WFH Printing: How Solution Providers Are Seizing This ‘New Revenue Stream’

Demand for work-from-home printers, support and services has created new opportunities in the channel even with the slowdown in office printing.


While COVID-19 has disrupted the traditional office print market, the pandemic has also created significant channel opportunities around deploying printer hardware and services for at-home workers, solution provider executives told CRN.

For print solution providers that have expanded their offerings to cover work-from-home users, the additional business has helped to offset the losses from the closure of offices, the executives said.

[Related: CRN Printer Week 2021]

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Though the growth in at-home printing may not completely make up for the lower demand for print in offices, “it’s still an opportunity,” said Mike Turicchi, chief strategic relationships officer at Gainesville, Va.-based NCS Technologies. “There’s still a lot that we can do with that. It’s a new revenue stream for us because these are devices that we really hadn’t paid any attention to before.”

Going forward, serving the print needs of the “hybrid” workforce is also expected to be an opportunity for solution providers, with many workers likely to remain at home part- or full-time going forward.

“More and more of the workforce is becoming ‘hybrid.’ And I think that’s going to be the future,” said Mark Romanowski, executive vice president of sales and marketing at Port Washington, N.Y.-based Agilant Solutions. “How do you provide that same level of experience to someone working from home as if they were working in an office environment? That poses lots and lots of challenges. So we’ve done some very creative things for our customers.”

For many print solution providers, the first challenge that needed to be tackled was around getting suitable printer hardware to workers at home.

At NCS, which offers printers from HP Inc., requests for smaller devices that can be used by workers at home have been coming in “fast and furious” during the pandemic, said Matthew Cooke, a sales director at NCS. “Their big concern is how fast can they get them?”

Initially, when the pandemic sent workers into homes, “everyone wanted a webcam,” Cooke said. “Now they’re finding that they need devices like printers and scanners to be able to do their job. … Almost every day, I will be getting a request for a printer quote for at-home printing.”

Notably, Cooke is now regularly connecting with customers he never had in the past. And he’s doing so virtually rather than in-person.

“That was unusual prior to COVID because I’m very much a relationship seller,” he said. “I’m talking to a lot of people that I haven’t necessarily met before.”

Now, with work-from-home expected to continue at a higher level than in the past, printers seem poised to remain in high demand as well, Cooke said.

“I have a sense that it’s going to continue for some time,” he said.

In the past, NCS has often focused on servicing large bids from its government and education customers. But now, “we have folks like Matt that are dealing with a whole new part of the market and a whole new set of demand from folks that are in the home,” said John Callahan, vice president of marketing at NCS. “It’s not going to match the volume of those very large agency bids, but it’s the reality of what’s out there today.”

While NCS has at times supplied customers with consumer-oriented printers over the past year, the solution provider is now also focused on setting up home workers with business printers such as HP’s OfficeJet 8010 series and OfficeJet Pro 9020 series, Callahan said.

At La Plata, Md.-based JustTech, which partners with Xerox, about 20 percent of the new printing devices that were added for customers last year were devices for use in homes, said Joshua Justice, president of JustTech. Those included compact-size A4 models such as Xerox’s WorkCentre 6515 multifunction printer.

“I think that helped us some with the print volume,” although there was “still a ton of volume that was lost” with customers such as restaurants, churches and schools being closed, Justice said.

At Agilant, which partners with HP, a growing focus is on supplying printers to at-home workers that are compact in size while offering business-friendly manageability and security, Romanowski said. For instance, Agilant is providing some home users with devices from HP’s LaserJet Enterprise 400 Series, which comes in a smaller form factor than previous models but still offers features such as fleetwide remote management and self-healing from cyberattacks.

Offering printers for home workers with strong security and other business-focused capabilities is “part of our overall solution to ensure that customers have the right technology at home to print,” Romanowski said.

Another key move for many solution providers has been to expand managed print services offerings to include work-from-home users.

At St. Louis Park, Minn.-based Marco Technologies, services such as remote help desk support for print are “part of the baked-in deliverable” for managed print services customers, said Dan Larkin, director of managed print services at the solution provider.

Prior to the pandemic, Marco—which partners with most major printer manufacturers—created a flat-fee billing model in which customers just make a monthly payment for managed print services that covers everything, Larkin said. “That’s whether they’re printing through a network device or if it was a locally connected home device that they still wanted support for,” he said.

With the shift to work-from-home print, “that helped tremendously with our business,” Larkin said.

JustTech has also found demand for providing managed print services to work-from-home users. “We just added [home printing] right onto the existing contract that we had with them,” Justice said. “We provided the same level of service as in the office. We masked up, delivered units, installed them, provided service if it was needed. We were really careful with our COVID protocols.”

Likewise, at Agilant, delivering a full array of printer services and support to home users has been a key part of the overall solution for customers, Romanowski said.

During the pandemic, the solution provider extended its help desk, field service force and depot repair capabilities to cover at-home users, he said. While this required a fair amount of “trial and error,” it ultimately paid off for Agilant’s print services business, Romanowski said.

“There was this huge shift from the office worker to the home worker, which is entirely different. You have to completely rearchitect and reorchestrate your entire thinking for a print environment,” he said.

Ultimately, all print solution providers will need to adjust to “whatever the new reality will be,” Romanowski said. “Because it will be a hybrid approach. And people will be able to print from home and in the office—and from anywhere.”

Without a doubt, Justice said, “we’re going to continue to support those who may permanently work from home, both with IT and with print. Our business has to evolve in the post-COVID world.”