What Makes a Good Partner: Looking Beyond the Product

Any dealer or customer navigating today’s office technology landscape faces a myriad of choices, which speaks to both the opportunities abounding in the industry today and the challenges of navigating the constantly shifting terrain. How does a dealership balance current products with adding new services? Does a company go with a small local dealership for a more personal touch, or should they go with a larger dealership that can service products across state lines?

Keep an open mind

With the current popularity of hybrid work and the maturity of the print industry, being agile and flexible with office technology is more important than ever. Within the span of a few years, the workforce has careened from full offices but steady digital transformation efforts impacting print volumes to a near total office shutdown during the pandemic, to a temporary rebound in print volumes during the pandemic’s work-from-home surge, to what we now see, which is a partial return to office and anemic print volumes. Who’s to say what the workforce will look like 10 years from now — and more importantly, what that workforce’s preferences will be?

This kind of diversification and keeping an eye open for the next in-demand product or service is already second nature for today’s office technology dealerships, but less talked about is the value of balancing competing OEMs and other vendors. To say that the relationships between dealerships and their manufacturing partners are intricate would be putting it mildly.

In 2024, there’s more value than ever to be found in being a dealership or business willing to work with a variety of partners. Dealerships are increasingly servicing more varied customer bases as the products and services they sell diversify. Additionally, the industry has seen multiple rounds of mergers and acquisitions in recent years. Where a dealer once may have only served a city or county, they now might service multiple states, which has further contributed to the need to provide more tailored and expansive portfolios of solutions. Expanding a dealer’s relationships provides a measure of insurance that clients will not only be able to keep receiving the products they need, but also the spare parts and maintenance support to keep these products up and running.

Maximize value by supporting your products

Securing recurring revenue is key to growth in today’s office technology industry. Sometimes this comes in the form of transitioning from products to services or rolling out subscription or leasing models, but more often it could be offering maintenance and repairs for current products. The latter offers the benefits of not only sustainability, but accessibility.

By offering solutions for common component failures, either directly or through partnerships with repair services, dealerships can enhance their value proposition. This approach not only helps customers avoid costly replacements but also enables dealers to generate additional revenue through maintenance plans, ultimately leading to higher customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Additionally, product maintenance is constantly evolving as office technology gets smarter and more advanced. More and more, devices can be updated or fixed with firmware updates, which means maintenance options from dealerships need to adapt too. The technician who specializes in on-site repairs of hardware isn’t going anywhere, but they’re increasingly working alongside IT experts who don’t need to physically interact with office devices.

Think outside the traditional office

As the term would suggest, the office technology industry has historically been focused on addressing the needs of clients with offices, from small and medium businesses to Fortune 500 companies. But there are huge opportunities to expand the customer base to include more than just traditional offices. We’ve already seen expansions into health care, mailing, and many other directions. Another sector that’s showing promise is retail, especially outside of big chains. Office tech staples such as barcode printers or receipt printers aren’t only of interest to the industry’s traditional client base, but also stores ranging from mom-and-pop stores to local restaurant chains. And what about ATMs and elevators? This is equipment that requires servicing, and ATMs even print.

Sustainability is only growing in importance

Sustainability is one of the office technology industry’s favorite buzzwords — and for good reason. It frequently ranks high on the list of reasons customers choose a product or business — 46% of consumers reported buying more sustainable products to reduce their impact on the environment, according to a recent PWC survey, and consumers feel so strongly about it that 80% are willing to pay a premium for more sustainable products. For businesses, sustainability is rapidly becoming a way to grow brand loyalty.

Where does this intersect with the office technology industry? The most popular way for consumers to assess a business’ sustainability practices is through its production methods and recycling. As mentioned previously, office technology dealerships can help businesses improve their sustainability by repairing products to minimize waste. We also have a huge role to play in ensuring that products are recycled and, if that’s not possible, disposed of in a way that minimizes harm to the environment. This can be a range of services, from refilling or disposing of ink cartridges to properly handling obsolete circuit boards. In the case of the latter, this has the additional benefit of allowing a dealership to extract a little more revenue by harvesting the valuable elements in every piece of silicon today.

Listen to the customer

Though it sounds trite, it’s true: the most successful office technology dealerships are the ones willing to listen to the customers so they can understand what new solutions they need. End customers are the ultimate users of products and services, and their feedback is invaluable in driving innovation and improvement.

Whether you’re an OEM or reseller, gathering and sharing customer feedback internally can provide insights into new needs and emerging trends. It allows solution providers to adapt their offerings and develop new features or products that meet constantly evolving demands.

More importantly, by showing a commitment to addressing customer feedback, partners cannot only enhance the end-user experience but also strengthen their relationships with channel partners. This proactive approach to customer-centric innovation is key to helping differentiate your dealership or your products from the competition and building long-term loyalty.

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution

Being a good partner to resellers and OEMs in today’s office technology industry requires a multifaceted approach that includes flexibility, sustainability, keeping an open mind and respecting the value of the relationship. As the office technology landscape continues to evolve, those who can effectively partner with resellers and OEMs will be the best positioned to navigate challenges and seize the opportunities of this dynamic market.

Eric Auman
Eric Auman

Eric Auman is President, Hytec Dealer Services, Inc.