COPIER DEALERS | 5 MIN READ
In business, the concept of "cutting out the middle man" often makes logical sense. After all, why pay someone else to get you what you need when you have the option to buy straight from the manufacturer?
There are many instances where you don't have a choice in this matter. Example - several states will not allow you to purchase a car directly from the manufacturer. You are forced to work with a dealership or purchase a used car from a previous owner. Fortunately, you have a choice in the world of copiers, meaning you can choose to go the dealer or manufacturer route.
But what does that choice really mean? Does cutting out the middle man really help me when purchasing a copier? Does purchasing directly from the manufacturer really save me money on how much a copier costs? To answer these questions, we must first bust a few myths about local dealers vs. manufacturers.
Myth #1: I can get a better price by going directly to the manufacturer.
Normally, I would tend to agree with this line of thinking, but in this case, it simply isn't true. Copier manufacturers give the same wholesale price to their local branches (owned by the manufacturer) as they do to their dealers.
This results in the same cost to the dealer as the branch. If a price difference occurs, it is simply because a decision was made to sell it at that price, completely independent of the manufacturer's initial cost to sell them the equipment.
Myth #2: The copier service from the manufacturer is better because they know their equipment better than a dealer.
You probably did not know this, but dealers send their technicians to the exact same locations for training as the manufacturers. As a result, the technicians at both locations are equally as qualified to work on your equipment.
In addition, copier manufacturers are giant corporations; and as you can imagine, they can't make decisions as quickly. Example: the service department of a manufacturer's branch may have to get higher approval before they can service a particular piece of equipment for you.
On the other hand, the service department manager at a local dealer could walk down the hall and knock on their president's door if that level of approval was necessary. This results in less downtime for your business, and less bureaucratic headaches.
Manufacturer service technicians are often restricted because of their parts budget. This means, that they have a limited amount of money to spend on parts to fix malfunctioning machines.
Why does this happen? Manufacturers are publicly traded companies, so their main business goal is to increase the wealth of their shareholders. As a result, their end of quarter numbers need to look as positive as possible.
The result is the skimping of service to meet a net income number. Private dealers don't have to deal with this because they are only answerable to the owner of the company. A company owner has a direct stake in keeping his or her customers happy.
Myth #3: My business has branches throughout the country. A local dealer would be unable to service all of them, effectively.
It is true that a manufacturer has the ability to service your equipment in multiple locations throughout the country. What you may not realize is that their process for doing so is the same as that of a local dealer.
For instance, when your branch in Arizona needs copier service, the manufacturer's branch in Georgia will have already setup service to be supplied by a company in Arizona (often a local dealer). Local dealers use the same method when servicing multiple locations around the country.
With that being said, local dealers have a type of fraternity where they are able to hold each other accountable, even if they do not work for each other. Their business leaders see each other at various conventions and industry gatherings throughout the year.
Dealer owners who work together will have each other's cell phone numbers, should direct contact ever be necessary. No one likes to let their friends down or be the weak link, and that leads to much stronger service.
But wait... there's more!
In April of 2017, RICOH sold-off their account base, and went from 450 dealers to a mere 21, seemingly overnight. "Why would they do that?" you may ask. They simply were not making enough money to justify the expense of maintaining their own dealers. Logically, the 21 that remained were their largest dealers. You can read the entire report here: RICOH Rocks the Boat.
Two Different Goals
At the end of the day, manufacturers and dealers have two different goals [in a general sense]. A manufacturer's main goal is to sell more equipment, not sell you service. A private dealer's goal is to give you service, with selling the equipment being the byproduct of receiving that service.
Fortunately for manufacturers, they can accomplish their goal of selling their products at the same price point through dealers, while being more likely to keep selling to you in the future, because the servicing of their product through a dealer, in many cases, is superior. After all, customers are generally happy with a product if it is working consistently.
Local dealers are also able to offer their customers a choice. A manufacturer only carries their brand of office machines, where as a dealer has the option to carry as many brands as they have technicians trained.
This offers your business a much better selection in quality and the ability to tailor your office fleet with the best models of each type of product - because no manufacturer is the best at every single class of equipment.
As you can see, it is logical to assume a manufacturer is going to be the best fit, but the facts show that it often is not. It is very possible - for the many reasons listed above - we may see other manufacturers follow RICOH's lead in the future and trust their local dealers to get the job done for them.
People often appreciate local businesses in their community because they often have a higher level of customer service and appreciation. Your local copier dealer is no different, but if you are a large company looking for a copier national account program, you might find that a copier dealer is just as capable of providing you great service... or more so.
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Posted by Bernie Schom
Bernie Schom is the Vice President of Sales at Standard Office Systems and has been in the copier and printer industry for over three decades.