– By Antonio Sánchez Navarro –
I was at the airport when I read the article from Greg Walters (see more in “Does Your MPS stand for “Maybe, Probably, Sometimes” or Does it Just Suck?”)
It is quick to read and very interesting. He clearly expresses the frustration of many if not most of the MPS providers. Though I agree with his synopsis of the situation, I thought to contribute with some answers.
Three group of players are competing in providing MPS: copier dealers, computer VARs and “toner guys” as Greg calls them. Each has a different vision of the same reality clearly stated in the article I refer to. But let’s play a fiction game in which we take the Computer VAR’s tools, we give them to a Copier Dealer which inherits the shipment infrastructure of a Toner Guy. The result is amazing as we will soon find out. But first we get to know a little bit better of each one of them.
The players in MPS.
The highly sophisticated Computer VARs’ tools allow one single operator to manage from remote, hundreds or thousands of services, servers and storage. The user can monitor, identify issues, solve them, balance the computer and storage capacity and much more. All from remote; all controlled.
A copier dealer has the perfect sense of the cost of every single intervention on the printing device. He knows that a cost per page business is driven by costs. The revenues are given, and he can’t influence them, so he manages his business by controlling his costs. Every single part he delivers, every minute or mile of distance his technicians make is carefully tracked, measured and questioned.
The Toner Guy, let’s simplify, has had up until now just one objective: selling more boxes as a way to increase revenue and hopefully income too. He knows how much he gets from each cartridge. Math are easy, he has an optimized delivery facility and in most cases his pressure is on reducing his purchase cost (often by moving from OEM to re-man cartridges).
Each group has specific skill that altogether do play a big difference when providing managed print services.
Lack of change on the way they do things.
Most of the players have addressed MPS as a new thing to do, a new business. None of them though has figured out the way to do better for his customer without doing new. Take the seat of a Copier Dealer or a Toner Guy. Think on how they were doing
business 10, 15 years ago. What have they changed since then? Nothing. Why is this? Hasn’t the technology of printers and copiers evolved? Don’t they now provide tones of data including a large touch display with full of error messages info, levels and counters? Aren’t most of them now connected to a network with access to the WWW? If you, as a copier or toner dealer, had all this when you started your business, would you have built an infrastructure to pick up the calls from your customer and to respond in a reactive way? Or would you instead have put in place the necessary tools to proactively deliver toner and service to your customers? This is exactly what the computer VARs did regarding their management of PCs, servers, services and storage. So, if it is just so easy why are the MPS providers not doing it nowadays?
There are two main reasons why the MPS providers are not using efficiently the existing data available at the printers and copiers:
First. The MPS dealers need reliable tools to do so (just like those that the VARs built for their computer business). The majority of the MPS tools adopted are tracking tools that dealers are using uniquely to collect the counters. Though they generate alerts for toner needs and other, just a handful number of dealers use them to trigger the deliveries; instead they prefer to have the customer calling (“it is cheaper to have 10 people picking up the phone calls from users of 5000 printers than to ship toner that I will not be able to bill for”, they say). With the infrastructure costs increasing at a higher rate than their MPS revenues, it is understandable why matured dealers are just not motivated to push their customers into MPS.
Second. Everybody (vendors, consultants, …) keep telling the MPS dealers to focus on selling a new stuff, instead of streamlining their infrastructure. As Greg mentions, the dealer’s effort has been to get expensive training and endless webinars on how to become an expert MPS sales man, which, as a matter of fact, is equivalent to acquire consultancy skills. In other words, they got the “how”, but forgot the “what”: “What info can I use to assess my customer? What amount of cartridges will my customer need next year? What services, fusers, maintenance kits, rollers will be needed and when? On which printers I am losing money? How much profit do I make with the customer?” A Mercedes without gasoline is a great vehicle, but useless. So is an MPS dealer without accurate information to manage and sell.
The MPS dealers are not making money, if not just loosing. How can someone make assessment on reducing printing costs if he is not able to control or even know his?
We strongly believe that MPS dealers will find the path to success by looking internally before they pretend to sell. This is where they will find the information that they need to assess and have their customers valuing their managed print service. A yield management tool is the vehicle to get there. It is the source of the info they do necessarily need to do MPS assessment and ensure a profitable business. I therefore adhere to those that see MPS as a natural transition from the traditional transactional selling business into assessment. And this transition needs to be addressed as natural as possible: first starting from the dealer’s internal infrastructure as a way to acquire the skills and know-how that will make him knowledgeable; then learning how to use this knowledge to sell improvements to his customers. The combination of both elements – streamlined processes and assessment skills – drives to a profitable MPS business and to a positive growth rate.