Business Transformation Field Study — The Truth About Labor: Advantage, You.

Cycle One: ************

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Big, and slow, printer and copier outlets like IKON, Staples, etc., have a small problem that’s becoming bigger each day.

Since these large national chains lack the institutional focus to deliver personalized, consultative managed print services the way solution providers in the channel can, a lack of trained printer repair technicians is hurting their ability to respond to trouble tickets.

This gives the channel an advantage over these larger entities, and an opportunity to capture business from customers fed up with poor service levels and slow maintenance support.

There’s a growing need for multifunction printer troubleshooting skills, says Steve Mairet, co-owner of A1 Tonertech Inc., Orange, Calif.

"I’m now getting calls from other dealers saying they need technicians," Mairet says.

Look how important an experienced technician can be to your business, and to saving valuable man-hours.

One particular A1 Tonertech customer recently reported a problem with a printer, and Mairet and his team sent out a technician to fix the problem.

"He worked on the printer three different times, replacing this part and that part," Mairet says. But still the printer wasn’t working properly. Mairet spent an hour trying to determine what was wrong. "Finally, I figured out that a business card was covering up the paper sensor and that was causing the whole problem," he says. "It wasn’t one of those things that screams out at you." After he removed the business card, the printer worked fine.

It’s likely someone trained in troubleshooting the latest printers might have solved this and other problems more quickly, Mairet says. But as a result of this skills shortfall, Mairet has to juggle a number of extra roles, including going on service calls, as a tech.

"I’m doing three peoples’ jobs; we definitely need to hire more service people," Mairet says. The problem is finding people who have experience in troubleshooting printers. "I’ve hired and fired five people this year because of a lack of troubleshooting ability," he says.

The Plain Truth

Oftentimes a technician will arrive at a customer site, examine a malfunctioning printer and replace a part or two and think the problem is solved. Then later, Mairet says, the customer will call A1 Tonertech to complain that the printer is still not working right.

"The technicians are just swapping out boxes based on something they remember from working on other customers’ printers," but the printer problems aren’t being resolved, Mairet says.

Mairet, who did printer repair work early in his career, now finds himself going out on service calls in addition to managing the sales staff, tracking finances and handling customer calls. Service remediation takes time, but he can’t just leave the customer with a broken printer, he says. In many cases, the printer in question is the only one a customer has and the company is relying on the machine for its business, he says.

What’s likely to cause problems depends on the type of printer, Mairet says. But he says the most common trouble-ticket and help-desk calls he gets for both large and small customers are related to print heads on solid ink printers.

"That’s based on the fact that we have more customers using generic, third-party inks," Mairet says. Using those inks can cause the print heads to get clogged up. In fact, A1 Tonertech typically handles three or four service calls a month related to print heads from a large customer, he says.

Developing a New Generation of Technicians

Mairet will continue to search for qualified printer technicians, but is also taking other, proactive steps to help deal with the shortage. For example, A1 Tonertech is creating a vocational school that will train people to perform troubleshooting on many different types of printers.

Clearly there’s a growing need for multifunction printer troubleshooting skills. So these efforts to help develop employees who can not just talk managed print, but also troubleshoot the hardware, help the industry as a whole, and benefit A1 Tonertech first.

How does it benefit A1 Tonertech first?

Simple: Providing repair services for customers that have malfunctioning printers is a key part of offering remote managed print services. And it’s one of the few managed services areas that still delivers profitable break-and-fix revenue when costs and time are managed correctly.

How do these trainees get their training? Helping Mairet fix his customers’ printers.

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