Tricks of the Trade

Physical impressions are important. A dirty, disheveled look communicates that you have been hard at work.

Here are ten easy steps to impressing your service customers. While written for X-ray applications, these tricks will work with any type of technology.

Upon entering an X-ray room that is displaying symptoms unfamiliar to you:

1. Immediately open tool box and randomly spread at least half of its contents around the X-ray control and radiographic table. Customers will be happy that you “dove” right into the problem. At the very least, most people enjoy looking at a quality tool set.

2. Pull the large fold-out system interconnect schematic from the service manual and lay it out on the table top. This gives the appearance that you are “deep” into the problem. Also, the customer is glad he or she didn’t call you out for something “dumb.”

3. Remove at least one equipment cabinet cover to reveal impressively complex circuitry. This will evoke the comment, “Oh, so that’s what’s inside of that machine!” Or a staff member may ask, “How do you keep track of all those wires?” For a brief moment you’ll be king of your domain.

4. With the equipment cover off, connect an oscilloscope (in “free run” mode) to any convenient AC signal. In Hollywood this is called “visual effects.”

5. For a dramatic touch, pull your shirt tail out of your trousers and apply grease sparingly to your hands. Don’t overdo it. Physical impressions are important. A dirty, disheveled look communicates that you have been hard at work. (For example, at the end of a football game a player’s uniform should appear soiled — a clean uniform means that player sat out the game on the bench.)

6. When a hospital staff member approaches, quickly climb on (or crawl under) the X-ray table with an appropriately large screwdriver in hand. Moan as if you have contorted your body into an excruciatingly painful position. Timing the moan is critical. Make sure you do it as the staff member passes by. Your customers are paying top dollar for your service and they expect to see a little blood, sweat and tears for their money.

7. If, after several hours of troubleshooting, you are still clueless about the cause of the failure, connect your laptop computer to the system. It may not help much but it will buy you some time and, more important, you’ll look impressive. Note that connecting a laptop computer is just as effective when attached to an old self-regulated dental X-ray as it is with the newest CT scanner.

8. If the customer questions your lack of progress, don’t panic. Explain that you are factory trained, that the troubleshooting is going well but you need to get another print out of your car. Once you are safely in your car, call the factory and plead for help.

9. When you’ve tried everything possible but still cannot resolve the problem, play the trump card: order new software. That way the customer will have the latest and greatest features when you return (with another engineer) to fix the real problem.

10. Finally, always show deep concern as your customers express their animosity towards the equipment or your services. It helps if you practice your “concerned look” every morning in mirror.

Joseph J. Panichello, CBET, is an X-ray field service engineer and the author of X-ray Repair: A Comprehensive Guide to the Installation and Servicing of Radiographic Equipment. He can be reached through his Web site at or by e-mail at