“Hi I’m Billy Bob, your new account manager for XYZ solutions. You might not know but we have just bought ABC solutions and that means you are now our customer. I need to come and see you to sign a new service agreement, do you have your diary handy?”

 

Sound familiar? Has this happened to you in the last few years? There have been a number of mergers and acquisitions of late, where the big fish have gobbled up the small fish and the first you hear about it, is when Billy Bob calls you.

 

“By the way, we need to meet soon because until you are covered by an XYZ service contract we won’t be able to look after your machine!”

 

I guess it must be nice to know that Billy Bob has your best interests at heart, but have you wondered what would happen if you didn’t sign the XYZ service contract? More pointedly, are you sure it is just a service contract you are signing and not a new five year MPS contract that commits you to restart your lease with potentially huge termination costs?

 

They wouldn’t do that, would they?

 

Sadly, I have seen too many cases where this has happened, mainly because it is just not clear what people are signing. Leasing companies are supposed to have cleaned up this kind of activity, but I’m afraid to say that it is alive and thriving.

 

“Sorry, we can’t give you toner or service your machine because you have not signed our service agreement!”

 

If you are told this then can I suggest that you breathe deeply and ask Billy Bob to confirm your/his positions in writing? He will want to come and see you, to show you the document first hand “because it’s hard to explain over the phone.”

 

He might even say that he can’t send anything to you “Because we need to come on site to check the machines are exactly as ABC Solutions explained them.”

 

Nothing wrong with meeting him, just don’t sign anything until you have had it checked.

 

 

Ask the following questions:-

 

  • How much do you think ABC have been charging me to date?
  • What did service include from ABC? (Check that he knows if you are on a toner-inclusive agreement or not?
  • Is the fiery covered? Did ABC charge for toner deliveries?
  • What call-out times were you used to?

 

 

If he can’t answer any of these then send him away until he can. 

 

When he returns with all the right information and your new contract, ask for written confirmation of the following:-

 

  • What are your click charges for FULL colour and monochrome?
  • Is the charge for SRA3 the same as A4 or does the machine click twice?
  • What are your expected call out times?
  • Do you use manufacturer spare parts?
  • Is my fiery covered?
  • Is toner included?
  • Is toner delivery charged for?
  • Is the agreement only for service?
  • Is there any capital element involved in the contract?
  • Is there a minimum expected volume for the contract?
  • Is there a minimum expected period for the contract?
  • Can you give me specific written details of how much it will cost me to terminate my existing contract right now?
  • Can you give me specific written details of how much it will cost me to terminate my new XYZ service contract in six months?
  • Why should I stick with you?

 

I’m sure there are many more questions to add to this list and I’m happy to take advice from you on what I have missed.

 

The main point is that you get some WRITTEN confirmation from Billy Bob on what he is asking you to sign and what the contractual obligations are.

 

There are a few dangers in dragging this out, mainly that you may run out of toner and Billy Bob will gleefully advise you that if you don’t buy toner from them then you will invalidate the warranty. “Oh, and we can’t sell you toner until you have signed an XYZ service agreement.” Good old Billy Bob.

 

No doubt some of you will be reading this and thinking it is all pretty obvious and that you wouldn’t be caught out by this.

 

If that were the case, I wouldn’t have written this piece!