8 Buying Tips When Choosing Between a Dealer or Manufacturer
When making the decision on a finishing system purchase, what are the differences between your local dealer/distributor and a direct purchase from the manufacturer?
- Location, Location, Location: Most of the time, your dealer is fairly local. That can mean the difference between a quick response to a service emergency, or a not-so-quick one. Indeed, location is one of the key reasons printers will purchase from a dealer/distributor, and it’s a valid point to consider when making a finishing purchase, but not the only one.
- How Complex Is the Equipment? Dealers (generally) tend to sell smaller and less-complex finishing systems, which is of necessity since they must service multiple lines. The bigger and more complex machinery is generally the province of the manufacturer. There are good reasons for this, since the latest 22-clamp perfect binder may not only cost a few million dollars, but might require a few different specialists to maintain and troubleshoot. In general (but not always), large systems favor the manufacturer.
- Availability: This is perhaps the most critical factor. We all know that something is going to break at the most inconvenient time (Friday afternoons are my favorite!). What are your options when production grounds to a halt? Is telephone (or Skype) support available 24/7? Can you get a technician to actually show up on a weekend? Service response policy and response times are vital if you’re going to depend on your bindery to get that job out on time.
- Cost? And what will a service response actually cost you? In years prior, most telephone support was “gratis.” But some manufacturers (and dealers) have taken to charging on a per-call basis, with per-call fees that are fairly steep. Does your finishing vendor have a 24/7 “hot line,” and is it free?
- Parts? You can’t fix the system if you don’t have the parts. Dealers and distributors know their reputation hinges on having parts in stock. Which is why the most successful ones maintain deep stocks of spares, even if they know that it might not be called for very often.
- What’s Your Previous Experience Been Like? As with almost everything, we depend on our past experiences in making judgments on vendors. Reputation is everything, especially when deciding on a potential vendor. Although I’m not buying equipment, I make it a point to check out other vendors and potential partners. And this can only come from customers. When I hear three or more solid endorsements from customers, I know I’m dealing with a vendor that is serious about post-sale support and their reputation.
- How Unique Is the Problem? Any piece of equipment is going to encounter an issue that is not run-of-the-mill. This is when you find out how good your vendor really is. Will they go the distance to solve it, or will they tell you “we’ve never seen this problem before?” A dealer or manufacturer’s persistence and effort in solving that “devil of a problem” will tell you all you need to know about the company.
- And, Lastly, What’s Their Response Chain Like? I represent a small company. The chain of command is very short. When I get the inevitable breakdown phone call, I have everyone's mobile number. That includes all of our technicians, software engineers, customer support and management. In short, I can sort and immediately route the problem to the right person, and get an appropriate response in minutes (even on weekends and holidays). My mobile number is right on our website, so (typically) I’m the first one to get the call.