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What to Ask Production Printer Vendors

asking a sales person questions

Less like a transaction.

So, you’ve decided to start looking for new production print equipment. It’s now time to determine which model will best suit your needs, but more importantly, you're faced with deciding which company to enter into a business relationship with. 

More like a relationship. 

More than just transactional, the vendor you choose for production equipment will be the entity you call upon for years for several needs. To determine which company will best handle your needs, you’ll need a meeting that falls somewhere between a job interview and a heart-to-heart with a family member. 

To help you make sure to choose the production equipment vendor that will help your organization thrive for the next several years (at least), here are four questions you should be asking candidates. 

1. Will my leasing/financing remain with your company, or will it be handed off to a third-party company? 

Production print equipment is a huge ticket investment for any organization. Leasing these pieces of equipment is the norm in acquiring the needed devices. With potentially thousands of dollars on the line, it is crucial to have your lease or financing agreements in the best hands. You should be able to quickly settle discrepancies if they arise. While many vendors are happy to keep your financing or leasing in-house, others simply are not in the leasing business. These entities prefer to outsource these services to third-party companies. 

There's nothing wrong with "private label leases", as they are called, through third-party financing companies. Some customers actually prefer them. However, issues may arise in the way the vendor conducts the handoff. While most vendors will be very deliberate about their handing of your lease, others may unofficially give the impression that they will be keeping your lease or financing in-house while the official documentation says otherwise. 

Yes, somewhat of bait-and-switch—or at least a “So, who is ‘Device Lease Company of America?!” 

For this reason and many other reasons, its essential to request clarification as to who will be assisting you with ongoing lease matters. If you have doubts, ask for a copy of the lease agreements and also for the support phone numbers you would call for assistance. If these divert you to a third-party service when were you led to believe that your lease was remaining in-house, this could be a red flag of an unwanted handoff. 

Of course, if you can work with a production vendor that can also be your first-party lessor, as well as include the service and supplies in the same contract, it will benefit you in receiving one monthly invoice. It is also a benefit to have one vendor for all services in one contract, making the one company accountable, with no finger-pointing if a problem arises.

2. What are your service department's Service Level Agreement (SLA) for response times, uptimes, parts, and supplies? 

To be quite honest, the selection of production print equipment is very important, but selecting the organization to support the production unit could be more important. One of the biggest differentiators between these companies is their ability to provide prompt and professional service. A vendor's ability to provide timely repairs will likely be the difference between expensive downtime or fast fixes that have you back in business sooner. This makes asking detailed questions about service expectations crucial. 

The most critical questions will be regarding: 

  • response times
  • parts availability
  • number of technicians
  • technician qualifications, 
  • estimated completion of service calls 
  • the use of genuine manufacture supplies 

Getting as many details as possible in writing will help you differentiate between what may be a relatively convoluted selection of vendors. 

Speaking of service questions, the more detailed questions you ask, the better! Such as…

3. Have service departments layoffs or furloughs impacted your response times? 

No one can expect the unexpected. Few industries remained unshaken by the Covid-19's impact. That is understood. However, when the furloughs and layoffs of another entity impact your ability to serve clients and customers, this creates an unwanted ripple that can damage your business.

As economic uncertainty traveled through different industries, some production equipment vendors made cuts to their service departments using layoffs and furloughs. Some companies made the necessary steps to ensure their promised response times remained solid. Others did not, and their customers were forced to eat those losses. As you make this huge investment in your company's production print capabilities, your vendor's service department must be equipped to roll with the punches as much as you are. 

4. Does your company ever incentivize service personnel to attempt to make faulty parts outlive their use so as not to replace them when necessary? 

That question sounds like a mouthful, but it’s really quite simple. While technician hours can be expensive for service companies, if a technician doesn't have to replace any production equipment parts, that saves the vendor a great deal of money. There are, however, situations where parts have simply outlived their usefulness and need to be replaced. Unfortunately, some production service departments have incentivized service personnel to attempt to make faulty parts last longer than recommended by the equipment manufacturers. In a pinch, some of these practices are effective stop-gap measures until replacement parts are available. In the long term, these are backhanded practices that can lead to premature equipment failure. 

If any such incentives exist that reward service personnel from not replacing production equipment parts, this should provide some pause for thought before conducting business with this company.

In Summary 

  • You're not simply buying or leasing production print equipment from a vendor as much as you're choosing to enter into a business relationship with them. 
  • You should be fully aware of who you will call for issues with your lease...and feel totally comfortable with that decision. 
  • You should understand the Service Level expectations in response time, uptimes, parts availability and genuine manufacture supplies. 
  • Your production print equipment vendor should be upfront about the potential for service delays. 
  • You should be aware of any service personnel incentives to limit the replacement of parts.

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