The print industry is full of jargon, abbreviations and acronyms. Resellers love to talk about MFPs, MPS, MSP and MDS. Yet, the one term that all customers understand and are familiar with, copier, has become almost
taboo. Why is this? And who is right: the customer or the reseller? We asked leading copier, sorry, MFP suppliers for their thoughts on the etymology of that big box down the corridor.
Mark Smyth, Operations Director, Vision PLC:
“Personally and professionally, I dislike the word copier, and there’s a very good reason for this. Every device we promote as part of a solution has more than one function. Even the most compact and entry-level products can copy, print, fax or scan, and the latest technology that enables embedded cloud applications and capabilities does so much more than that. In essence, copier is a descriptive term for old technology and, in my opinion, it does our industry a disservice – that’s where we were 20 years ago. “Yes, we use a lot of jargon: we talk about applications and MFPs, and internally we use acronyms and abbreviations daily. But as for confusing or even alienating customers, every single proposal, bid or tender we prepare is written in such a way that it overcomes this challenge for the client.”
Gary Downey, Group Marketing Director, Balreed:
“I agree that there are a few terms bandied around that are used by people looking to differentiate themselves, and, yes, these are causing confusion. “The launch of the first multifunctional device back in 1992 meant that as an industry we had to adopt a new term that accurately reflected what the kit did; describing it as a copier didn’t get across the additional functions. As a provider, it’s our job to ensure that the buyer knows they are dealing with a technologically savvy business, and talking about MFPs as opposed to copiers is integral to that. The term also reinforces in the buyer’s mind that the device is multi-function as opposed to single-function. “I suppose it’s ironic that today the most widely used function of an MFP is print, so printer is a more accurate term than copier. But the perception of a printer is a small desktop device, again not an accurate description of an MFP.
“Regarding industry acronyms such as MPS and MDS: there seems to be much more confusion in this area both within and outside the industry. There are multiple definitions and each vendor uses these terms as a differentiator, when in reality their meaning can be summed up simply by stating that you manage a client’s print infrastructure.”
Paul Strout, Key Account Director, ZenOffice Managed Print Services:
“The print solutions industry is often ahead of our customers in terms of knowledge and understanding of what business benefits can be delivered through the technology we provide, and we do have too much jargon, which is open to misinterpretation.
“We should remind ourselves where our industry came from. If we look back to the turn of the millennium, copiers were just that; they did nothing more than copy. Typically they were bought by office managers and facilities managers. Printers, on the other hand, were on most people’s desks and were purchased and managed by the organisation’s IT function.
“Life was simple. Office and facilities managers didn’t need to know anything about IT and, just as importantly, neither did their suppliers. Then everything changed. Copiers became digital devices connected to the client’s network and capable of printing and scanning. As an industry we experienced a massive upheaval to transform our skillsets so that we could sell and manage relationships with IT decision-makers.
“We should now be a community of highly skilled document consultants, IT sales consultants who are focussed on the capture, workflow and production of documents. This works well within a typical corporate environment, and we win business by showing the value of our proposition. However, it’s probably fair to say that we have left some parts of the SME sector behind. “A typical SME has fairly limited IT knowledge and might even have outsourced their IT function and, in doing so, will have effectively stopped trying to keep up to speed with how IT technology can deliver strategic change within their core business. For these people, the MFD is still ‘the copier’, and they talk to their suppliers in the same way they have done for the last 20 years, focusing on lease and copy costs. If their account manager is lazy, then they will just meet the stated requirements and the cycle continues anew. However, the rewards to be had from challenging the customer to go a little deeper and work with their supplier to see how gains in productivity and efficiency could be realised from a more solutions-focused approach are significant, with huge gains for customer and supplier alike.
“There is also too much jargon with multiple meanings. Take Managed Print Services (MPS) for example. We provide an MPS solution very much in sync with how research organisations such as IDC and Gartner define the term. We are providing control, pro-active support and the ability to implement and manage a print policy with active management of both devices and users. For other suppliers, it can simply mean providing consumables for printers on a cost-per-print basis – not a Managed Print Service in my book, but certainly sold as such. We should be clear what we mean; avoid jargon; and if we must use it then clarify what we mean.”
Matt Goodall, Service Director, Office Evolution:
“Jargon in our industry often sends prospective customers into a state of confusion. The convergence of technologies has left end users confused as to what they are actually purchasing; many aren’t sure if they are buying a printer, a copier, a scanner, a fax or indeed all of the above. So, clear and concise product information from the sales team is essential. Making sure a full evaluation of a customer’s needs is undertaken before offering advice will always help.
“As with many industries, using buzz words often leaves the client confused. Yet, we are still supplying largely the same product. So why don’t we use the word copier? Quite simply because that isn’t what the customer is getting. For many years scanning has been standard on machines, which led to fax options and, of course, USB and network connectivity for printing.
“Many of our customers refer to the products we supply by the main function that they use. So we often get calls along the lines of “I’m phoning about the scanner” or “the big printer”!
“Nowadays it’s the solutions side of the business that often leads to the sale of hardware – the ability to control documents, functionality and access is key to large and midsized businesses. But all smaller businesses are interested in is the functionality of the product.
“Another consideration in our industry is the stigma of being a copier salesman – it’s closely aligned to being a double-glazing salesman. Past TV programmes highlighting long and unreasonable leases and poor practice may have encouraged companies to look for new terminology! Is copier a dirty word nowadays? Probably! The modern industry bears no resemblance to the industry of the nineties, and terms such as solutions provider, document management specialist and the like avoid the old stigma.
“As for us, we avoid the use of job titles completely; the customer knows why we are there!”
Phil Jones Managing Director, Brother UK Ltd:
“The industry itself lives on buzzwords and acronyms from both the vendor side and CIO side. In my view, this is due to the rapid acceleration of product portfolios and changing working practices, plus procurement preferences with a higher bias to services. Let’s also not shy away from the fact that some vendors want to invent new packages or re-package existing services to keep their sales pitches fresh!
“I’m all for simplicity wherever possible. Twenty five years ago we simply talked features and benefits, and the bottom line is that nothing has changed except the labels. A solution is simply the pain you can remove through a product/servicerelated deployment.
“The further you go up the stack in terms of business size, the more jargon tends to exist or get used. Successful relationships come as a by-product of establishing the common language of desired outcomes with the right customer narrative, regardless of how it gets dressed up in industry narrative.”
Rob Attryde, Head of Marketing, KYOCERA Document Solutions UK Ltd:
“MFPs, MPS, MDS are industry jargon and despite the industry’s best efforts to educate end users they still don’t slip off the tongue. “People still refer to the copier because it’s an historical term. The thing you bought that sat in the corner was the copier and you ran copies off on it. Then people recognised it could be networked and they started to print from it, as well as make copies. So it’s more down to habit than anything else, because the industry simply hasn’t come up with a catchy differentiating name for the device.
“There is a trend to call the device a printer because while it can copy, printing and scanning tend to be the more commonly used functions. Not so distant future generations will be so used to digital and soft copies they won’t expect to see anything printed out – that will seem archaic. At KYOCERA we already focus on solutions to business problems; the machine itself is only the enabler.”