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Meters, Supplies and Service Monitoring – MPS Floodgates: part 2 of 4

Many, if not most, office technology dealerships have links for customer interaction on their websites.  ‘ Enter Service Request’, ‘ Order Supplies’ and ‘ Enter Meter Reads’ links are common.

Does offering a way to interact represent customer service?  Why should dealers want their customers to request supplies or service?  Shouldn’t providers already know when something is needed?By the time most customers experience need, they’re already upset!  As MPS solutions gather meter data they should also be returning service and supply status on devices they are monitoring.Device status and meter counters can be tabulated by most print machines used by consumers; why not have this detail gathered automatically sent to the people or departments within the organization who can take appropriate actions.

Gathering and Managing Meter Data

All MPS collection software products gather meter data.  In fact, to some dealers, meter collection is synonymous with managed print services.  Software harvests total, black and color page counts; total, black and color copy counts; and total, black and color print counts.  Some solutions add fax, scan and duplex detail while still others collect meters from wide format equipment and other specialized machines.As dealers evaluate their software options, the following questions should be considered:

  • Are the solutions being considered flexible enough for the needs of the business? 
  • Can ALL meters from ALL devices supported by the dealer be read for accurate billing? 
  • How are meters gathered and reported and how is the data made available? 
  • Can more than one person receive or access the meter data?
  • Can customers access collected information?
  • Will the gathered data integrate with the ERP billing software used by the dealership?
  • What happens when collection software finds devices that are not managed by the dealership?

Meter capture and data management is not print management but it does set the stage for dealers to become MPS providers.  Once valuable meter detail is retrieved, analysis can be done to determine device output, volume over time and ultimately used to suggest cost reducing recommendations.

Gathered meter data should be accessible once it is retrieved.  MPS capture software makes data available in a variety of ways, including Excel ® meter reports, in web accessible ePortals for mobile or tablet review, and in management utilities like downloadable Meter Viewers.

Common reports meter collection software provide typically include:

Installation Downloads
Meters / Meter Summary
New Devices
Non-reporting Installations
Non-reporting Devices
Missed Check-ins
Installations Summary
Sites Summary
Volume Analysis
Volume Analysis Charts
Device Volume
Raw Meter Data
Total Cost of Ownership
Customer Invoicing
.csv file dump capability

Be sure to verify that the needed meter detail is available in the software being evaluated.  Also check with the software provider to learn of customization opportunities.  Better developers can create customized reporting or .csv file dumps for customized integration.

ePortals offer dealers and their customers the ability to review meters and determine volume without the need to download software.  Meter Viewers installed on workstations allow report generation, integration and data management.  Be sure to determine which options are required and uncover any added access costs.Data analysis utilities abound making fleet studies even easier.  Check to make sure meter data from collection software products being evaluated can be accepted by the dealer’s management software.  Quality data collection providers integrate gathered meters data into management utilities such as:

Compass Sales Solutions
Digital Quote Manager
MPS Toolbox
Ricoh TCO FullView
TCO Estimator
Xerox Assessment

Imaging Device Supply Status

Print management software should be able to provide more than just meter data formatted in a nice report.  Dealerships become MPS providers when they take on the active management and optimization of document output devices.  Supply Fulfillment is a natural first step into managed print services.

Meter gathering software will show device status detail from monitored devices when functionality is enabled.  When toner levels or replacement parts reach dealer predefined thresholds, the solution should be able to reliably send notices or alerts to the person or department within the organization for action.

Alerts often signal that toners may need replacement soon, are nearing end of yield, or in some cases may be completely depleted.  Some software can even alert if toners are replaced too early or notify people when devices that have formerly reported toner have stopped providing levels.

When evaluating alerting options be sure to inquire:

  • Can toner alert levels be set and adjusted by the supply team? 
  • Can more than one threshold level be set to trigger an alert?
  • How many alerts are sent per low toner event?
  • Can more than one person get the alert?  Can alerts be sent to supply partners?
  • What happens if a cartridge is replaced before it is empty?
  • What happens if a device stops reporting a toner level?
  • How is toner need signaled for older devices that do not report levels in percentages?
  • Can the software be set to trigger alerts for volume?
  • What about device precision?  How accurate are toner levels reported by machines?
  • Does the collection software work better with some manufactures devices than others?
  • Once the supply team receives a notice, can remedy actions be entered and confirmed?
  • Can the need for toner or supplies be viewed on the web from handheld mobile devices?

NOTE – Please review “Getting the Most out of Alert Reporting” for information about device precession.

The right solution will help dealers and their customers control toner inventory.  “Just-in-time” delivery of supplies is possible when dealers know of pending need.  Collection software will have the ability to set global alerting thresholds for all devices.  Better solutions will have the ability to set device specific thresholds.There is a variety of reporting available to assist dealers meet and exceed supply fulfillment commitments.  Available reports often include:

Alert History
Site Status
Device Alert history
Device Totals
Device Volume
Low Toner Levels
Devices no longer reporting
Supply Quotes

Be sure to verify the reports supplied by the software being considered fit the needs of the dealership.

Service – The Bread and Butter of what MPS Businesses Should be Providing

How many techs have a responsive mindset?  Is your business reactive in nature?  Do your customers dictate their needs when machines stop working?    Good MPS solutions allow help desk and dispatch teams take a proactive approach to services the dealership offers.  Most imaging devices flash a message on the console when something is wrong – often before immediate service is required.  MPS software sends this information to people or departments that can take action.  Imagine what clients do when a tech arrives to give needed service before a service call is made!

When assessing different MPS software, be sure to determine:

  • How often are sites polled for service need?  Can that scan frequency be adjusted?
  • What service information can the MPS solution report or provide?
  • What other device detail is available?
  • How is service need signaled for older devices that do not report maintenance kit levels in percentages?
  • Can different maintenance kit levels be assigned to individual devices?
  • Can more than one person get service alerts?  Can alerts be sent to parts suppliers?
  • Can software send alerts to one person and “Jam”, “Paper Out” and/or additional notices to another?
  • Can the action a person takes to resolve the service required be confirmed? 
  • Can the need for service be viewed on the web from handheld mobile devices?

Dealerships that enable service alerting use MPS software to stay on top of their customer Break/Fix needs.  Dispatchers can route service cars based on that pending need, rather than emergent demand.  Service routing can also be arranged so that supply fulfillment is possible during a single site visit.  All the above is possible because the data collection software can provide continuous site and device information.

As with meter and supply status information available, a variety of reporting abounds to assist dealers meet and exceed service fulfillment commitments.  Typical reports include:

Alert HistorySite StatusDevice TotalsDevice VolumeDevice Alert historyLow Maintenance Kits

Be sure to verify the service related reports fit the break/fix requirements of the dealership.

… In Summary

By putting the customer first and automating meter capture, businesses can get up-to-date meters, and know when supplies and service is needed — before the customer calls.  Just-in-time supply fulfillment helps keep inventories low and fresh toner on the shelf.Asking questions is the foundation of learning.  Uncovering concerns helps dealerships and value added resellers ensure they are investing the correct software needed for the MPS offering they intend to offer.Please download a FREE “MPS Program and Solution Adoption Checklist” clicking here .Use the checklist to determine the best software available for the of print management program your dealership will put forward.

Next Up …Putting the MPS Solution to work – MPS Floodgates 3