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A lesson in customer experience from printer manufacturers

There’s nothing like a printer for giving us a lesson in customer experience. We are talking here about laser printers, the type that you hook up to your computer for home printing.

The starting point is the price. You are astounded when you see that there is a whole range of printers you can buy for less than £100. This gladdens your heart and after briefly checking out their specification, you buy one. They are delivered next day. This is brilliant and your customer experience score is flying high.

Now you have to get the printer to talk to your computer. This raises your anxiety level a little and it could be a five-minute or a five-hour job depending on whether the machines want to talk to each other. When at last they do, you feel proud of your purchase decision and the customer experience is still very positive.

We now move on a few weeks after which you realise that the ink is getting low in the printer and needs replacing. Exploring the manufacturer’s recommendation, you fall off your chair when you see the prices. It’s going to cost you half the price of the printer to replenish the ink reservoir. Having balked at the contemptible prices for the ink you may consider a substitute brand from Amazon though it won’t be without worries that it might ruin your printer and prejudice the guarantee. Your customer experience score is wavering.

For a year or maybe a bit longer the printer will serve you well but then it will begin to falter. It could be that it fails to print clearly. Quite possibly the rollers will struggle to pick up the paper. Paper could keep jamming. All this will happen when you need a printed document urgently. Now your blood pressure will be high and you will begin to curse the printer. You may tell yourself that because it was as cheap as chips, you should simply get another one. However, it still looks shiny and you worry that it is just too soon to take it to the tip. Surely it can be repaired. You faff with it for long enough and find that a repair or even an investigation of the problem is going to be more expensive than a new printer. So you decide that the tip is where it has to go. Your customer experience has ebbed to a serious low.

Desperate to obtain a replacement you visit the printer manufacturers’ websites and are astounded by the range of machines they offer. They are still less expensive than your weekly shopping basket. If you are in any doubt what to buy you may click on the button that says "Need help buying? Chat with us for a live video call." You doubt that anyone will be there but are flabbergasted when you see and hear a real Jo who asks how she can help. Her service skills are brilliant and within minutes she has put the right printer in your online basket for you to have delivered the next day. The customer experience score is boosted right back up there.

So what do we learn from this? We learn that the manufacturers of printers know how to market their products. They make their money out of consumables and draw us in with one of their cheap printers. After this generally great initial customer experience, resentment can grow with the outrageous prices of the ink cartridges and the questionable reliability of the machines. That said, the major brands of printers consistently receive customer satisfaction scores of between 4.0 and 4.5 out of 5.0. And what does it say about loyalty? The chances are that people stay loyal to the brand of printer, not because they are emotionally attached to it but because they are committed to subscription purchases of ink or they have a stockpile of ink that they know can’t be used on any other machine. So all in all, although we see customer experience volatility in the relationship with printer manufacturers, we have to confess that they know what they are doing. But beware printer manufacturers; one day someone will disrupt your market and we will be waiting.


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