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How businesses choose a managed print service provider

A recent study by IDC examined the factors involved in a customer's choice of a managed print service provider, including 'win factors.'

The managed print services market continues to transform to incorporate new technologies and higher-value services. And among customers looking to engage a managed print service provider, service and technology typically have the most influence in a customer's choice of provider. Those are a few of the findings of an October IDC presentation on the managed print and document services market.

The IDC presentation, authored by Holly Muscolino, research vice president for document solutions, was based on research conducted earlier this year for the company's Worldwide Managed Print and Document Services MarketScape report. As part of the research, IDC interviewed 25 customers of managed print and document services to gauge attitudes about managed print services and to determine the factors that influence a customer's choice of provider.

The analyst firm found several factors that cause customers to seek out a managed print service provider. At the top of the list: needing to update an aging or underperforming fleet of printers, wanting to optimize the employees-to-devices ratio, and wanting to reduce the number of brands, leases or contracts. Lesser factors include the desire to have better control of costs, poor service from an existing provider, and the desire to outsource services and increase employee productivity.

The IDC study found the most frequently cited 'win factors' for providers were flexible contract terms, favorable pricing and having an existing relationship with the provider.

Before managed service providers pitch a customer on their managed print services, they need to have an understanding of what most customers are looking for. The IDC study revealed  the most common customer requirements were assessment and design services, as well as optimization strategies (cited by almost 45% of interviewees). That was followed by breadth of product line, the ability to support multiple locations, consistency of support and direct support.

Assuming a customer's requirements are met by multiple managed print service providers, the customer then must choose among the providers. The IDC study found the most frequently cited "win factors" for providers were flexible contract terms, favorable pricing, and having an existing relationship with the provider. (Though an existing relationship was a top "win factor" in the study, poor service was the most frequently cited reason for unseating an incumbent.)

IDC advised service providers to understand a prospect's key decision drivers and to craft their communications and proposals to them accordingly. Preliminary and detailed assessment phases and proactive innovation are key foundations in the beginning steps of a managed print services relationship, and determining the correct offerings to suit a client's needs can significantly aid in apprehending those "change" anxieties.

For David Wolf, general manager of Just Solutions Inc., a Fairport, N.Y.-based solution provider that offers managed print services, the assessment phase is important to establish a baseline. "We use a rapid assessment tool to scan their network. It gives us a look at all the devices on the network." By also reviewing current printer-related costs, Wolf said Just Solutions can determine a prospect's cost per page to uncover money-saving opportunities.

What it comes down to is having knowledge of customers' business workflow, Wolf said. By spending time learning about the pain customers often experience, it allows his business to offer better and more targeted services.

Indeed, IDC suggested providers' knowledge of business workflow -- while not currently a major customer requirement -- will become more important in the future. Managed print service providers might consider developing more specialized expertise to stay competitive in such an environment.

IDC also pointed to vertical industry knowledge as increasing in importance in the future, though only a few survey interviewees mentioned it as a current requirement. Wolf said he takes a diversified rather than a specialized industry approach, explaining that all markets use "many printers and multifunctional equipment."

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