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Getting the Most out of Alert Reporting

You’ve jumped into the MPS pool, but you are finding the water choppy; there are lots of meters coming in, but customers are still calling for supplies, you are seeing all kinds of reports, but what is the monitoring software really doing for you?  Wasn’t the investment supposed to eliminate all this chaos?

Defining “Managed Print Services”

Some estimates indicate that as few as 20% of all businesses embarking on an MPS journey have yet to realize its full potential.  Be sure to have and stick with an MPS plan; one that includes everyone on the management team, identifies goals to be accomplished and includes a feedback process to ensure success. 

The MPSA defines Managed Print Services as “the ACTIVE management and optimization of document output devices and related business processes.”  When a dealership’s vision of MPS resembles this definition, the promise of print management can be realized. But please take note … when adding new “tools” be sure to maintain practices that are already working.

Omitting elements of “ACTIVE management and optimization” in an adopted device monitoring program limits true managed print services.  This blog is written to help dealerships expand their print management offering by discussing one component of MPS – alerts and alert reporting.

Beyond Meter Capture

Any collection tool can gather meters.  After all, that was probably the underlying reason for investing in data collection software in the first place.  Once deployments are in place, and meters routed to the appropriate team member or department for action, activating other software functions is mandatory to gain ROI.  Supply and service alerting is a natural for most collection tools and routing each to respective departments can ensure proper follow up.  The print management software a dealership chooses should have the ability to enable alert functions remotely without need of further customer involvement. 

Alert management in and of itself is not print management; it is just one part of bigger device management strategy.  A sound alert management program should enhance the customer’s experience and over the long-term save them money.  The right program showcases the dealership’s customer service ability and opens channels to opportunities that may otherwise not be available. 

Toner Alerts

As noted in the previous Information Management blog post, most modern imaging devices report very accurate toner levels.  Knowing and recognizing device limitations and customers’ fleet capability will help determine at what level alert thresholds should be set to get accurate and timely reporting.

For example – If toner supply thresholds are activated to alert the dealership when there is 10% toner left and machines at the installation location report in no more than 25% increments, the only notification that can trigger is when the device runs out of toner … passing from 25 to 0% as it runs out.  A setting of 10% could result in a call from the customer and require an emergency supply fulfillment delivery.

At Print Tracker, we recommend a thorough fleet evaluation before enabling low level supply alerting and we suggest setting multiple alert levels to make certain time is allowed for appropriate actions to be taken.

To be sure everyone … including the customer … understands the processes, outline expectations and define what is to be done with incoming alerts.  Notify the supply team, identifying specific levels at which toner orders are expected to be fulfilled.  Alert confirmation is not enough; confirming an alert simply logs that the alert has been received … no action has been taken and the alert could potentially be cleared with no fulfillment taking place.  A written standard operation procedure eliminates the guesswork of implementation.

Trained supply personnel that know how to document the actions they take ensures proper fulfillment.  The MPS software the dealership uses should have components with the ability to accept, log and date-stamp action entries.  Simple notes like “Shipped toner by service car” can be kept in device log files within the MPS software’s administrative tools for as long as the machine remains in the fleet.

CAUTION – Don’t be the dealer that puts “millions” of dollars of supply inventory “out there” without true measures of control.  Take action to know and track what is being done.

Service Alerts

Service alerts can also be routed to many people, but often wind up on the dispatch, help, or service manager’s desk.  As with toner alerting, there are many levels of machine and collection software capability; some report and gather basic information like “service needed”, “service soon”, “Toner Low” or even “Toner Out”.  Others gather specific transfer or fixer unit levels.  Still others report drum levels and with the most modern machines, levels for each drum color, bonding agent and waste toner levels.

How this information is gathered and reports, along with defining it accessibility, sets the stage for what services can be provided.  Securing examples of service alerting, and when possible, a complete list of known alerts from the software provider allows the dealership to be sure the collection software chosen is in line with the dealership’s service policies and practices.

Defining how service alerts will be handled differentiates the dealership from others and will increase customers’ satisfaction levels.  Collection software should only be limited by device connectivity and capability.  Better software can report specific alert levels for each service kit noted.  A highly trained staff can enter actions taken to remedy reporting situations, documenting the action history as it occurs.

Advanced Alerts

Some collection software has the ability to send device specific alerting.  Where feasible, dealers can set global alert thresholds for the imaging fleet and then drill down on specific devices.

An increased threshold for high volume devices allows ample time to react to supply or service need.  Decreased thresholds for devices with low usage allow toner or service kits to be depleted more efficiently.

Some collection software also can provide alerts as devices pass through certain volumes.  Devices showing high output volume, nearing the end of a “useful” life, or do not trigger on specified alert thresholds due to their age or connectivity, are all candidates for volume alerting.  This is an outstanding way to be notified when device replacement may be warranted as volume alerting can help with future equipment sales.

… In summary

In and of itself, getting and acting on alerts is not print management, however setting up alerts and alert management is where the rubber first meets the road for many print management dealers, IT shops and VARs.  Alerts will expose opportunity both for the customer and the dealership. With development of a sound alert management plan, proper warning thresholds can be set and incoming alerts managed.

Bottom Line — Prepare for incoming information, know your customers’ imaging fleet, and don’t promise service and supply fulfillment without a sound alert management operating procedure.