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Q&A: Sharp Sheehan comments on dealer support & recent strides

Compiled by: Brent Hoskins, Office Technology Magazine

How are the industry manufacturers assisting dealers in the current environment? What advice do they have for dealers? What changes in the workplace do they expect? What training programs do they have in place to help sales reps and service techs optimize their success? In August, Office Technology magazine launched a series of interviews to ask these and other questions of manufacturer executives who oversee the dealer channel for their respective companies.

The August and September issues featured Kyocera Document Solutions America Inc. and Toshiba America Business Solutions Inc., respectively. You can find those interviews in the Office Technology archives on the BTA website at www.bta. org/OfficeTechnology. This month: John Sheehan, senior vice president of channel sales for Sharp Imaging and Information Company of America.

OT: In what ways is Sharp providing additional support and guidance to its authorized dealers during these challenging times?

Sheehan: I think the thing that helped our dealers most during this time is that we reacted quickly to the slowdown in business. As states and businesses shut down, we realized that it would be hard for dealership sales reps to maintain income. Due to this, we launched an aggressive training schedule that included an average of 20 webinars per week. These webinars covered various topics that were relevant to the current market conditions. We were pleased to see that more than 200 dealerships and 1,600 people attended the webinars. All the participants were compensated for attending the webinar series. We have continued to offer different ways for dealership sales representatives to earn money as businesses build back up.

The second part of the plan was to make sure that dealership owners were taken care of. We quickly modified our programs to make earning targets more achievable. I am happy to say we have continued to modify our programs, as the situation continues to be fluid. A good example of this is that we have extended our annual dealer program deadlines and provided incentives around products relevant to the new business normal. During this time period, Sharp introduced 11 new A4 products, bringing our total A4 lineup to 19 MFPs and printers. This new lineup was accompanied by aggressive sales spiff incentives through the Sharp Ultimate Rewards program.

Finally, our marketing team has been providing content pieces on our website and through social media that dealers are welcome to share with their customers. All told, I feel we have done our best to listen and work with our dealers during this time.

OT: If you owned an office technology dealership, what would you be doing currently to optimize your level of business?

Sheehan: If I owned an office technology dealership, I would be doing the same thing I am doing at Sharp right now. We [Sharp] are focused on broadening our conversations with customers to include topics other than print. There is no doubt that in the short term, print will decline.

Together, Sharp and our dealers need to expand into other areas. This can include many areas, such as employee safety technologies, products that enhance collaboration and IT services to ensure network security. These are all areas where Sharp can provide products and support. Of course, print will still be part of the equation, so I would focus the conversation around the easiest and safest ways to print, such as using technology that allows for a touch-free experience. With our MFP Voice and Synappx™ Go products,

Sharp is a clear leader in app- and voiceincludes seven short modules of training based, touch-free options to remotely “The workplace has designed to outline the market opporoperate MFPs, so we encourage dealers and will continue to tunity, the product details and how the to leverage that technology to have those change ... We see an product fits within the Microsoft ecoconversations with their customers. ongoing shift toward system, which has become so critical for today’s hybrid work environment.

OT: What key changes in the products that can be For dealership service representatives, workplace do you expect long term, used at home or in our Platinum Level Service Provider if not indefinitely, as it relates to smaller offices.” (PLSP) program recognizes service orthe use of imaging devices? ganizations for exceeding performance

Sheehan: The workplace has and will benchmarks and implementing excelcontinue to change. As you can see by our recent announcelent industry best practices. In order to qualify for the proments of A4 machines, we see an ongoing shift toward prodgram, dealerships must use only genuine Sharp parts and ucts that can be used at home or in smaller offices. This is supplies for current Sharp models, and each Sharp techniin addition to the increase of the use of personal mobile decian needs to complete select core training, among other revices to control technology. As people are digitizing more quirements. We were pleased to announce earlier this year and more documents, we are seeing an interest in utilizing that 66 dealerships received PLSP recognition for the 2019- MFPs for scanning documents into digital workflows and 2020 cycle. ensuring MFPs have access to the cloud for simplified document access. OT: What new Sharp product — recently or soon

OT: What noteworthy “success story” can you Sharp product are you most pleased with/excited share regarding one of Sharp’s authorized dealabout at this time?

erships in terms of a particularly successful placeSheehan: It is difficult to pick just one product. Since ment of Sharp products during the pandemic? (It March, we have added 11 new A4 products to our existing is not necessary to name the dealership.) lineup, enhanced our Synappx application to include work

Sheehan: This one really ties into the previous question. from-home features and launched the WCD from Sharp to We have a great story about how one dealership was able to help our customers collaborate better in hybrid work envileverage its existing printer relationship with a university ronments. But I am very excited about the A4 expansion. We to provide it with 275 Dynabook laptops for remote use by have been taking market share in A3 for a while, but the only the faculty and administrative staff of a college. The Dynahesitancy we received from dealers was the gap within our book laptops were chosen as they tested much better than A4 product lineup. With our most recent launch, we are now competitors with just a 1% error rate versus a 5% to 10% erable to offer dealers a total of 19 A4 MFPs and printers, so ror rate of other laptops. The customer also needed a lightthey can now offer their customers a full lineup of Sharp A3 weight, but very durable, option. and A4 products.

