What’s the Difference Between Partnering With a Dealer Versus a Manufacturer?

In today’s modern world, office technology solutions are helping boost productivity for organizations of all sizes. Dave Collier, Partner at Atlanta Office Technologies, offers expert insight on the significance of making informed decisions, when selecting your office equipment provider. 

Question: How do businesses/organizations acquire their commercial office devices? 

Answer: In our industry, typically there are a couple different channels customers can go through to acquire equipment. With copiers and printers, you can either obtain the devices through the manufacturer and their specific direct sales channels, or you can purchase from a dealer. A dealer is a privately owned company that is organized with enhanced focus on providing service to their clients. Whereas, a manufacturer is in the business as more of a distribution channel for the products that they manufacture. Instead of service being a key factor, a manufacturer’s main purpose is volume-based in the big scheme of things.

Q: What’s the drawback of working with a manufacturer?

A: Manufacturers are typically a larger organization, which can be both a good and bad thing. Traditionally, a larger company is going to move slower, and include more red tape to get things accomplished. If you happen to be a smaller client with one or two offices, or perhaps even a handful of offices, there’s still a “pecking order” to be considered. A manufacturer’s main focus will always be volume driven. They often evaluate their customers and try to pinpoint which client they need to keep the happiest. Obviously this won’t bode well if you happen to be a smaller business. Larger customers have a bigger impact on the entire manufacturer, as a whole. From their perspective, you usually need to be a “big fish” to get the attention and service most clients, regardless of size, would hope to receive. 

Q: How does a dealer, like AOT, operate?

A: With the “dealer” model typically, the primary focus is on providing exceptional customer service, as our main benefit. The value truly lies in the service arena and is the central factor dealers focus on. Interestingly, the pricing structure usually isn’t any different from a larger manufacturer, in comparison to a dealer. Customers tend to understand that where their money is going, can affect their level of service. With a large company, a lot of people are employed that need to be paid and need a workspace, which also costs money. Obviously in this scenario there’s more overhead involved with a manufacturer, compared to a dealer. Usually, when you’re smaller, your business is more nimble, meaning decisions can be made faster. Simply put, at AOT our main focus is on continuing to keep customers happy through the ongoing service we provide, which then keeps them coming back to us when additional equipment needs arise.

Q: What philosophy do customers often have toward providers?

What’s interesting, and not that uncommon, is for large enterprise customers to utilize several smaller companies as their vendors. They prefer to work with the smaller more nimble vendor-partners, knowing better than most, the positive and the negative of operating inside a big company. Larger customers realize they have more leverage with a dealer. These clients also recognize the benefit of flexibility when selecting a dealer over a manufacturer. 

Q: What do you wish customers understood about working with dealers versus manufacturers?

A: We traditionally compete really well and are able to target companies in our market who were previously working with a manufacturer. AOT can offer the consistency on our end, from a sales and account management perspective, that manufacturers lack. Often there’s a higher turnover rate with larger manufacturers. It’s easy to just be seen as a “number” with those companies, both as an employee and a customer. A manufacturer can’t nurture business relationships the way a smaller dealer can. An account with 1-2, or even a dozen devices, just doesn’t hold much weight with a manufacturer. If that customer has an issue, they may feel a bit helpless, or even intimidated working with such a large company to get problems resolved. Conversely, when partnering with a dealer, you often work with the same account manager for multiple years. We won’t sell you on a 3, 4 or 5-year contract, then never hear from us again. Dealers are in the business of creating lasting relationships and overall can provide a better service experience, compared to manufacturers.

Q: What are the benefits of working with AOT?

A: Not all dealers are created equal! There will be varying levels of successful performance. As a customer, you should be looking at a track record of success. This means seeking reviews of other clients in a similar space, considering professional awards (like the recognition AOT has received from the Atlanta Business Chronicle and Inc Magazine 5000), as well as industry distinction (like AOT’s Premier Dealer status from Kyocera). These are the kind of indicators that examine if a provider is actually delivering the level of service they are advertising. 

AOT is also constantly evaluating our process and solutions. We regularly analyze our approach, so we can offer our customers the most effective technology, that is easy to use, with reasonable uptime. Our main objective is to keep our customers happy via support of the equipment, ensuring that it is efficiently running, while also staying ahead of any potential issues. Relationships matter and it’s vital that we maintain a mutually beneficial partnership with all of our clients.

“AOT has only been in the market for under seven years, yet I am proud to say we have created thousands of successful relationships with clients that have led them, as well as ourselves, to higher profitability as a business,” states Collier.

Choosing an office equipment provider is usually an expensive, long-term proposition. Allow our team of experts to walk you through the process, and show you how our service experience truly is the best in the industry. Get in touch to learn more about creating a long-lasting partnership with AOT.