In his christmas blog, Vince McHugh published a copy of a recent letter that has been sent by Ricoh USA to their customers (former Ikon customers) who are still operating Canon equipment. This letter indicates that they will no longer renew service agreements with those customers on their Canon equipment once their current plan runs out.
Consolidation of the mfp industry has led to this type of situation before. As brands have been consolidating the pressure for conversion of equipment to the surviving brand is substantial. This comes from difficulty the manufacturers have with buying competitive supplies and parts as well as keeping their service technicians up to date with the hardware. Of course there is also the pressure from the home factory to replace the fleet with new equipment as this is the ultimate goal of the merged entity anyway.
In some ways this flys in the face of the trend in the industry to encourage clients to enter into managed print agreements whereby a vendor supports all of the print devices utilized by the client no matter what brand. Presumably, Ricoh has determined in this case that providing alternative support is not an option with these customers.
So how does this affect the customer?
In many instances it places the customer at a disadvantage unless their is a capable and willing support resource for the brand being displaced. For the Canon situation customers are more likely to have options since Canon had a multiple channel distribution and it is possible to find dealers and others who would look to take over the Canon equipment if the customer decided to go that route.
In one instance I was involved in with a client, shortly after the Ricoh acquisition of Ikon, I migrated a customer's support for two Canon's they had to a dealer in their location who could support them and they dropped the Ricoh service early. This gives them the flexibility to choose their new supplier without the pressure for an early switch due to Ricoh's support issues.
Changes in the print industry are constant and as the product groups have become more commoditized the sense of brand definition is harder to maintain. In some instances branded product is actually manufactured by an OEM supplier, which is the primary way that companies like Samsung entered the industry. They now offer their product under their own brand label but have long been involved in OEM supply to others such as Xerox.
With the service announcement Ricoh is finally rolling out the end part of their acquisition strategy and now pressuring their customers aquired with Ikon to move to the Ricoh produced equipment. Of course they take a risk with this strategy since for some customers it could be costly to move into new equipment in advance of lease termination. These customers may elect to find another support option and not upgrade as Ricoh wants them to do, thus Ricoh loses a customer that they paid money to acquire through the Ikon acquisition.
There is an opportunity for Canon dealers who can identify Ricoh customers who have Canon in their fleets, once which will not go unnoticed. This can put pressure on the upgrade plans that Ricoh may have and could provide a negotiating opportunity for the customers being asked to consider a change.
Are you affected by the Ricoh changeover? Would you look for competitive support of pricing for a change before signing with Ricoh on new equipment? Does a dealer with options look for attractive than a manufacturer because of these types of changes?
Share your experiences below...