Reduce Service Costs With Network Monitoring

By Markus Brinsa

It’s a common scenario: You receive a service call claiming that a printer is down. Your dispatcher sends a field technician to the customer. The tech fixes the issue, closes the ticket and prepares for the next call.

You wish.

 

In reality, the dispatcher sends a field tech to the customer site to fix a printer issue, but once the issue is resolved, instead of closing the support ticket immediately, the tech sticks around for a cup of coffee and a chat with the office staff. Half an hour later, the tech closes the ticket, and the dispatcher can finally send the tech to the next service call.

Multiplied over numerous service calls per day, that little chit-chat session adds up to hours of wasted time and service expenses. While we certainly don’t recommend that your service techs keep their heads in the machines and never speak to customers, there is a more efficient way to perform a service call.

If you’re ready for your techs to work more effectively, it’s time to explore network monitoring solutions. Real-time device tracking, automated meter monitoring and hardware analytics can minimize time, costs and frustration while maximizing a dealer’s service capacity and quality. Here’s how network monitoring solutions can transform your business. 

Preventive medicine

Network monitoring solutions track network devices, applications and services in real time. When an issue occurs, the administrator is notified automatically. The same functionality notifies the dispatcher as soon as an issue is fixed.

With network monitoring, within seconds of a field tech finishing repairs on a device, the dispatcher receives a notification, enabling him or her to direct the tech to the next site.

Network monitoring might even eliminate the service call altogether, or at least help the technician to be better prepared when arriving on site.

Network monitoring solves one of the most aggravating challenges dealers face: the mysterious “MFP isn’t working” customer call. There are literally hundreds of potential causes for device malfunction — from a simple power cable being unplugged or paper tray left open to a more complex network disconnection, a reported SMTP error, or an unavailable user-authentication domain controller. Still other problems deliver cryptic error messages on device displays that force even the savviest technical support team to wade through a 1,000-page tech manual to resolve the issue.

Network monitoring solutions monitor all these conditions, sending alerts and reports in clear text — no cryptic error codes or general “device isn’t working” phone calls. In an industry where call avoidance is key to reducing service costs, network monitoring is the ideal tool to achieve that goal.

For example, let’s say the admin receives an alert that the service door of a device is open long before a user shows up in front of the device to notice the error message. Rather than sending an engineer to the site, the admin can simply consult the sensor to pinpoint the device location, call the employee whose desk is closest to the device and simply ask that worker to close the service door. That’s call avoidance at its best.

Network monitoring solutions eliminate such unnecessary “emergency” repairs and blind service calls by monitoring devices in real time and capturing all the status and error messages. Custom notification rules allow admins to decide which notifications they want to receive and to create a plan of attack before a tech is dispatched. Sometimes a quick call to customers asking them to restock the paper tray or replace the toner cartridge is all that’s needed. And with real-time status visibility, you can know exactly how much toner is left before a change-out is needed.

That is the power of network monitoring: the promise of knowing about an issue even before your customer does. In a nutshell, network monitoring is preventive medicine against costly service calls.

Meter magic

Printer and MFP dealers using a click-charge model to bill customers for device usage in addition to a standard monthly lease face an uphill battle. It sounds simple enough — collect data for every page printed in black and white or color and bill accordingly — but it’s actually quite challenging.

The standard method for collecting and reporting this data is incredibly inefficient. While many manufacturers have developed software to read and report usage data automatically, most of these solutions are manufacturer-specific, and some use different tools for different device series. This makes it difficult for small and midsize dealers to afford and manage everything and still achieve an acceptable return on investment.

Because of this, dealers often rely on customers to call in meter reads or report meter data online on a monthly basis. This can be a tall order, especially for customers that run 300-plus devices, each requiring someone to manually collect a serial number, color meter read, mono meter read and total meter read, then report this information  to the dealer each month. The system is not only grossly inefficient but also clearly introduces room for error and even intentional fraud.

The magic words are “meter read.” With a sensor that automatically counts the color, mono and total pages for all devices and accurately reports this data according to each device’s serial number once a month to the dealer for invoicing, network monitoring covers multiple facets of the meter-monitoring and click-charge challenge.

Expect the expected

Customers will always notify you when things break — at any time of the day or night. However, only network monitoring can notify you before devices break.

Professional network monitoring solutions not only monitor devices in real time, but they also gather information for analysis, allowing you to identify critical system states long before devices actually break. Besides saving you from emergency support calls outside regular service hours, these analytics allow you to frequently review the infrastructure with your clients and proactively recommend hardware changes, replacements and extensions.

Imagine doing quarterly reviews with a client’s senior management team regarding their network infrastructure status. You present how network components performed over recent quarters and use network monitoring analysis reports to show where future issues may occur. Your customer will appreciate the opportunity to budget early and order a new device before a current one breaks.

These activities can open additional revenue streams, but most importantly, they can save you and your client from unexpected service costs due to broken devices.

The bottom line

A robust network monitoring solution reduces costs and adds additional revenue streams for a substantial bottom-line boost.

Getting started with network monitoring can cost as little as $400 — a major savings compared to the potential service costs it can eliminate. As your business grows, the license can be extended. As your need to monitor more devices increases and you require more sensors, your software can allow you to simply upgrade the existing license at any time.

You can also pass the license fees on to your customers. Instead of using one license for all clients, you can assign a license to each client and build the license fee into the lease or service charge. Doing this allows you to generate additional revenue through reseller discounts — a win-win for you and your clients. Customers get faster — even preemptive — service, and you can accommodate a larger client base without increasing your expenses.

Overall, network monitoring represents an affordable, scalable solution that significantly reduces service time, cost, billing inaccuracies, emergency repairs and trivial service calls that don’t require a technician.

This article originally appeared in the July 2013 issue of The Imaging Channel.

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