MFPs, Copiers, Printers, Fax Machines, Oh My!


Whether starting out or expanding a business, questions abound about what and how much printing/copying/faxing equipment you need.

Should you buy, rent or lease?
With the increasing number of brands, models and functions available confusion often gives way to multiple purchases of “affordable” printers and peripherals that can eventually cost way more than they’re worth in supplies and maintenance. In the end ‘under’ buying leads to the same result as ‘over’ buying; you’ve purchased a machine (or machines) that doesn’t meet the needs of your business.

One size does not fit all
I would urge every business owner to analyze their printing processes. Don’t skimp on this part. Put your best minds to work on the issue…including your service techs or service company! There are lots of questions to answer, for example:

  • What kind of printing does your company need? Color? Black & white?
  • Is the color for graphics and pictures or highlights on spreadsheets?
  • How much of the current color printing is really necessary?
  • How many toner cartridges should you stock to keep everyone working?
  • Does every employee need a printer, or would work group printers be better?
  • Let’s not forget the biggest question. What’s the budget?

Answers to these and lots of other questions will determine the types of machines best suited to be deployed in your workspaces. And trust me, one-size-fits-all will not meet all your needs. While it’s nice to have all the same brand, and that is for the most part achievable, you should expect to have a few others scattered around the office.

Let’s look at the front desk in the hypothetical
During your analysis it’s found that printing, scanning, faxing and copying letter sized paper in black and white are all required, but a networked printer isn’t necessary. There is no point installing a Multi-Function Printer (MFP) the size of a filing cabinet in a space better utilized by, oh I don’t know, maybe a filing cabinet. In fact, the smaller the MFP the better. But the quality needs to be better than average to ensure accurate faxed copies. After careful consideration and investigation into reliability and long term cost of supplies and maintenance it’s decided to install a Samsung rather than the office standard Lexmark.

Here’s another hypothetical
Though you are an HP shop in general the sales department needs better color graphics and picture quality for their brochures and ads. So the decision is made to install a Xerox Phaser for their use. It’s only one printer networked to the sales staff only. Not hard for the IT folks to accomplish.

How about a real life example
One of my customers wanted a printer for color. We initially sold them a SamsungCLX-6210. They were unhappy with the results. Upon further investigation we discovered they wanted to print graphics for sales ads. Samsung quality isn’t that good, but they do the spreadsheet highlights very well. HP, however, does make a printer for business graphics that was in the same price range.

There are three points to this last example. First, we should have asked more questions about how the printer would be used. This is extremely important, it’s one of the best measuring sticks for evaluatingMPS providers. How many pertinent questions do they ask? It should be a lot. Second, not all printers are equal in print quality or price. For this company Xerox would have provided the quality they desired but was way out of range in the price category.

One of the most important things to consider
When initiating your printer deployment or upgrade, consider who will provide the machines and the service.  My suggestion is to evaluate the company for service now before you get the machines. Most SMBs should consider using a local service company, another SMB. Having a local company provide the machines, supplies and service makes more sense to me than having a large, faceless, out-of-town company provide you with some proprietary software to install on your network and an 800 number to call when there’s a problem. Because, I have news for you; when you call them, they call us — small service companies in small markets willing to represent themselves as the other company’s techs to fix your problems. Why not cut out the middleman and just go local?

When you deal with a local company
You’re going to get personal, face-to-face service. If you’ve used these guys to evaluate your needs and deploy your printers, they know they have to stock high failure parts for all the machines so that printer down time will be minimal. They know which toner cartridges to keep on the shelf so if you get a defective cartridge it can be replaced in a matter of hours or even minutes, instead of days. You know the techs coming to repair the printer and how those techs work. You know that since this is a contract it gets a higher priority than other service calls.

These are all elements of what was commonly known as a “working relationship”. And it’s important — to both businesses. Whether you notice it or not it’s just about the best advertising around for the service company. It’s called ‘word-of-mouth’. And it’s better for small businesses than the internet.

Let’s say you’re having a meeting in your conference room. First thing your client notices is the furniture. “It’s really comfortable isn’t it? I got it from a company here in town.”

Later on you provide a document your client needs through the computer Bluetooth connection but your client would like a hard copy. Well it just so happens there is a wireless printer in the room just for that purpose. “No kidding.  Where’d you get that?” “The same company that set up our Printer Fleet. And it’s saving us a bundle in print costs.”

Corny?
Maybe, but it works. And it works both ways because service guys talk. Trust me we talk. We use our customers as references all the time. If we recommend a machine or service we’ll tell you about a customer that already has it. Or when we’re recommending against a certain course of action we’ll use another customer’s experience to illustrate the point. And if you ask and we have permission we’ll be happy to put you in touch with that customer for more information. That’s an SMB communication triangle that just might generate business all around.

My final point about going local
If you call a 1-800 customer care line to rant ‘n rave about poor service or crappy merchandise, whoever you’re railing at on the other end has probably taken their headset off and gone out for a smoke until you’ve either calmed down or passed out. But if you’re dealing ‘in town’ you’re going to get a better, quicker response and most times better resolution to the problem. In short you have someone to blame that’s going to care and respond in a timely manner. It’s our livelihood and reputation at stake. We’ll bend over backwards to keep you happy.

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Brian Ude is a certified printer technician with years of experience. Brian serves Western Office (www.western-office.com) in Billings, Montana.  If you have a question for Brian regarding this topic or have any other printer repair related questions or topics you would like more information on, please post a comment on this blog or send an email to maryp@marketpoint.com.

3 thoughts on “MFPs, Copiers, Printers, Fax Machines, Oh My!

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