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New Approaches

20 Apr, 2009 By: Chip Miceli imageSource

New Approaches

Economic indicators keep changing, but even now, the document solutions industry is poised for growth, with analysts predicting it to surpass the $2 billion mark in annual sales within the U.S. by the year 2011 – an unprecedented number generated by the growing acceptance of
businesses of all sizes toward what had once been branded the “paperless office.”

While such a moniker seems counterintuitive to an industry with its roots in hard copy generation, electronic document management is now more the rule than the exception, driven in large part by an increased demand for electronic management solutions – owing to a universal
need to fulfill compliance and privacy requirements and improve office efficiencies. As the “paperless” approach is decidedly here to stay, with network management high on the demand list of today’s businesses, companies that built their reputations as copier vendors now must
redefine their presence in this new age of document solutions.  In so doing they must redefine, as well, the necessary skill set of employees, while keeping a vigilant eye on the personal touch that characterizes good old-fashioned customer service.

Printers, copiers, facsimile machines, scanners, and other stand-alone hardware equipment is certainly important; however with the steady shift to network-capable multifunction printers and other IT solutions with integrated services, also comes a steady shift in personnel. 
For instance, document management firms are increasingly adding system engineers to their staff roster, educated in software development, network design and experienced in troubleshooting and installation.

Technology is making this transition in personnel a requirement, for without proper servicing those “value-added” MFPs can become a burden to clients and garner vendors the type of reputation they’d rather be without.  The role of the application specialist, for example, has
become vital to vendors.  Considered a sales support position, the application specialist is the Jack of all digital trades, and must have a strong working knowledge of operating systems, experience in network topology and software, across-the-board strong technical knowledge and
experience with on-site customer relations.

Professional Services Support

Professional Services may actually be the single most significant revenue prospect  for dealers and vendors today & into the foreseeable future as customization and programming technology continues to emerge within the document solutions industry. In order to keep up with
ever-changing technology & provide customers with top-rate technical service, dealers must not only receive solid support from their vendors, but take advantage of every opportunity for advanced training. Advanced training, however, may be like putting the proverbial cart before
the horse – the more immediate imperative is to locate, place and retain the appropriate personnel for technical positions, something many small or mid-sized office equipment owners may not have the time or connections to execute.

The constantly evolving document solutions industry has created the need for employees whose skills are more technical than manual and as such increased efforts are being made to heighten the technology skills of service technicians.  In fact, relatively new certifications
address technical skills related to printers, scanners, facsimile machines, copiers, networking, connectivity and color theory and establish a standard method of measuring technical competencies.  Increasingly, entry to mid-level technicians with some experience with
installation, connectivity, repair and support skills are signing up for certification programs as the ever-evolving documents imaging industry continues to demand professionals whose skill sets have broad boundaries.

Certification Expertise

Network support team credentials at many document solutions dealerships, including Des Plaines Office Equipment,  include  Project Management Certifications; MCSE Certifications; Database Certifications; Software Development; CDIA Certifications; and people with Computer
Science degrees.  The need for credentials of this variety illustrates the increasingly wider range of products – a shift toward technology that in turn requires a wider range of service expertise and dependability.  Businesses grappling with the best & worst aspects of
constantly evolving office technology,  now more than ever, rely on service technicians to attend to issues skillfully.  While the landscape may have changed dramatically over the past decade, well-run dealerships still make a name for themselves the old-fashioned way – by
empowering employees to not only have knowledge of the business, but to know their customers and to genuinely care about providing top notch service.

Staff or Stakeholders

Each and every day a dealership’s service technicians and network support teams field countless interactions with customers.  If handled properly, these dealings can make a powerful impression on clientele, but if handled incorrectly, the impression will unfortunately be just
as powerful.  The importance of allowing staff to make the right impression cannot be overstated.

So, how do you ensure that employees are providing the most up-to-date information to customers delivered in a timely and pleasant manner?  Begin by encouraging employees to take on added responsibility, thereby strengthening their customer contact skills. Provide employees
clear-cut reasons why you make certain decisions so that they understand both how you assess situations & come to resolutions.  The idea is to get employees to think & act from an owners’ perspective, effectively making them  feel not as staff but as “stakeholders” in the

Take that “stakeholder” concept a step further by involving employees at varying levels of authority when dealing with customers. In that way, customer relationships can be developed more fully, taking the burden off sales staff that sometimes does not have the time to really
get to know and anticipate client needs. 

Another approach to providing added customer service is to periodically bring office support personnel along to a customer site, allowing both parties to put a face to the voice on the other end of the telephone line.  Sometimes in the rush of providing expedient service,
company owners and sales staff may overlook issues important to customers.  By bringing a fresh pair of eyes onto a customer site, you may end up with a better-served account.  These basic approaches are winners for customers, your employees and yourself.  Customers will achieve
a higher comfort-level of service if they view your dispatcher, supply personnel and technicians as “the company.”  Employees will take additional pride in the work they perform, knowing you have vested them with more responsibility.  And as owner, you will likely achieve
increased customer confidence and higher employee performance and loyalty. 

Chip Miceli is President of Des Plaines Office Equipment, with locations in Chicago, Elk Grove Village and Rockford, IL. For more information visit www.dpoe.com.

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