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Managed Print Providers See More Locations, More Devices In ‘Recovery’

‘If we have a client with two offices now, with the things that we’re seeing, I could easily see that growing to 15 if a lot of the workers are working from home,’ says Josh Justice, president of Just Tech, a Xerox reseller, and IT services provider in La Plata, Md.

VARs working in managed print are looking past the travel restrictions and stay at home orders to anticipate more customers working from home, meaning more locations and more devices under management on the other side of the coronavirus pandemic.

“If we have a client with two offices now, with the things that we’re seeing, I could easily see that growing to 15 if a lot of the workers are working from home,” said Josh Justice (pictured), president of Just Tech, a Xerox reseller, and IT services provider in La Plata, Md.

Many in the industry agree that small to medium- sized businesses will be slower to return to normal in terms of allowing people into offices, and some could keep the work from home arrangements that they are using to get their business through the pandemic. An increase in the number of new office locations means more service calls, more monitoring agents as well as a greater number of smaller devices under management.

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Justice said managed print providers will need to be flexible and able to scale up their ability to deliver services remotely.

“If we say, ‘we can’t help your home devices,’ we’re going to start losing print,” he said. “I think we may have to increase our help desk. I can see monitoring more remote location and shipping to more locations.”

Arnie Kirby, who runs enterprise solutions at Lexmark, said he too believes more customers will need more smaller devices as workers remain working from home and businesses look to shrink their real estate footprint, with many business solution development customers shipping work from home packages now. But critical to the success of those devices will be cloud enabled platforms that give solution providers the ability to remotely update firmware.

In addition to being able to reset the devices, check on page counts and toner levels remotely, advanced cloud platforms can give end users the flexibility to store print jobs in the cloud and print from any device on their company’s network – an advantage in an agile work environment that isn’t set in any one location.

“I do think as we get back to recovery, the partner who has been investing in a cloud strategy with their clients are going to rebound faster than those who have been doing it the old fashioned way,” he said. “To me, that’s been the exciting part of what we’ve been working on for the last two years has been getting partners into this platform and I think those who have are going to be in a lot better position.”

With his visibility into a massive amounts of managed print data, across the vendors world-wide network, Kirby acknowledges that navigating to that day will not be easy.

“You see volumes dropping drastically. I’ve talked to partners in the BSD space, whose entire revenue stream is tied to pages and toner and service. They’re having to furlough people. Everything right now, they’re in survival mode. What we’re telling them is look, anything we can do to help you we will.”

Apart from the loss of revenue, which has been steep, some managed devices have automatic settings that will require a manual reset via a PIN number after a certain period of inactivity.

That can take up to 20 minutes each, depending on the device, so Jeff Bryant, vice president of operations at CESCO Inc. in Dallas, said he has been emailing some of his customers, including those in entertainment which have closed offices entirely due to the outbreak.

“They have their power off so those machines are not reporting,” he said. “About 60 locations with more than 100 devices. You’re talking about a 10, 15, 20 minute process, per devices. You’re talking about weeks … Its caused me to have meeting with Xerox to get ahead of this.”

He said he is keeping track of each one that could need a jump start once restrictions are lifted and he is sending reminders to his end customers, but he is concerned that some of the messages are getting lost amid the volume of urgent communications.

“One of the biggest problems you have with managed print right now is that IT departments are overrun trying to support people who are working from home. Just to keep people being able to work,” he said. “You just can’t in good conscious keep pressing on those guys right now. But you have to warn them. I’ll give them 10 days, then I’ll have to kick it up a notch.”

For CESCO, which handles both Xerox and Lexmark devices, the decline in revenue has been tough. Prior to the outbreak, the long-time Texas print company had a great year taking advantage of programs that Xerox had put into place around managed color print devices. He said Xerox was an especially lucrative first quarter program for his sales rep.

“They were killing it,” Bryant said. “The mind share was huge. The back-end rebates were good. The whole nine yards. So when you’re winning with Xerox it’s a great place. Same with Lexmark.”

The months of December, January, February, into the beginning of March, put the company on pace to have its best year yet.

“I was in a definite upswing. We just did a really large Xerox installation of 100 devices, about 10 of which were production and the rest were 50 and 70-page-a-minute color. It was all managed print … Lexmark as well. We have a couple big accounts that started rolling out with Lexmark but they’re now on hold, because they were in education.”

An advantage to managed print, is the sticky customer relationship that develops with renewables and service calls. With an overall decline in the number of devices being used, there is an even steeper decline in the number of service calls as many customers are learning to live with problems, o, trying to fix them on their own. He said YouTube has been coming to the rescue as his techs have started assembling videos to help customers they cannot visit in person.

“One of the challenges we have today and one of the things we’re working on is remote fix,” Bryant said. “We have a very large, rehabilitation client, they’re not allowing anybody in their facility, and rightfully so. One thing that we’re doing where we possibly can is, we’ll ship in a part and help their IT guys remotely wither with a YouTube video or through FaceTime help them put that part in.”

Bryant said CESCO Inc. has been working with its customers who like nearly every small to medium sized business has been hard hit by the economic downturn. Managed print products give resellers a view into how much organizations are using their devices, so if someone is off and not printing, he said its easy to let them slide. But there cases where that becomes more challenging.

“I haven’t cut anybody off,” Bryant said. “I’m giving everyone a month, month and a half. I’m going to try to carry everybody, not cut anybody off. Not everybody is in that condition … the deferred payment thing, that’s going to be tough. It depends how deep they get into you. If they’re running color machines and their bill should be $10,000 or $20,000, you can’t let that go very long. That’s a pain point. My wife told me the other day, ‘You may as well laugh, Jeff, because it beats crying.’ ”

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