Copy Graphics recently celebrated its thirtieth anniversary of serving its South Texas community just eight miles from the Mexican border. Owners David and Luis Valdez launched the company in 1986 after the company where they both worked as service technicians left the market. Copy Graphics has grown since then, thanks to both customer and employee loyalty. Five people hired during its early years are still with the company.
“That’s how the company started, very small, but with a strong service orientation,” said Ana Escobar, who serves as its operations manager, “We’re very South Texas, very proud of our strong roots in this community. We service the four counties that are the southernmost tip of Texas.”
“We offer personalized service. We still answer our phones in person” said Escobar. She added that management is accessible to anyone who calls with an issue. “We try to resolve issues quickly. What we hear from our customers is that they’re happy with the personal service we’re giving them. They feel like somebody is listening and is available to them.” Management encourages all 27 of its employees to take a customer-first mentality.
Service has fueled Copy Graphics’ growth. “All equipment will eventually need service so we sell so we can service,” said Escobar. “Competition just keeps driving hardware prices lower and lower. We have to find a way to get people to pay a fair value for the service.”
“That’s where the opportunity is,” said David Valdez, president.
That focus on service has earned Copy Graphics this month’s BEI/ENX Service Excellence Diamond Award. “We do well because our focus is making sure that the customer is up and running, minimizing their downtime,” said Escobar. “All small businesses are feeling the pinch right now with so much consolidation in so many different industries, so we focus on making sure that we do everything that we can to honor the commitment that we’ve made to them.”
Education, government and small business make up most of Copy Graphics’ customer base. The $5.2 million company is primarily a Canon dealer, but it also sells Kyocera printers and MBM paper handling equipment. The company saw 10 percent growth in 2016 and expects similar performance this year.
Much of that growth came from strength in color and wide-format equipment sales. “This area tends to lag a little behind the rest of the country. A lot of people are just now converting to color,” said Escobar. “As more and more people decide to do their own printing inhouse, they’re looking and finding ways in which they can use the wide format, the color printing. What we’re losing is the printer and the A4 market, because people go down to superstores and get 60pageperminute printers off the shelf.”
South Texas might be a little behind adoption trends compared to the rest of the country, but pace of change is still a key challenge for Copy Graphics. “The products keep changing. They have a lot of features. Some of them are very complex. It’s hard to teach that to the end user. And with so much turnover, the end users—even ourselves—have difficulty keeping up with everything that’s available out there,” said Escobar.
Finding Sweet Spots with BEI
Copy Graphics implemented the BEI program in 2009 with the hope of making better matches between application and equipment. “We wanted to find the sweet spots for the models that we service—to see where it is that we should be targeting volumes,” said Escobar. “When you look at the reports that you get out of the BEI, you’re able to see where the machine is optimized.”
“It’s really important to us to know which models to focus on and how to manage our service [in regard to volumes printed],” she added. “You don’t want to place the wrong machine into the wrong environment. That’s where you start to have problems and lose money.” Selling the right machine for the customer has allowed Copy Graphics to maintain profitability in a competitive environment and improve customer satisfaction.
Just as BEI allows Copy Graphics to match machines with customers, it helps them identify their best service technicians for a given problem or model. “If we find that there’s a technician who is really strong on a specific model or a specific type of problem, we let that person take care of it,” said Escobar. “It helps us to target the service call to the technician. We don’t necessarily work to the territory. We work more to the problem.”
The company is using the same data to improve the skills of its service techs. “We’re looking to see if there’s an individual technician who might be having a problem with a specific model or a specific type of problem within a model. It helps us to figure out who needs more training,” said Escobar.
Proof of improved service comes in the form of customer feedback. “I get calls, emails, even letters from customers saying how happy they were with either a specific technician, or the quick resolution to their problem. Most are surprised that we handled their problem faster than they anticipated,” said Escobar.
Copy Graphics does not currently use BEI when evaluating service tech compensation, but Escobar says they are considering it. They also want to combine data from BEI with data coming from other applications such as Canon’s ImageWARE Remote, which reports on specific machine problems such as toner levels, and apps that allow technicians to check inventory while in the field.
Escobar reports that their 10 service techs have embraced the BEI program because they believe it helps them solve more problems the first time. “No one likes to stand before a customer and say he has to go back or that he couldn’t solve the problem,” said Escobar. “Having access to a resolution gives techs more confidence to be out in front of the customer, knowing that they’ve got the tools that they need to take care of the problem.”
Copy Graphics expects its current growth rate of 10 percent to continue this year. In addition to benefiting from improved service efficiency, the company sees greater opportunity in software sales. “We’d like to expand into some of the newer Canon products, and into Canon’s software solutions like uniFLOW,” said David Valdez.
Although the company competes with other dealers, it sees its biggest competition coming from the OEM branches. “Because they are OEMs, they tend to have more layers between them and the customer,” said Escobar. “That’s where we have an advantage that they don’t. If our customer wants to walk in here for a part or a toner, they can do so.”
Escobar sees the competition as both a challenge and an opportunity. “No matter where somebody acquires their equipment, they’re still going to need service for it. That’s an opportunity to expand our services even beyond maybe products that we sell,” she said.
Another challenge for Copy Graphics as it grows is hiring and training service techs. “Part of the issue is that a lot of the young people don’t seem to be very interested in working with their hands anymore,” said Escobar. “They want to be doing it from a computer. This job is becoming more and more computeroriented and softwaredriven. Many problems are addressed with a firmware update, but at some point you still need to be able to have that mechanical inclination and problemsolving skills.”
Escobar says she hires techs who are computer oriented. “We let them work their way into the other part of it. Once they’ve started, they do like it, but a lot of times when you tell them that at the outset, they’re not interested,” she said.
Fortunately, most of Copy Graphics’ service team has been with the company for a long time, with most having been with them for at least 10 years, some more than 20. That takes some pressure off onboarding new techs too quickly.
Consolidation of the industry is perhaps the biggest concern for Copy Graphics. “I think decision making is becoming more centralized, where more and more customers want to have one office equipment vendor or one specific product line in an account,” said Escobar. “If you lose one of those accounts, you’re losing every opportunity in that account.”
“Whereas before, maybe at a school district or a government office, there was an opportunity for many vendors,” said Escobar. “When they want to stick to one vendor, it’s good if you get it, but it’s bad if you don’t.”
Strong service can be a powerful means of overcoming any challenge, whether it’s competition, hiring or consolidation. Copy Graphics figured that out at the beginning, and as a result it is continuing to grow.
About the Dealership:
1. President/Owner: David Valdez
2. VP of Service/Owner: Luis Valdez
3. Operation Manager: Ana Escobar
4. Number of Techs: 10
5. Number of Devices Serviced: 2150
Why They’re a Diamond Award Winner
First-Call Effectiveness: 67%
Call Back Rate: 25%
Hold for Parts Rate: 8%
Ranking: 4th overall of the 170+ dealers