Solving the scan-to-email puzzle

14Oct10

I’ve been shopping for a new multi-function printer for our office, which will be replacing a flaky older model that we’re glad to be rid of. Typically, this sort of device includes copy, print, scan, and fax features. Oddly, when reading the reviews of various products, I noticed a common issue: the scan-to-email feature seems to cause trouble for a lot of buyers.

In short, the problem is that most email providers require authentication before you can send mail through their servers. Every modern email program has fields or special prompts for this purpose, so you can specify the server address, port, username, and so on. But this level of detail is almost universally lacking in even the high-end multifunction printers. Thus, a lot of customers end up with no way of using the email functionality.

There are several ways to correct this issue:

– The buyer can obtain an email account that doesn’t require authentication for outbound messages. However, from what I understand, this type of account is nearly impossible to find.

– The device manufacturer can provide a free email service to buyers of the device, so that no configuration of a third-party service is necessary.

– The device manufacturer can add in the fields so that the available options match what you’d find in a regular desktop email program.

The latter two solutions could be included with the next revision of the hardware, and delivered to existing customers via an optional firmware update. But whatever the approach, the takeaway is the same. If the online reviews are to be believed, a lot of people who buy multifunction printers want to use the scan-to-email feature. People expect the email configuration to work like a regular email program. By recognizing this requirement and including the right features, a savvy manufacturer will enjoy better product reviews, more sales, and a lower return rate.



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