cents regarding the things you know about these animals' behavior that maybe, just maybe could affect a piece of high tech electronics hanging from its body. Remember it's your neck on the line if this project doesn't work as planned, cover your bases first, mint juleps later.
For more information about what you can expect when buying GPS products from Telemetry Solutions please go to this link