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Is the Old-fashioned Concept of Customer Service Becoming a Thing of the Future for IT Vendors? by Eugene Penisi

"Service... with a smile." Decades ago, this was the mantra of every successful business in America. But, thanks to more complicated, "technology-specific" products and a staggeringly diverse market landscape, the products themselves, rather than the services that back them up, have become the focus for most companies of the 21st century – especially high-tech companies in the enterprise management industry. But perhaps we’re now beginning to see the pendulum swing back in the other direction...

Recent trends in the document distribution industry indicate that companies in need of full enterprise output management systems are beginning to look beyond an immediate product purchase to a more complete, service-oriented package. IT professionals realize that to truly answer enterprise printing and distribution demands, they must seek out the services along with the solutions. They are looking for vendors that not only provide a sophisticated and scalable software product, but also have the consulting experience to support, implement and tailor these products to the requirements of their unique business environments.

Take the case of Georgia US Data Services. Ed Swiedler, vice president of systems for the Atlanta-based outsourcing company, faced the challenge of replacing his company's Xerox 9700 printer with a new Xerox DP96 high-speed laser printer.

Says Swiedler, "We had purchased and installed a product from another vendor and determined, after a good deal of effort, that we were not going to be able to make it work." According to Swiedler, his company has never lost a client due to poor quality services. That was why it was so important for him to look for a vendor that could deliver more than just a product... but also, the expertise and the willingness to ensure their product would work for his situation.

Avoiding any possible interruption to the critical print distribution process, he contacted Barr Systems for a complete solution. "I had conversations in the past with representatives from Barr and found them to be knowledgeable. Barr has been in the market long enough, and their packages are mature enough, that I believed I could trust them," says Swiedler.

It's not that Swiedler's print distribution desires were unrealistic, but the configuration did present a critical remote printing challenge.

"We operate a mainframe in Atlanta," Swiedler explains. "Much of what we print is actually routed to our office in North Carolina. The old printer had reached the end of its life. The new Xerox DP96 was installed with an online interface – requiring a product that could make such a connection."

With a print load of more than 200,000 pages every month, time was getting tight for Swiedler. "Ed didn't waste any time," says David Dobbins, the Barr consultant who worked closely with Swiedler. "He recognized the need for an immediate solution and expressed exactly what he wanted. And we were able to work together with him to make it happen."

Due to the urgent circumstances, Barr Systems shipped the solution overnight to Atlanta for immediate installation. The cornerstone of the solution was the Barr Enterprise Print Server, a Microsoft Windows NT-based print management and document distribution system. The Print Server was able to accept data from the remote mainframe through one of its optional modules, BARR/NJE. The Network Job Entry (NJE) module is the most powerful and flexible input and routing option available, capable of setting up a peer-to-peer connection between the Print Server and a network of mainframes.

With the remote mainframe integration complete, Swiedler’s next challenge was to get the print jobs to his new Xerox printer. Support for this high-speed printer was provided by BARR/PRINT390, another of the Print Server’s optional modules. Incorporating both hardware and software elements, the PRINT390 module is able to connect up to eight channel-attached printers directly to the Print Server, driving them all simultaneously, at rated speeds.

Once his printing crisis had subsided, Swiedler was quick to credit the successful Barr installation to a solid product and an experienced, professional support team. "Barr saved the day for us," Swiedler recalls. "We had a printer that we needed to connect to, and Barr helped us do that at a critical time."

It appears that the notion of first-rate customer service hasn't died after all, but rather is alive and kicking in some of the more progressive, forward-looking companies in the IT industry.

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