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MPS Service Delivery Approach – It’s no different than with Copiers/MFD’s, right?

1 Oct, 2010 By: Mike Woodard, Strategy Development

MPS Service Delivery Approach – It’s no different than with Copiers/MFD’s, right?

One of the advantages that existing copier/MFD service providers have when entering into supporting Managed Print Services is ease of entry:  the break-fix infrastructure is already in place, customers are aware of service capability and quality, and minimal investment is required.  However, are all of the traditional copier service delivery practices transferable or appropriate?   There can be significant benefits in a different approach to service delivery when supporting printer fleets.  Let’s take a look at a few.

One of the traditional copier service practices, with proven benefits, is the use of dedicated technician territories.  Why did dedicated technician territories become an accepted best practice?  Well, primarily, the practice was customer driven:  because copiers required regular service and were broken “all the time”, customers demanded having the same technician service their equipment, it gave them comfort, and the technician/customer relationship became a driver of customer loyalty and retention.  However, printers are a little different in that they don’t “break” as often as copiers. 

Overall, the mean time between failures for printers is approaching 12 months……not a lot of opportunities for building relationships.  So, the value of the Technician/Customer relationship has diminished with printers; but, the customer still values responsive, quality service when needed.  Within the overall field service industry “route service” is the norm vs dedicated territories.  Think, Sears appliance repair – service calls are routed to next available, closest, trained technician, who might even have the required part to repair the appliance.   Route service does require technology application to be truly effective.  GPS integrated with mobile service solutions (automated dispatch) can provide location intelligence for assigning next available, closest technician, and can even comprehend traffic patterns to minimize travel time.  Printer route service also requires a service base of printers large enough to allow for technician specialization.  While you may not be ready for printer route service, keep it in mind for the future; hopefully, the near future.

Another common copier service practice is call avoidance enabled by a technician call-ahead process.  That is, most copier service organizations require their technicians to call the customer upon call assignment and before arriving on-site.  The intent of this process is to possibly fix the problem by phone and avoid an on-site call, and to provide an ETA if an on-site visit is required.  Few copier service organizations utilize a formal customer facing help desk to route service calls through and attempt to fix via phone. 

Customer facing help desks and customer self-help options are very common in the technology sector today.  Think, support for your computer when it’s acting up or broken, you almost always go through a help desk function for help, and many times the issue is resolved remotely.   Today, a handful of MPS service providers have implemented a customer facing help desk function to screen service calls and triage problems before sending a technician on-site.  

Many printer service requests are the result of operator error, print driver issues, or cartridge based problems, many of which can be resolved by phone.  The success rate, or call avoidance rate, is over 30% and growing.  So, why is printer call avoidance so important?  The labor cost component is three times that of parts cost on printer products.  In order to optimize service margins there needs to be a concentrated focus on cost management and labor cost is the low hanging fruit. 

Finally, printer service response time is an area that needs to be looked at carefully.  The traditional overall response time benchmark for copiers has been 4hrs for years.  Many larger copier service providers have tiered response time targets, i.e., 2hr production, 4hr mid vol, 6hr low vol, 8hr fax/printer.  However, many service providers are applying the 4hr response time commitments to printer fleet deals.  Keep in mind, when taking over a printer fleet, who has more often than not been providing their printer service?  Yes, usually printer service has been provided by their own IT department, and we know how much IT support people love printers, right?  Consequently, printer users are accustomed to a next day, at best, service response.  Many times you will not need to lead with a 4hr response time commitment, instead, lead with an 8hr, or 6hr, response time commitment, 80% of the time.  The bottom line is, delivering a 4hr response time vs 8hr carries with it a 12-15% labor cost premium, and remember, managing service labor cost is critical to optimizing MPS service margins.

So, there you have it.  It’s time to think out of the box a little when moving into delivering service in the MPS arena.  It’s not your father’s Oldsmobile, or Pontiac, or Plymouth, or ………….!

Mike Woodard is a consultant with Strategy Development, an imaging industry management consulting firm. Mike has 30+ years experience in all aspects of field service operations and service strategy development.  At: woodard@strategydevelopment.org  or 610.742.4701.

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