Joe Contreras discusses Epson’s recent activities and its latest product introductions.
Trivia question: Who was the only office technology manufacturer to have a partner meeting in 2020?
Answer: Epson America, Inc.
That meeting was held in early March, about a week before the U.S. shut down due to the pandemic.
Epson was gaining momentum, signing dealers, and opening dealers’ hearts and minds to the possibilities of inkjet technology. Like everyone else, once the pandemic hit the U.S. and businesses started shutting down, Epson was forced to pivot.
On September 9, we spoke with Joe Contreras, commercial marketing executive, office solutions, Epson America, about what the company has been doing since then, how it has been engaging with dealers, and to get a preview of three new A3 inkjet MFPs introduced on September 15.
Poised to Pivot
During the past six months, Epson has been conducting business as unusual at full staff.
“We’ve been very fortunate, our President and CEO Keith Kratzberg is a phenomenal leader,” said Contreras. “From day one, his message has been, our employees are priority number one. Your health and safety are priority number one to Epson. I’ve heard that Epson was very much an employee-focused organization [before joining the company], and they’ve proven that. We’ve been fortunate to not have any reductions in force, and we have been smart about managing our expenses to ensure that we can take care of our employees.”
As Roger Miller sang back in 1965, you can’t roller-skate in a buffalo herd, but what he neglected to add was that you can’t recruit dealers in the middle of a pandemic either. Epson was on a roll, signing dealers at a brisk pace before the pandemic and at last count had more than 200 dealers carrying its inkjet products. The company was on track to add even more this year, but then came the pandemic and the subsequent pivot. The focus shifted from recruiting dealers to taking care of and engaging with its dealers.
“We focused on internally honing our skills, getting the team together and ensuring that they were fully able to work remotely and be effective and productive remotely,” said Contreras.
Epson’s team rose to that challenge and launched an initiative to connect with dealers to share best practices and discuss strategies using Zoom and Microsoft Teams.
In April, Epson launched Impact Training, a series of live webinars on topics such as using remote technologies and staying engaged with clients via social media, as well as information about Epson’s products and solutions. The webinars also educated dealers about how to identify and pursue sales opportunities during this time. Some of the webinars were presented nationally, while others were delivered regionally (Epson has three regions) via Zoom, enabling Epson team members responsible for those regions to stay close to their dealers. Close to 30 webinars were presented during the first month of the pandemic. Today, Epson continues to present webinars regularly and each one is archived so dealers and their sales reps can view them at their convenience.
Because dealers had been asking for help pursuing national accounts, Epson created a dealer network to help dealers with national account opportunities outside their territory. The company also introduced virtual hands-on service training consisting of videos about new and upcoming products that enable a technician to learn at their own pace. Contreras said dealers love the service training videos because they don’t have to pull the tech out of the field for an extended period of time and incur the expenses associated with having them travel to another location for training.
Disrupting the Industry
With employees working remotely and students learning from home, Epson created marketing materials that dealers could use to promote the company’s A4 MFPs.
“Demand for the A4 products is at an all-time high right now,” said Contreras. “We anticipate that trend will continue.”
But Epson is more than an A4 manufacturer, as we have seen during the past few years. It has been ramping up its A3 inkjet line and on September 15, the company introduced three new color MFPs, the WorkForce Enterprise WF-C20600, WF-C20750m, and WF-C21000, operating at speeds of 60 pages-per-minute (ppm), 75 ppm, and 100 ppm, respectively. The new MFPs are compatible with third-party solutions and support Epson Open Platform for workflow integration with partner solutions, including Kofax and PaperCut. The new units also enable mobile printing from Chrome and iOS3 devices. Each of the new models is equipped with two new finishing options—a stapler/finisher with an option for an add-on hole punch and a booklet-making finisher.
Epson believes these devices will create more opportunities for its dealers now that it covers the full gamut from office to light production. The WF-C21000 is positioned as an entry-level light-production machine.
At the heart of these products is Epson’s PrecisionCore Heat-Free Technology, which enables printing with low energy consumption, minimal waste, and high productivity.
“When you line up our products against the competitive landscape, we consume roughly 85% less energy than competitive devices,” said Contreras.
Epson’s PrecisionCore Heat-Free Technology reportedly results in fewer service calls, which should be appealing to dealers and customers in this era of social distancing.
Servicing equipment has become more complicated as techs need to make specific appointments, check-in when they arrive, have their temperature taken, and fill in a questionnaire stating whether they were exposed to anyone with COVID-19 or if they have symptoms. While critical to protect employee health, these steps add an extra 20 to 30 minutes to service calls and reduce the number of devices a technician can service daily, impacting a dealer’s profitability.
“With our products and PrecisionCore Heat-Free Technology, there is a distinct service advantage,” said Contreras. “When you combine all the benefits of our products, they’re game-changing because a dealer is not going to have to dispatch a technician as frequently. There’s greater uptime and ultimately better profitability for the dealer. From an end-user standpoint, they’re going to be happy because they won’t have technicians visiting as frequently. Our message to the dealer is, it’s not about lowering service revenue, or reducing headcount, it’s about being more efficient and smarter with the resources that you have.”
Contreras cited information from NEXERA on service calls for 65-ppm and higher color MFPs. For toner-based laser MFPs, the average was 30,000 to 40,000 pages between service visits. For Epson’s inkjet products, the figure was 160,000 pages between service visits.
“You could say that our devices are three and a half times more productive or more reliable and don’t require service as frequently,” observed Contreras. “So, the number of technicians that are required to service a fleet, or actually any given technician, can manage a larger fleet of products, which is a huge benefit for the dealer.”
Contreras also cited customers with Epson devices who are consistently running upward of 250,000 pages per month for six, seven months at a time, with few or no service calls. One installation has run 750,000 pages with no service calls whatsoever.
“We believe dealers will welcome this notion with open arms,” said Contreras. “If they can place a device in the field, and not have to visit it for 750,000 pages or more, that’s game-changing from a profitability standpoint.”
An Epson virtual event is scheduled for November to brief dealers on how to take these devices upstream into the market.