by Sarah Custer
In recent years, it seemed many were tired of hearing about managed print. It’s old news. Been there, done that. Industry event presentation tracks were focused on other areas — mostly managed IT services and the “dreaded” millennials. While it’s always good to continually review logical adjacencies for your business and keep up with the latest workforce trends, I was surprised to see how infrequently managed print was being discussed compared to previous years.
The reason for my surprise is there’s still so much work to be done in terms of managed print. I know of very few resellers who have over half of their business coming in under managed print contracts. On the outside, it appears “everyone is doing it” when in reality, most are engaged in managed print on a much smaller scale than their traditional business. Additionally, most have room to grow in terms of profitability in their current MPS practices as well as the scalability of their offering.
Fast forward to the present. It seems there’s renewed interest in managed print. In the past month alone, I’ve attended two industry events where this was quite evident and openly discussed among resellers. It was refreshing! It’s apparent there are areas where resellers could really target their efforts to drive greater profitability in managed print, giving them the freedom to reinvest in their offering or help drive new areas of focus for their business.
I see three main areas of significant opportunity. The first, and likely the greatest, is around the management of supplies in MPS engagements. Many resellers still allow their customers to order their own supplies at will. This is a risky business. There’s no doubt it feels easier to let customers order as they always have, but the reality is the reseller will pay for it in the long run.
While many agree that automating supplies replenishment is the way to go, it can lead to other problems if not executed properly. Supplies shipped too early results in lost profits. Supplies shipped too late results in unhappy or lost customers. Flawless execution of supplies automation is not easy, but it can be done.
Whether you plan to incorporate and manage yourself or partner with an infrastructure provider, there are a few key items to strive for. You must be able to account for the variances in how different models report and build that into the calculation for when supply shipments are triggered; you need the ability to aggregate supplies for all devices that are low at a given location to minimize freight expense; and your customers need visibility to supplies shipments and tracking information via a website or mobile app. In order to scale your program, all of these items should be incorporated into your system. Otherwise, you’ll spend valuable time and resources looking up addresses and keying orders. Seek out tools and programs that can assist in this area. Check with your current ERP provider to see what capabilities they may have to help — you might be surprised.
The second area of opportunity relates to break-fix service costs. Consider adding a layer that incorporates phone triage with device data coming from data collection tools. This can be extremely helpful in increasing first time fix rates and providing the ability to reduce the level of car stock needed, especially on devices that are less prevalent in your fleets. When effective phone triage is completed, overnight those less popular parts to meet the tech the next day. You’ll stock less while still keeping your customer up and running.
The third area of opportunity is around change management. Setting expectations in any relationship is important, especially when you’re changing the way your customer is going to do business with you. Take the time to outline the process clearly, and you’ll save much more than headaches. Consider using a simple internal memo or create a tutorial video outlining the new process. Customers with a clear understanding of expectations and procedures will be more likely to adopt and embrace your program.
Managed print is not old news. In fact, there’s more opportunity than ever to build and fine tune your MPS machine.
Sarah Custer is Director of Services and Solutions – Supplies Network. Sarah joined Supplies Network in 2001 and has held several positions over the years; advancing through the ranks within the sales team before taking on the role of MPS Program Advisor where her expertise and leadership were key to accelerating MPS growth. In 2012, Sarah was promoted to MPS Solutions Manager leading a team of Solutions Advisors responsible for MPS engagements and ultimately equipment sales and related services. Currently serving as Director of Services and Solutions, Sarah leads a team of MPS Solutions Advisors, Equipment Advisors, Contract Coordinators, Fulfillment Analysts and a Technical Operations team focused on break-fix service and software solutions. Additional responsibilities include providing critical direction and design of program enhancements and vendor integrations. Sarah received a M.B.A. and a B.A. in Management from Webster University.