Every doctor can tell you that they regularly have to deal with patients that come to their office having self diagnosed their symptoms. One of my colleagues tells of how he went on the internet and determined that he had appendicitis only to find out from his doctor he really had pneumonia.
What does this have to do with MFP printers?
I find the same thing is happening with enquiries I receive regarding purchase or lease of printing equipment as buyers do their homework using the internet to preselect the devices they think they need.
I see buyers defining that they need a colour mfp when a mono with a small colour printer could more better match their needs.
I see buyers who think they can use a $1000 or less mfp to serve the needs of 20 people in their office doing over 200 pages per day in print alone.
I see buyers who focus on a particular brand or model since it got a good review in some archane website.
I see buyers who are convinced that they know enough to pick the right device out of the hundreds that are available on the market without consultation and call looking for a price only.
Now, I fully understand that these scenarios are nothing like being diagnosed with pneumonia. They are not as life threatening or serious. For the office involved in acquiring the printer or mfp it can however, be mission critical.
Using the internet to narrow choices and to find potential purchase choices is understandable and I support the process. I use the tools for my own purchases as well.
What I think is also important is to take the next step and talk to a potential supplier who can demonstrate knowledge, market understanding and who will help you fully define your needs.
This potential supplier should ask you a few questions before just giving in to your request for a price. This is often tough as a vendor since the conversation often starts out as,
"I'm interested in an XYZ mfp, can you give me a price for one of those?"
Not wanting to tick the caller off too often the result is a quickly calculated price and the conversation ends....sometimes with an order but too often never to be heard from again.
The purchaser has their specific answer but could be treating their appendicitis instead of their pneumonia.
So what should a buyer do?
I think a better situation is for the two parties to make sure that they have at least a short dialogue that can assist the vendor and the buyer to be sure that the pricing is actually for the right disease. Questions like:
What are you going to use this device for?
Who will be using it?
What operating systems will you use?
Are there any special software packages that must be supported?
How will you support the device? Inhouse? Outsourced?
What other options have you considered?
These are just a few of the questions that a knowledgeable print consultant will ask BEFORE making a recommendation on a piece of hardware whether a printer or an mfp.
Taking the time to ask the questions before tendering a price can be a risk but it will always work out to provide a better result for the buyer. The chance of the vendor making the sale will usually increase as well.
I am not saying that buyers cannot narrow or even make the right choice. I am suggesting that they can have a better result with a little more information being provided prior to making the final purchase decision.
Here's a recent example.
Client is a newer business doing about 3500 pages per month in print and copy. Seeking an MFP to meet that need and provide their fax interface as well. Will do a bit of scanning. Our consultant provides a suitable recommendation with a couple of options for the client to consider. In the discussion the question of colour output comes into the scene. Our consultant enquires to ask how much colour is anticipated. Answer is infrequent and small amounts.
Our consultant's suggestion is that they go with a mono mfp and buy a small colour printer.
The client's diagnosis is that they would like to go with a colour capable mfp.
No matter what discussion and information the consultant provides the client has made his diagnosis and can't be swayed from this approach.
Are they right or is the print consultant right? Only time will tell.
Does self diagnosis in the office workflow and print field always lead to the right answer, seldom or never? You have to decide this. Too often I have seen that it does not.
I think that the knowledge that a professional consultant can bring to the decision can be valuable to all clients and can help them avoid treating the wrong disease.
What do you think? Is an internet search and some online specs enough for the right decisions to be made?
Your opinion is welcome...