All You Can Eat Print: Is it Real?

All You Can Eat Print Is it Real?

Like any sales-focused organization, print vendors tend to make big, broad statements about their offerings.

And while many managed print suites sound great, reality does not always match what’s on paper.

But one of the more eye-catching claims about managed print services is offering the “All You Can Eat” (AYCE) print pricing model. On an AYCE service plan, the client pays a flat rate for unlimited print rather than paying based on usage, like how standard print contracts are priced.

Appealing, predictable pricing option? Or overpriced, inflexible trap? We’ll help you decide!

Print Partner provides managed print services to MSPs’ clients throughout the country. As a referral channel, our #1 priority is supporting and educating our MSP partners. To bring transparency to our industry, we want you to thoroughly understand how managed print vendors price their service suite.

This article will review everything regarding the “All You Can Eat” pricing model. What is it, how does it work, and is it worth it?

How is Managed Print Traditionally Priced?

Before diving into the “All You Can Eat” pricing model, let’s review how managed print service contracts are traditionally priced.

When the vendor creates an MPS contract, they typically break down the costs into the following areas:

  • Lease: The user pays off the cost of the new print devices over a three to five-year lifespan of the agreement.

  • Print Allotment: The allotment determines how many mono and color pages the user can print and at what rate. For example, The allotment may specify that the user can print 10,000 mono pages at one cent each and 500 color pages at ten cents each.

  • Overage Costs: Additional charges can be applied if the user prints beyond the allotment’s limits.

Some print vendors may charge for additional items like service calls, toner replacement, etc. - but the vast majority only charge for the above items.

What is “All You Can Eat” Print?

In the context of managed print services, "All You Can Eat" (AYCE) refers to a pricing model where a customer pays a fixed monthly fee to a managed print service provider for unlimited mono and color pages across all contracted devices. Kind of like going to a buffet, hence the name. 

It is also commonly called a “Flat Rate” print agreement.

This model allows customers to print as much as they want without worrying about per-page costs or other fees.

With an "All You Can Eat" managed print service contract, the provider typically takes care of all aspects of printing, including printer maintenance, toner or ink cartridge replacement, phone support, and onsite service.

This approach can benefit organizations with unpredictable printing needs, allowing them to budget more accurately and avoid unexpected overage fees at higher per-page costs.

How are “All You Can Eat” Print Rates Calculated?

To establish flat rates for AYCE printing, the managed print vendor researches their client’s printing history and current print consumption.

They start by reviewing the client’s prior year of print consumption - what was their average monthly print output? Throughout the year, when did print-related spending increase or decrease?

MPS providers gather this information by reviewing the current print vendor's invoices for the past twelve months.

After gathering information on the prospect’s print history, the vendor installs a data collection agent (DCA) to track print usage for a few weeks and compare it to the client’s history.

After the vendor collects what they deem to be a sufficient amount of data, they’ll go over findings with the prospective client to determine if their conclusions are accurate and get agreement on consumption and budget data.

The rate is usually listed as either per-user rates, per-device rates, or some combination of the two. For example, the flat rate may be broken down to $14 per device user.

Is “All You Can Eat” Print Worth It?

"All You Can Eat" managed print services have both benefits and drawbacks. Often, the decision to go AYCE or go traditional is a matter of personal preference and management style.

Advantages of "All You Can Eat" Pricing Model

“For as long as I have been in IT, the biggest complaint I've heard was unpredictable billing,” reads one MSP owner’s Reddit post.

This is a sentiment that many MSPs can relate to - billing is a huge pain point for many IT clients and managed print users.

Running a business always has its variables, so eliminating any uncertainties can be incredibly valuable for companies seeking to plan ahead.

If the print customer knows precisely what their print spend is, they can save on budget headaches and allocate the correct amount they need for print services.

For this article, we met with West McDonald of West McDonald Co. West specializes in helping MPS vendors adopt AYCE pricing models. “When it comes to flat-rate billing for managed print, West McDonald has more passion and experience than anybody else you'll talk to,” reads his website.

According to West, the debate between AYCE and traditional pricing comes down to the prospect’s management style - how much control does the client want over their print budget?

“Do you want more control of your printing on a granular basis, or would you rather have 100% budget predictability?” asks West. “Some people really like traditional pricing for control. But the problem is they have to count. They have to recheck meters. They have to check every invoice. And printers report incorrectly sometimes.”

