November 2012

Copiers and Printers: Lexmark Perspective

Another Perspective on Copiers vs. Printers and Lexmark vs. HP – Part 2: Lexmark Perspective

By: Brian Ude for Market Point

In part 1 of this two part series, “Is It a Printer that Copies or a Copier that Prints? How the Convergence of Copy/Print/Fax/Scan has Blurred the Lines”, we looked at the convergence of printers and copiers from the perspective of an HP certified service technician. In Part 2, we’ll explore the dynamics of HP and Lexmark in the copy/print/fax/scan market from the perspective of a Lexmark service technician.

Let’s begin part 2 with a brief recap. Most people use the term “copier” when they are really talking about a multi-function printing device (MFP) that does copy, but also prints, faxes and scans. OEMs who started out in the traditional copier market, such as Xerox, Ricoh, and others, and the companies that sell and service those brands, refer to them as copiers. They are the “office machines” businesses who have traditionally sold to office managers, purchasers, etc.

OEMs who started out in the laser printer business, such as HP and Lexmark, and the companies that sell and service those brands refer to them as printers or MFPs. They are the “printer” companies who have traditionally sold to IT departments.
The line between copiers and printer is now blurred; copiers print and printers copy. For the sake of clarity in this article, we refer to them all as “copiers”.

Now here’s the Lexmark perspective…

Let’s examine another reason HP might not be predominate in the copier market

And why, in this service guy’s opinion, they should lose some of the market share they have in the printer market.
It’s simple, HP’s service and support, beyond the major metropolitan areas, is virtually non-existent. Yes, almost anybody can get parts and supplies but not from HP and definitely not for warranty and service packs.

Here are a couple excerpts from an email I received from HP about the requirements for becoming an authorized service provider:

I sent: Need to know what status my company holds.

The first two sentences pretty much tell you everything you need to know about the status of our 15+ year relationship with HP.
“Thank you for your interest in the HP Service Delivery program.” (The company I work for had a full ASP status in good standing with HP for a number of years). But here’s where it really gets good …

“To qualify for registration and CSN access, partners must meet the following requirements:

  • IPG/PSG Warranty Provider Level: >=$1M total IPG + PSG Hardware sales.
  • No TOP requirements or services sales criteria.
  • IPG is the Printer Group & Printer products.
  • PSG is Personal Systems Group (commercial computers)
  • TOP is Total Operating Performance (how many service packs you sell compared to the amount of hardware sold)
  • Specialist: >=$100K total HP sales and TOP>= .6
  • • Expert: >=$1M total HP sales and TOP > = 1.2“

Tough Numbers

With those kinds of numbers as a requirement, HP just eliminated almost every office machine repair company west of the Mississippi from the Canadian border to the Gulf of Mexico except those operating in a city of at least a 2 million population. I happen to live and work in a town of 100k. Trust me when I tell you the market just ain’t big enough to get to those kinds of numbers. I’m not going to convince a small business owner, farmer or rancher they need to buy a new machine every year so I can maintain my status with a printer manufacturer.

For those of you who don’t know, if you’re authorized to perform warranty service on a particular make/model of office machine that means the manufacturer picks up the cost of the service call and provides the parts for free during the first year and however long the extended warranty or service pack lasts.

But since we can’t get any kind of status from HP anymore we have to charge the customer a small service or facilitation fee to do the warranty work or we’ll slowly go out of business. The last person I had to explain that to (the VP of a local bank) looked at me like I was wearing a tinfoil hat and speaking a foreign language. And who could blame her?
At this point let me explain what we do for the tiny fee we charge.

We call the ‘customer care line’ (I use that term with a deuce and a half’s worth of sarcasm). We pretend to be the customer and attempt to explain the problem and get the appropriate parts. Sometimes it works just fine, other times we’re told, just like the customer would be, that ‘you need to contact the next level of service’. Then we ask where that would be. They ask where we’re located. We tell them. Then there is a loooooooonnnnnng silence while they try desperately to find a close service company. I wish I could find this funny every time, but I can’t. After what seems like an eternity on hold they come back with the options: send the machine back to have it serviced; or replace the machine.

Here I occasionally tell the ‘help line’ rep my name and who I work for and that I have the certification to work on the machine and if all goes according to plan they ask what I need and the machine gets fixed. If not, the customer has to decide which option they want to exercise: one of the 2 options offered by HP; or let us fix it and possibly void the warranty. Most say, “Just order the parts and fix it.”

Enter the copier companies mentioned above. Yes, they have sales agendas and sales professionals are admonished to follow those agendas. But each one is willing to grant whoever sells and services their machines the status of ASP, which gives them access to sales and service training, OEM parts and technical assistance, as long as they comply with the rules, regulations and basic requirements laid out by the manufacturer.

And with only a couple of exceptions all the manufactures previously mentioned have at least one ASP, even in this little town. Xerox has 2 guys, each with his own Xerox van, so they can travel to the even smaller towns in the state. HP has one poor schlub that works this region. I don’t know him well but he’s always happy when I can convince a customer to pay our small fee and take a call for him. He’s even offered his assistance with obtaining warranty parts for me.

Lexmark has also decided not to ignore the ‘breadbasket of America’. They’ve established what they call ‘White space’ (I was told it has nothing to do with snow fall amounts) dealers, partners and ASPs outside the major metro areas and not within 60 miles of a coastline. They’ve given us access to all the websites, training, discount OEM parts, new machines and technical assistance as ‘the big boys’. Not to mention we’ve been personally invited (via phone calls, not mass emails) to training seminars and asked for ideas about how to improve access to those seminars for smaller companies working on tight budgets and lower margins.

That’s caring not only for the dealers, that’s caring about how they can better service their customer and it makes a whole lot better business sense to this technician. After all, the local sales/service/supply center is the representative for all the companies they claim to have relationships with.

Of course there are requirements and fees just like every other manufacturer, but it counts for something when you are a bona-fide Authorized Service Provider and not just driving around displaying a logo.

The quality and longevity of Lexmark vs. HP

I’ve serviced Lexmark printers in environments that I know HP would not do as well, for whatever reason you want to pick.

  • Our Cummins diesel shop, on the shop floor, had an Optra S with 1+ million pages
  • A national restaurant supply company replaced their cold and frozen storage warehouse Optra Ss with new T654s. They tried HP and the cold was too much for them.
  • A prominent local attorney’s office still has a W820 they refuse to replace because it’s been so reliable over the years (decades). That one is working on its 3rd million.

I suppose my main point here is this: don’t be judgmental about what printers you recommend to your customers, just make sure they have all the pertinent information about all the companies available to them. If you’re pushing one company over another, you’re not looking out or servicing your customer properly, in my opinion.
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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.

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