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Getting the best

01 Apr 2010

This being said, it is perhaps surprising that a large segment of the market still lacks the combination of these two. Often the reason is simply that the customer purchased, or was sold, the wrong device to truly meet their needs. While it may print adequately on the page, does the speed meet the customer’s needs; does it link with their software as it could, does it meet their media requirements, and what is it truly costing them to operate? These are just some of the questions that often go unasked. Customers may also be unaware of the need to truly evaluate their own requirements regarding the deployment of single-function printers versus multifunction devices, or a mixture of the two. This stretches to the physical positioning of print devices within the business and whether a distributed or centralised approach suits them best. The savvier customer researches and then self-diagnoses their print requirements, and their focus may well be on the initial purchase price. Alternatively they may ask their dealer to provide a recommendation, the result of which could be based on the dealer’s own alignments or requirements and thus not entirely in the best interests of the customer. Added to this, the service and support behind the brand should also be carefully considered, but can be overlooked. Whichever of the above occurs, the net result is the same: the customer ends up with a device that neither increases productivity nor provides cost efficiencies over a period of time. The remedy is to provide the right solution in the first instance. This is where you as a dealer have an important role to play, regardless of whether they make an outright purchase or adopt a managed print solution. Either way it is important you take a consultative approach to their printing requirements. A cheaper printer, for example, typically results in a higher cost per page and, therefore, a larger total cost of ownership over the life of the device. A cheaper model may also see a reduction in capability. Coupled with the higher operating costs, this may not only cause frustration for your customer, but potentially damage their relationship with you as their supplier. Saving customers money and improving their capabilities is a proven customer retention and acquisition strategy. Almost every dealer I have met wants to keep the customers they have, improve relationships and gain new customers. The print category can be very rewarding in this regard. The roadblock for most dealers is the perception of their own capabilities or limitations. But with the right company in support, you can simply be the relationship manager, not the technology expert or support service provider. You will also gain credibility with the customer, and typically increase your share of business with them, providing an ongoing revenue stream. The second roadblock is often a perceived lack of margin in hardware. Selling printers and copiers under managed services enables you to sell higher-value hardware across a wider range of products. Whilst A3 devices continue to be a relatively small segment of the market in terms of units, due largely to the gap in price compared with their A4 equivalent, they are more suited to managed print service solutions, thanks to increased functionality and lower operating costs. According to industry figures, the bulk of the laser-based print market is still single-function mono printers (in terms of units). From a revenue perspective, however, the figures look very different. The growth trend is still towards colour and, within that, the multifunction segment. And to a large extent this should be the case, given the requirement for traditional printer vendors to compete with copier companies via the dealer channel. Outside of a strong local support structure, the last link in the chain to providing an optimised print solution is the management software that drives the devices. This can be either in the form of vendor-designated or vendor-agnostic software. The first is often supplied free with the devices, but for a relatively low cost the vendor-agnostic software provides a significant advantage, in that it manages multiple-brand environments with intuitive features and alerts that provide a larger spectrum of benefits to your customer. In summary, provide your customers with a consultative approach towards their printing requirements with a longer-term view of their needs and the costs involved. This may incorporate discussion from both a procurement and financial perspective, along with centralised versus decentralised deployment of both single and multifunction devices. Failure to do so creates an opportunity for your competitors or the copier channel to engage with your customers and create a relationship with them. Be sure to select the right partner to support you in your approach. This will reduce your need to provide expert advice or technical support and, importantly, enable you to own the customer relationship long-term and obtain the ongoing revenue.

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