“But on AYCE, there is 0 counting. There is a set amount to budget for. It’s going to give you the ability to budget precisely.”

Many businesses struggle with tracking their print usage. They don’t want to hound employees for printing too much - at a certain point, monitoring print activities feels Orwellian.

To learn more about the employee/employer relationship in print monitoring, read: Can My Boss See What I Print?

Having an AYCE contract eliminates the need for employee print tracking - whatever they print will be covered under the agreement, with no overage fees.

For some businesses, this peace of mind alone is worth it.

As long as the customer perceives value and emphasizes predictability, AYCE can be an excellent fit for them.

Disadvantages of "All You Can Eat" Pricing Model

While “All You Can Eat” may sound attractive, there are some important drawbacks of the pricing model that users should be aware of prior to signing a contract.

The pricing model always skews in favor of the MPS vendor.

In general, we consistently observe situations where vendors celebrate higher returns on AYCE agreements as being superior to traditional sales models.

While clients appreciate consistent billing, vendors appreciate consistent revenue. And because AYCE contracts usually lock in for five years, having a guaranteed stream of income - one that doesn’t fluctuate with trends, recessions, etc. - is pretty sweet!

And while AYCE pricing models can sometimes offer savings when compared to traditional models, the print vendor usually keeps some of the savings for their profit.

For example, if a vendor implements print solutions that reduce costs on the vendor side by 10%, they may pass on a reduction in customer costs by only 5 or 6%. Essentially, pricing is always going to be in the vendor’s favor.

The other main disadvantage is the loss of total control over costs. Some clients prefer to analyze and itemize every cent of their budget. By agreeing to an AYCE contract, they are giving up that control.

If your client wants total control over their print budget and wants to analyze their print every month on a granular level, AYCE is not for them.

All You Can Eat Limitations

Is it really all you can eat?

While there are some truly AYCE contracts, it’s common for agreements to have caps or limitations on how print usage.

Some MPS vendors may call themselves AYCE but will just place high caps on mono and color prints and will charge more if that usage is exceeded.

Most flat-rate contracts have “bands” that the client falls into. These are ranges of device usage or employee count, depending on how the AYCE contract was written.

For example, let’s say the flat-rate contract is written to accommodate a 100-employee office. As long as that office has 90-110 employees, they will stay within their band and have the same flat rate. If, however, that customer goes up to 111 users, they will jump up to the next band and have an increased monthly flat rate.

The same goes for if they drop down to 89 employees - they would drop to a lower monthly flat-rate amount.

There may be other limits beyond click amounts - for example, if the client leases their office to another organization that starts using their print, this may violate the contract.

This would be the equivalent of going to an all-you-can-eat buffet and sticking boxes of extra food to take home to the kids. 

Always remember that “All You Can Eat” pricing is built as a predictive budgeting tool, not some catch-all loophole that can be abused by clients. Print vendors build these with the intention of estimating what their client’s pricing will be in a traditional pricing model. If drastic changes happen throughout the period, MPS vendors have clauses in their contracts to cover their behinds!

We recommend clients thoroughly review their AYCE contract before signing. And if they don’t know what to look for, or if they feel as if they’re stuck in a bad deal, they should chat with a third-party print expert that can review the agreement.

For more information on reviewing print contracts, read: MSPs: How Your Clients Can Renegotiate MPS Contracts

Print Partner and Managed Print Contracts

Negotiating a managed print contract can be an exhausting process, especially for clients who are unfamiliar with the industry.

In some cases, pricing contracts can be bad deals for the client or even downright exploitative.

If you have clients that feel as though they are being taken advantage of by their current MPS provider, consider referring them to us!

At Print Partner, we are committed to providing a high-quality print experience to the clients of our MSP partners. Our parent company, Green Office Partner, offers award-winning managed print services to a nationwide fleet of clients. You refer business to us, and we handle everything from the sales process to the service and support that follows.

We offer $250 per referral, plus an additional $250 if you give us a copy of their current print agreement - that way, we can help determine whether or not they are getting a good deal on print and if we can improve their suite.

Plus, you’ll earn $1,000 per copier sold and 5% of the client’s lifetime print allotment.

So if you want to help your clients navigate print, and your MSP wants to offload the burden of print to a third party while creating additional revenue, consider partnering with us, a Print Partner you can trust.

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