What closed the deal, however, was the fact that the deal

to be released — or new capability on an existing

ership was able to bundle the laptops in with the Sharp MFP OT: What can you tell us about the status of renewal, making it easier for the customer to purchase eveSharp’s next national dealer meeting? rything at once. They are now considering purchasing Sharp Sheehan: Sharp’s dealer meetings tend to take place AQUOS BOARD® interactive displays for their classrooms so every 18 to 24 months depending on a number of circumthey can collaborate. stances. Since the last meeting was held in October 2019, our next anticipated meeting would not take place until

OT: What Sharp training programs are in place late 2021. Of course, we cannot wait to be back with our to assist dealership sales reps and/or service customers, but like everyone else in the world, we are waittechs to optimize their current levels of success? ing to see how the pandemic shakes out. This is a topic

Sheehan: Sharp dealership sales representatives have the that we are going to be closely working on with our Dealer opportunity to receive certification on our newly launched Council representatives. n Windows collaboration display (WCD) by taking a special Brent Hoskins, executive director of the Business Technology certification course. The course is designed to help sales Association, is editor of Office Technology magazine. team members get a strong understanding of how best to He can be reached at brent@bta.org position the WCD within their collaboration portfolios. It or (816) 303-4040.


Waivers, Consent & Liability Take these into consideration during COVID-19

As essential businesses, office technology dealerships have been able to remain open and support their end users during COVID-19. As the risk of contracting the virus continues, businesses are concerned about the liability to customers and employees should they contract COVID-19 while providing services or working. Until a vaccine is developed, precautions must be taken. You may have seen signs on stores or requests to sign COVID-19 waivers of liability in order to enter some establishments. Are these required? Are they legal? Are they a good idea?

Some states have enacted COVID-19 immunity laws that protect businesses from claims that customers contracted the virus while on the business’s premises. The federal government has also debated a nationwide immunity from COVID-19 claims; however, as of the date this was written, none have been enacted. State laws generally protect businesses unless their conduct involves “gross negligence, willful and wanton misconduct, reckless infliction of harm or intentional infliction of harm.” Individuals assume a risk when they voluntarily enter a business. However, for a dealership to invoke the presumption of assumption of risk, it should either provide a printed or electronic warning, or post a sign at the entrance, with this language:


Under state law, there is no liability for the injury or death of an individual entering these premises if such injury or death results from the inherent risks of contracting COVID-19. You are assuming this risk by entering these premises.

Although there are legal protections, it remains possible that a lawsuit will be brought contending that the business engaged in gross negligence, misconduct or harm. It will be up to a jury to determine if the business’s conduct was outside the legal protections. As an example, a business that failed to have employees wear masks, social distance or provide sanitizer may be assessed by a jury as being negligent. This may be true even if an employee wore a mask, but failed to cover his (or her) nose. Specific and enforced company policies are essential to qualify for statutory immunity.

States that have passed COVID-19 immunity legislation include Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Utah and Wyoming. These laws vary and should be reviewed to determine the requirements. Numerous other states are considering legislation as well. A federal provision would apply to

by: Robert C. Goldberg, BTA General Counsel

every state. How effective these legislative efforts will be at protecting businesses from litigation is still a big question. Most laws include references to adhering to safety guidelines available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), state and federal agencies, and directives from federal, state and local authorities pertaining to COVID-19. The potential for conflicting best practices is high. Establishing that COVID-19 was contracted at a specific location may be even higher.

Businesses have also started requiring waivers. Typical provisions state:

I acknowledge and understand that there is a risk by entering . By entering, I may contract COVID-19. Even with all reasonable precautions being taken, there is an unavoidable risk of exposure to COVID-19. I assume all risk by voluntarily entering. Signed

The enforceability of such releases varies by state. As discussed above, some states have explicitly immunized companies from the risk of COVID-19 exposure. Courts in states without such statutes will assess the enforceability of waivers. At a minimum, a well-worded waiver serves to place customers on notice of the risks involved. If you are bringing end users into your business for demonstrations, a waiver is suggested. n

Robert C. Goldberg is general counsel for the Business Technology Association.

He can be reached at robert.goldberg@sfnr.com.