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Service, Supply, and Preventative Maintenance Contracts

Preparing and writing sound MPS contracts to ensure customers know exactly the kind of service they will be getting is paramount to business success.   Should all devices be included in every MPS agreement?  How do you handle preventative maintenance for an imaging fleet? 

In order to provide the appropriate level of service, it is usually best for dealers to first learn equipment usage patterns and background imaging details for the prospect’s fleet before commitments can be made.  Assessment is an area where many dealers have fallen short of the mark when implementing their print management programs.

In general it is recommended that assessments run for at least 30 days for usage patterns to be established.  Longer assessments yield better results, but often the dealer is limited by the need of the customer.  Fleet evaluation should be as detailed as the customer and time will allow.

Using Gathered Information to Prepare Contracts

Once application of the data collection software (DCS) has occurred, and output sampling has been obtained at least a couple of times, dealers can use the software’s administrative tools to analyze volume detail.  When service providers are fortunate enough to have deployed the DCS, device status data can report along with volume information.  Device output and status detail provided by the DCS is usually sufficient to compile sound contracts. However there’s more to it than bits of data entered on a form …

Depending on the software tool used and on the specific devices, their drivers, firmware and their connectivity, data may include detailed information on toner, maintenance kit levels for transfer, fuser and/or drums or other service parts. If a device does not report this kind of detail (and some do not), other provisions for servicing the equipment may be required.

Combining output information can be used to create cost per page and total cost of ownership calculations .  The goal would be to provide an overview of the information gathered where the customer can “see” their current printing practices and then consider offered recommendations. Included detail could be concerns of preventative maintenance, device disposition and other services or suggested agreements.

When completing assessments, be sure to include as much detail as possible for the devices that get used.  Volume assessments may also include under and over utilization factors.  As an example, if devices are found to be used sparingly, contracts could suggest the customer remove, replace or combine several with more efficient equipment.  Dealerships that make recommendations such as these help pave the way for future business opportunity, but also show customers that they are business partners, not just “box” providers.

Non-discovered Devices

One of the first things many dealers notice after the collection software returns initial device information is that a number of machines that do not appear on lists or reports.  A complete equipment inventory should be established to make certain all devices are taken into account so MPS accuracy can be assured.    

When the prospect has a machine inventory record, the list and gathered reporting can be compared for a comprehensive site review.  The representative can walk the site to collect configuration pages, making notes about the devices found and gather information on any missing equipment.  This “walk-about” is important and may form the basis for future equipment mapping should such detail be needed for final documentation.

Devices may not appear for a variety of reasons and the most common are listed below:

  1. Devices are turned off or ‘off-line’ when the network was searched.  Software will not find machines that are “off”.  Machines can be turned on and notes made for future contract reference. 
  2. Network devices are on, but the software did not find them.  IP segments for missing devices may not have been included with the group of other devices found.  Getting configuration pages for missing devices should reveal IP addresses for network connected machines.  The software being used should have the ability to easily add the IP addresses for these machines.
  3. Devices that are older, or located at distant or remote locations, often require more ‘pinging’ before information can be gathered.  The collection software should have the ability for installers to increase the ‘timeout’ or retry settings so these devices can properly report.
  4. The default community string of ‘public’ has been changed.  Community strings act as passwords that restrict who may be authorized to print to a specific device.  If changed from the default, the collection software cannot gather meter information.  Community strings may be checked from a browser, device console or from a configuration page depending on the machine.  The software should allow newly discovered community strings to be added to the existing default value.
  5. “SNMP” is not enabled for the missing devices.  Imaging devices that have had SNMP disabled normally will not report meter information.  SNMP can usually be enabled by opening a web browser to the IP address of the device and the ‘Network’ or ‘Communication’s settings reviewed for status. Although device dependant, it may be possible to re-enable SNMP from the console as well.
  6. SNMPv3 has been enabled.  With SNMP version 3, the concept of authentication is expanded to include other services, such as privacy and access control.  With collection software having the ability to enter user, authentication, privacy and access detail, SNMPv3 enabled machines can be monitored.
  7. The device is not on the network.  Configuration pages for undiscovered printers that are connected to workstations via USB or parallel connection generally will not include IP addresses (or will show as  Limited information can be gathered from locally connected devices by installing the DCS on the workstation where the printer is attached.

