The Datamax Thinking Blog

Educating, collaborating, and sparking ideas for maximizing the technology that matters.

Avoid the Great Divide Between Service Level Expectations and Reality


As the landscape changes, so do business needs. It’s a technology partner’s obligation to maintain an open dialogue, to listen intently, and provide complete transparency on documented expectations and business-building strategies. 

In my time as a Solutions Sales Specialist, I played a lot of  “20 Questions.”

My steady stream of inquiries to clients had a strategic intent. The client's answers provided key nuggets of information for:

  • digging into client current (and future) needs 
  • discovering operational challenges 
  • planting new seeds of opportunity 
  • ensuring expectations were being met at all times

If there was a gap between my client's perception and reality, it was my job to stand in it.

A business technology provider should continually educate and communicate with clients as you both travel forward in your partnership journey. The terrain can vary greatly for any organization over time: Rapid growth, restructuring, rebranding, relocation, etc. As the landscape changes, so do business needs. It’s a technology partner’s obligation to maintain an open dialogue, to listen intently, and provide complete transparency on documented expectations and business-building strategies. 

Before you cross “the great divide” (a disconnect between service expectations and reality) with your provider, 100 percent clarity must be obtained and maintained.

The Bottom Line Before you Sign? Here are 5 Areas to Seek Clarity On Right Now.

1. So what ARE the service details?

The SLA Devil is in the details.

Make certain you have a firm understanding of the details regarding your service contract. For example, am I buying the toner but receiving service for free? What is all-inclusive in the contract? Is there room for elevation or adjustment within the lifespan of the contract term? Have your representative walk you through such details.

Perhaps more importantly, simply ask them “How are you doing?"Show me the numbers." What metrics and reporting go into measuring service components like  “Response Time,” “Response + Resolution” Time, “First Call Completion Rate?” and how willing are they to share this quantitative data with you?

Copiers continue to evolve  in complexity and technology around us continues to change the way we work, but the bottom line remains: Statistics show that basic service-related metrics are consistently top among customer wants and needs.

2. How will billing be structured?

Complicated billing never wins new friends in business. Most organizations won’t be willing to pay a bill if they don’t even understand it (and rightfully so).

If you have multiple models of copiers and printers across your fleet, will the click rates vary? Will there be blended rates to essentially have the same base rate for every machine? What about overages? It’s important to know ahead of time how equipment will be billed and essentially how many invoices you can expect, so that reconciling them won’t become a monthly challenge.

The only thing worse than confusing billing is inaccurate billing. Ask ahead of time if Billing Accuracy is something that’s measured internally by a potential provider.

Lastly, meter collection can quickly become a burden for your administrative or IT team if not handled efficiently. Find out how meters will be collected/reported, and who will be receiving them.

3. How are we going to handle toner?

The efficiency of toner management is key to maximizing operational uptime and avoiding ongoing inconvenience. Ask specifically how toner will be managed before moving forward.

Consider your automation options. By automating low toner alerts across your entire fleet utilizing data collection agent tools, your necessary replacement supplies can be shipped to your location before untimely business interruption. You also eliminate the need to manage and store large, diverse onsite supply inventories.

4. How can you consolidate or “right size” my fleet, now and the future?

Removing a desktop printer from an employee’s desk might initially elicit a “from my cold, dead hands” reaction. But such consolidation comes with good reason. 

Proper placement of office equipment can improve productivity and save dramatically on operating costs. Ask your provider to help you identify the optimal locations to place MFPs and printers in your office. And remember, office equipment positioning is a fluid process over time.

Allow your partner to journey with you into your company's print and workflow underworld to identify underlying issues affecting productivity and office equipment fleet performance.

5. What analytic tools are available? Can I justify the cost associated with them?

With increased usage of business analytics, data is readily available where needed.

Clients today have the ability, given the right tools, to review granularly document output across an organization, helping to improve workflow processes and better manage printing practices.

Analytical data collection software can remotely monitor and manage toners and meters. Remote machine diagnostic tools provide technicians key service documentation to proactively expedite service resolution upon dispatch. Robust fleet output management software can provide effective controls over an entire printer, MFP fleet.

But what is a good fit for your organization? How can you measure ROI with these tools and how can you justify costs associated? Make sure that your partner is making you aware of these solutions, and helping YOU make educated decisions as a buyer.

Have your questions ready. But also be mindful to how many questions your technology partner is asking, in learning more about your specific needs. Are you traveling together toward a more efficient, profitable work environment? Or are you approaching the great divide? 

Beyond the five things mentioned above, Datamax's quarterly partnership review is a key component that ensures that over time, we are in alignment. We build our reputation on maximizing the technology that matters most to clients. Should the need arise, we will stand in the Service Gap for whatever reason. No questions asked.

Speaking of questions... Are you ready to play "20 Questions" with your next office equipment partner? Download our FREE eBook below!

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