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Paying for Print Management is a Matter of Perspective

Is something that is “free” always a good thing?

Think back on all the free stuff you ever received.  When we dig deep, how many free things have ended up costing us something at some point in the future … the free kitten … free hotdogs at the furniture showroom … the automobile test drive … the free MPS assessment?

What did you really get?  Vet bills? … a lumpy couch? … new car payments on a lemon? … a recommendation to replace imaging machines?

Sometimes “free” is not the great deal it appears when first presented.  And when one considers what it took to get the “free” stuff, sometimes the true value was never there in the first place!

When it comes to print management, consider the cost of FREE.  When “free monitoring” is discussed, it rarely is positioned to serve the customer.  Meter capture is not MPS and dealers who try to pass it off as some type of management do us all a disservice.  Getting something for nothing means little when benefits cannot be gained by the person receiving it.

Supply management disguised as toner/ink fulfillment

A client once told me that they were having difficulty when they came up against parts suppliers who offer free device monitoring.  He was having trouble explaining the value of his own monitoring offer.  The client wanted to pass monitoring costs along, but all he was discussing with his customers was the automated gathering of meters … in short, customers couldn’t see any benefit in his offer.

The client went on to share he had approached a customer who had ten imaging machines and printed about 100,000 pages a month.  The parts supplier had offered unlimited cartridge replacement (based on actual need) for $0.02 per page.  The dealer was confident he could provide better service and include cartridge replacement from his supplier, all while gathering meters for “just a few dollars a year”.

Consider what the supplier was doing.  Meter detail was required so they could fulfill ongoing supply need.  The supplier’s representative probably figured they would not be “up-side-down” if they gave unlimited “just-in-time” supplies for $2000 a month.  The supplier had offered basic MPS – Supply Fulfillment, knowing they could easily fulfill on promises made with that kind of budget.

The customer didn’t realize they would likely pay the supplier far more than they would if they went with the dealer’s offer.  The dealer simply needed to present his offer in a way his customer could see the benefits.

Equipment management

Look at the challenge of “FREE” from another angle.

Let’s assume a business needs a printer and the manufacturer dumps a machine on the user … that never happens any more, does it?  The end user still requires services such as:

  • Product training,
  • Support,
  • Supplies, and
  • Service after product placement.

It is in one or more of these areas where providers usually make up their margins.  Dealers and customers alike know this and historically MPS charges have been “baked” into one “cost-per-click” scheme or another.  But why go to all the trouble of hiding charges with “smoke and mirrors”?

It often comes down to education and salesmanship.  The weaker among us promote free, while the more confident promote value with each offer made.  In the end, customers get what they believe they need, but they also remember when something costs more than the value they received.

Advocate a different approach

That goes for FREE assessments as well.  While not all assessments are done for the benefit of the dealer, many are.  Studies have shown when site evaluations are completed the person or dealership doing the assessment often recommends equipment replacement as a top one or two “improvement” needed.  Yet streamlining the printer fleet is way down the list of considerations * for most typical end-users.

* Source “Trends in Managed Print: Perspectives from Customers and MPS Providers”

Why not partner with customers to find out how they hope to control their printing and its peripheral costs?  Yes, this process involves a more qualified staff and may even require a little more time, but a partnering approach promotes win-win for both parties:

  1. The customer gets control of the print environment and is able to reduce associated imaging costs.
  2. The dealer wins a satisfied and long-term repeat customer because they see the dealer as a valued partner.

Chief Executives, Chief Financial Officers and Chief Information Officials all have the ability to see the big picture.  They are already envisioning their future with less print.  Yet most have no idea where to begin, how such programs can be implemented, or even how to work with one another.  That’s where MPS professionals can step in.

New companies are beginning to appear that fill this business void.  They offer specific and targeted services to larger corporations in regard to print control.  These companies do not sell equipment, provide toner, perform maintenance, or offer any of the traditional services of the business machine dealer, value-added reseller, or IT professional.

These information technology and services companies offer vendor neutral, un-biased 60-120 day print assessments. And the services these companies provide are usually NOT CHEAP , often in terms of tens of thousands of dollars per assessment.  Most evaluations usually pay for themselves in six months or less and in the end, hundreds of thousands of dollars per year can be saved.

Successful MPS assessment projects involve the organization’s “C” level staff — people with a stake in the outcome.  This naturally pairs print reduction advocates to MPS professionals, making the outcome a positive experience.

As the appraisal concludes, the end user is left with a clear direction in which to proceed.  Best of all the tools used in the appraisal are already in place and can continue to provide usage detail on the monitored equipment to whoever will be servicing the account.

… In Summary

Dealers offering “FREE MPS” provide what the customer pays for — something less than true managed services. If one chooses to not pay for MPS, then they are probably getting MPS.  It is as simple as that.

Any size business can develop and provide MPS services … as long as they have the right people in place and are able to produce on the promises they make.  We have posted several articles suggesting and promoting the partnership approach:

Collaborating with imaging machine users to help them achieve their goals is the best way to provide managed services.

While the ideas and blog topics mentioned above are not in and of themselves a business plan, they are one platform for businesses to develop an MPS program that can work for them.  Successful MPS providers, many of them Print Tracker clients and other industry professionals around the world, all have developed their own print management programs and write them in an MPS Standard Operation Procedure.

Great products and world-class service are never free.  We’ve all paid for the expensive automobile, bad furniture or unfortunate pet decision when the decision may have seemed at the time.  Sound value is everlasting … even when the initial investment might have seemed high.  It is up to the professional to bring advantage to every managed services proposition.

I have never heard where someone received the finest quality goods and the best service for free.  Which of those three are you most willing to give up?  Quality?  Service?  Or, getting something for free?