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Dealer/Distributors Are Your Greatest Resource in Today’s Economy
By: Linda Robbins

Just like the real estate adage, "location, location, location," most office managers will say today's office equipment purchases are based on "price, price, price." Even though superstores and the Internet make finding the lowest price easy, there are more factors to consider than just cost.

Given the budget restraints so many offices face, and the resulting redistribution of job responsibilities that follow, many employees have less time than ever to adequately research the equipment options that exist in the marketplace.

Without knowing the limitations of a certain model, or the ability of a machine to meet future needs through added options, a purchaser may make a hasty recommendation that results in equipment that won't perform to expectation or, worse, has to be returned (with a restocking fee usually charged).

Dealer/distributors often invest a significant amount of time and money in the research, development, and testing of equipment before they stock it on their shelves so that they know what will meet your current needs and which upgrades or options will best suit the growth of your organization.

Saving money on the front-end of a purchase by going for the lowest priced item rarely ensures long-term value and often ends up costing the customer more in service calls, missed deadlines, equipment replacement, and operator/employee frustration.

Even before a purchasing decision is made, an organization can benefit by working with a local dealer/distributor that can provide an on-site demonstration of the equipment. Dealer/distributors prepare their sales teams and service techs so that they can use the customer's actual forms or materials in the demonstration of the product. 

It's during a demonstration that unexpected challenges or requests that weren't initially anticipated can be solved. On many occasions, the first assessment of a company's needs are handled over the phone, but it's that face-to-face demonstration that can put a customer's concerns to rest and assure them that they're making the best  decision for their purchasing dollar.

Cost cutting has frequently resulted in more part-time employees and/or seasonal help, and these individuals may not possess the required level of expertise needed to operate some of today's complex paper-handling systems. Local dealer/distributors can ensure that your staff is properly trained to safely and efficiently use your new equipment.

Custom folds or cuts can be programmed on-the-spot, general maintenance and be explained, and troubleshooting for potential problems can be rehearsed so that everyone is comfortable with how to proceed, should a problem ever arise.

If a problem is not something that can be solved on-site, your dealer/distributor is just a phone call away to either go through the solution in real-time or provide a "loaner" machine, where applicable, while your equipment is being serviced. "Down" time is money wasted, so having a dealer/distributor relationship can keep your productivity at peak levels.

Service sometimes involves a simple part replacement, and, once again, your local dealer/distributor often keeps a well-stocked inventory of parts in-house to reduce repair delays. If you have to order a part online for your Internet-purchased equipment, you may have to wait days or weeks for that part to arrive and then you're responsible for its installation.

A dealer/distributor is usually well-versed in the repair of more than just the lines he or she represents; whether it's folders, or paper shredders or bindery equipment, each industry is populated with numerous brand names, and most dealers make sure they are capable of analyzing and solving the service issues of the manufacturing leaders in each industry.

Warranties are an important part of any equipment purchase, but usually a warranty issue forces the end-user to return the malfunctioning model to the manufacturer (not the superstore or Internet-only company they may have bought it from), and that can frequently mean packaging and shipping to a country halfway around the world.

Dealer/distributors handle warranty service issues at their own location, and this reduces time and effort for the customer and minimizes the impact that the temporary loss of this equipment has on the customer's productivity.

Preventative maintenance agreements are a great way to extend the life and value of your purchase, and dealer/distributors usually include a yearly cleaning/inspection of the equipment should it not require service during the contract period. This visit also gives your representative the chance to check for supplies that are running low or assist with any concerns the staff may have with new applications that have arisen since the original purchase.

Another long-term value of establishing a relationship with a dealer/distributor is the ability to trade-in your existing equipment for a credit toward the purchase of a new model.

When your office or organization experiences enough growth to warrant additional equipment, or more advanced systems, there is no need to relegate your outdated model to the recycler; your dealer can frequently offer you a trade-in that will lower the final price on the new equipment and include the removal of the old model.

Lastly, as global manufacturers work to improve the quality, efficiency, and design of their lines, they keep dealer/distributors informed of these changes through periodic updates and these can be passed on to the customer. A recall of a certain model or a required upgrade to an existing system can be quickly communicated to the office manager through the dealer/distributor's database, and the correct steps can be taken to mitigate any delays or issues that may occur. 

As today's office evolves to be more safety conscious and energy-efficient, we'll be seeing increasing changes in the development and application of features to answer those needs.

"Safety Cutting System," "Energy Saving Mode," and "Electronic Capacity Control" are just a few of the operator-friendly features to be found on equipment that your dealer/distributor may be representing, and they will be uniquely qualified to explain these value-added features to you and your staff so that you get the most out of your purchase.

Complete understanding of all the extra bells and whistles on your office equipment will ensure higher productivity and more savings for your organization.

Whether you require just one piece of equipment, like a time stamp, or you need to combine multiple units into a large cooperative system, like a collator, folder and inserter, your dealer/distributor will be able to give you the benefit of their knowledge and experience.

Developing your dealer/distributor relationship will help you make the best purchase possible for you and your staff, so remember it's not just about "price, price, price."

Linda Robbins is GSA contract administrator at Whitaker Brothers,  a 67-year-old company that is nationally recognized as a dealer/distributor for data destruction equipment and paper handling systems, www.whitakerbrothers.com.

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