CAUTION – When deciding whether or not to include information on locally connected devices, the dealer, service provider or VAR must know the capability of the collection software being used and COMMUNICATE THE POTENTIAL SHORTCOMINGS OF MONITORING LOCALS to everyone involved.

When all missing devices are enabled, and/or software is deployed to gather local device information, a new device search can be initiated.  Accounting for all devices and making notes regarding their connectivity and reporting challenges is essential for preparing complete service contracts.  With comprehensive knowledge of the imaging fleet and its output, total cost of ownership analysis accuracy is more likely to be possible.

Other Paperwork and Considerations

Many value added resellers have prepared ‘Site Surveys’, ‘Services Addendums’ and ‘Non-disclosure Agreements’ (NDAs).  Organized dealers find that as conversations turn towards MPS documentation, having prepared forms ready shows customers a higher level of professionalism and helps put doubters at ease.

Site Surveys

A site survey is simple document that outlines the installation and assessment process.  A survey may include:

  • Site/Location Name
  • Contact person or persons who will be reviewing collected information
  • Where reported information is to be sent
  • Total number of devices (and their connectivity) expected
  • IP address ranges to be assessed
  • List of devices included (and not included) in agreements
  • Equipment requirements needed for the collection software to function properly
  • Duration of the assessment and timeframe for follow up

Services Addendums

  • Services Addendums should supplement existing business relationships and may include but are not limited to one or more of the following:
  • The provision for ongoing meter reading services
  • Description of the collection software, what it is capable of and what it does
  • Software activation and monitoring requirements
  • General cost of services and termination of monitoring details
  • Ownership, use and security of collected data
  • Ownership of intellectual property
  • An outline of what is required for contract fulfillment, such as:
  • Installing DCS on a workstation (or server) that remains ‘on’ most of the time
  • Installing the DCS on workstations to monitor locally connected devices
  • Avoiding the movement of imaging devices

Non-disclosure Agreements

Most businesses have NDAs already in place for business operation.  Suggesting use of the company’s own NDA inspires confidence in the MPS offering.  If your company does not have such an agreement, examples can be obtained off the internet or can be prepared by the dealer’s legal team.

As with any documentation, it is usually best to offer specific paperwork only when asked as many customers may not require such detailed information.

… In summary

To prepare effective contracts, the dealership must know that it can support what is proposed.  Contracts should not be prepared, offered or assumed without proper fleet analysis as accuracy cannot be guaranteed.

Devices that were not found during initial assessment and the reasons for not reporting should be annotated as they may require additional monitoring requirements.  Movement of devices by the around the fleet should be discouraged if proper notification is not secured.  Identification of communication requirements will go a long way toward keeping happy customers satisfied.

Every device in the fleet should be accounted for, including those that will not be under contract.  Services for devices that are not included are as important as those that are and should be thoroughly spelled out.

Thorough and final analysis of assessment results will allow dealers, IT shops and VARs to take into account many factors, such as device volume, TCO and CPP for devices in the fleet, status for future supply and service needs, and allow for accurate contract fulfillment.  Complete analysis allows shops to make equipment recommendations and plan for upcoming and scheduled fleet replacement.

By spelling out each component for MPS fulfillment, the customer can be assured that they will experience maximum fleet “up time”, and the dealer will have minimal surprises when executing contractual obligations.

PLEASE NOTE – This content will not define specific forms or identify specific contracts MPS providers should use for MPS programs. Rather, the intent of this article is to offer ideas for dealers to consider when actual contracts are required and/or offered to the end user.