Leave it to the editors at ENX Magazine to state the obvious. But it really does bear repeating: the managed aspect of managed print services is the key to ensuring the next round of client renewals. At a time when generating net-new MPS accounts can be quite challenging, preventing defectors carries all the more weight.
So what does effective account management look like in the eyes of the end-user? Is it a static chart of best practices that all must follow? Obviously, the latter is not the case. However, we’ve canvassed our crackerjack dealer panel of MPS aficionados to share a page from their playbooks.
The foundation for quality management, notes Jeff Wilson, vice president of business development for Flex Technology Group of Mesa, Arizona, is cemented by having the right people in place. It’s the organization’s points of differentiation, Wilson says, that keeps clients coming back.
“Our unique blend of people, process and technology may sound a bit cliché, but it’s the appropriate way to explain why we are growing organically and maintaining an extremely favorable customer retention rate,” he said. “We listen to our customers; we deliver what they ask for and that leads to long-term relationships and high customer retention.”
The practice of conducting ongoing account reviews helps to keep the MPS value proposition front and center, according to Ray Belanger, president of Bay Copy in Rockland, Massachusetts. That can sometimes mean, as needs change, adjusting down volumes to maintain credibility with the client. Satisfaction and retention dictate that flexibility.
“We always look for ways to promote value and communicate that clearly to our customers,” Belanger said. “We try to get on a different level than simply ‘How many copies did you make?’ Instead, we remind customers of the other values (environmentally friendly, reducing unnecessary demands on IT).
“There are many moving parts in an MPS program and it can be complicated to manage. That can account for why some dealers have moved away from MPS. Our greatest successes come when we can connect with the right people in the organization and get buy-in.”
One of the fundamentals that has been stressed by Marco is the practice of moving its managed services from a transactional business model into one based more on relationships. The St. Cloud, Minnesota, dealer’s account managers have taken on more of an advisory role in order to furnish the client with value far beyond what is stated in the contract.
As for the service managers, according to Dan Larkin, solutions sales director, they’re solely tasked with maximizing customer up time. Still, that can be a dual-edged sword.
“Unfortunately, as many in this business already understand only too well, sometimes the better you are at maximizing uptime, the harder it is for your customer to understand the value you provide,” Larkin pointed out. “Your work becomes less visible. So our account managers are also tasked with highlighting the effectiveness of our service team to our clients.”
Hunter Woolfolk doesn’t pull any punches when he says DOCUmation offers the best service in Texas. The co-president for the San Antonio-based dealership, Woolfolk believes the firm’s technical prowess resonates with clients who are loathe to settle for anything less than exceptional service.
It’s not just the technical expertise that paves the road to renewals. “We’re always loving on our clients,” he added. “Spending time with them, entertaining at events, forging strong relationships. All that care and the relational aspect helps create those strong relationships. They desire to work with us because we’re strategic partners. We’re not a vendor who tries to sell them something, then they don’t see us until it’s upgrade time.”
Dealer responsiveness resonates well with customers, and for a dealer such as MTS Office Systems of Anderson, South Carolina, it advertises a two-hour response time. President and CEO Mason Smith notes his dealership’s actual performance is less than one hour, and over-delivering on promises plays well in serving the SMB space.
MTS’ technicians are trained to be highly engaging with clients by talking about the task at hands and provide expectations, which enhances the overall experience. It’s also important to have floaters for emergency situations. Not long ago, a church client turned to MTS when a quick-moving storm took out both the copier, which was less than a year old, and “zapped” the surge protector. The dealer had a new machine on site the following day to crank out church bulletins (the lightning-struck unit was DOA).
“They weren’t down for any real period of time,” Smith said. “You really need to have that flexibility mindset from a service standpoint, not to mention a sales follow-up standpoint. We like to check in with clients at least once a quarter, whether it’s by phone or email.”
The dealer also produces an annual calendar that is personalized for clients, which provides an in-person visit at least once a year. Promotional products from Yeti coolers to Post-It notes, are also excellent leave-behinds that expand branding and keep MTS front of mind.
Every customer touch point along the way helps to solidify a dealer such as imageOne in the eyes of its clients. From the account manager to tech support, operations and finance—all of these departments are integral in expressing the value proposition for the Oak Park, Michigan, firm. Every behavior within those interactions paints a picture of imageOne in the client’s mind.
“We focus our attention on the behaviors and the processes that drive those behaviors, the mindset and the people who execute them,” added Josh Britton, company president. “If we’re solid in that regard, we trust and have seen that we can get the outcomes we’re seeking: high customer satisfaction, high renewal rates and referrals. The proof is reflected by our retention rate, which is over 99%.”
It’s not any single silver bullet that keeps Stargel Office Solutions in the good graces of its customer’s eyes. Rather, it’s a mixture of touch points, program attributes and value that keeps them coming back, according to TJ DeBello, vice president of sales for Stargel.
“A combination of effective communication, tailored and customizable solutions, reliable support and service, demonstrated ROI, flexibility, continuous improvement, transparent pricing, and relationship building has contributed to retaining our client base ensuring successful renewals for our MPS program,” he said.