10 Dec At The Cross-Roads – The Copier Industry
In the ‘social-media’ era, it is a fact of B2B & B2C life that businesses operate with the constant risk of bad publicity harming their prospects for survival & growth.
For the small-ticket leasing market, which encapsulates not only finance providers but, most pertinently, the equipment re-sellers on whom the leasing industry depends, the threat/risk rating have never been higher;
- Reputationally, major finance providers & equipment suppliers have never been weaker at a time when competition is at its most brutal
- The leasee has never been more emboldened to challenge the validity of the contracts they have signed, legitimately or otherwise
- The costs of resisting contractual challenges are escalating in terms of man-hours & legal expenses
- The courts are increasingly uncompromising in the standards they demand from both the finance provider AND the “dealer” &
- Equipment manufacturers are becoming increasingly sensitive to the collateral damage to their brand image & sales, & so increasingly look for ways unfavourable to the current market as a means of protecting their interests
Focusing on the MFD supply industry itself, not only do the above threats hold good, but they are exaggerated by the common themes of;
A. Poor, commission-focused salesmanship
B. Declining sales (In Germany alone, 2018 saw sales fall to 2.88m devices compared with 3.38m in 2011)
C. Inadequate technical & maintenance support standards
D. An average 2.4% annual decline in meter-click volumes in 2015, 2016 & 2017
E. A woefully inadequate Corporate Social Performance (CSP) rating
What we have described is, European-wide, a broadly unloved, un-respected industry with generally failing standards & falling sales unprotected by the counter-balance of CSP “good-news-on-positive-actions” to redress the negative imagery.
Further, the reputation of the office-equipment industry is scheduled to face yet another round of negative-imaging as data gradually seeps into the market, & customer awareness, of the dramatically high CO2 costs & environmental damage particularly associated with; i) MFD device manufacture & ii) MFD use.
In a recent study of the European market, Global Impact collated the following data:
· A single mid-range colour MFD device generates between 475 & 625 kgs of CO2 emissions on its journey from factory to user
· The same device on user premises will generate between 450 kgs & 1.1 tonnes of CO2 emissions over a 4 year period
While manufacturers are now responding with CO2 emission busting solutions, the re-seller market remains terrible exposed to fallout from this particular shit-storm and will remain exposed for the several years it takes to help a customer base migrate to lower CO2 impacting devices. The bad CO2 headlines are not going away any time soon.
And that concludes a summary of the bad news. There are however means by which re-sellers, “dealers” to you & I, can redress the current imbalance:
I. Improve the customer experience at the point of sale by offering realistic assessments of product effectiveness & reliability intelligently delivered by articulate, well-trained field-sales colleagues.
II. Invest in service management solutions & support facilities to enhance the levels of support service clients receive when equipment fails.
III. Wake up to the importance of the company’s CSP profile and make it work.
And the latter point is critical to the industry & individual players within it: If a company’s Corporate Social Performance standing is high (and it takes time & effort to get it there) it is more able to challenge the perception that the industry & its products are bad for the customer & bad the environment.
It is not so long ago that a copier dealer could invest modestly in the local junior football team & make a few charity donations in the hope that customers might see the business as having “a-heart”. Today however it requires;
· Meticulous targeting of effort into well-defined CSR projects as partner to the project(s) & those it benefits.
· A detailed, well-publicised, regularly audited Sustainability Strategy focused on well-defined sustainability outcomes.
· A comprehensive marketing strategy explaining the relevance of CSR project partnerships & the company’s sustainable actions.
· A buy-in by the most vital partners of all – staff, because it is customer-facing colleagues who paint the pictures the customer needs to see.
For our part, Global Impact uncovers, scopes, develops & manages local & international CSR projects for a range of clients as well as helping SME clients across Europe develop & implement Sustainability Strategies designed to transform perception of the client’s business and their brand.
Players in the European-wide Copier Industry have never been more in need of the positive qualities these two key “solutions” offer and it is these very solutions that Global Impact exists to deliver.