In only five years, photocopying technology has evolved from a kind of monologue office fixture into a much more sophisticated network system, creating not only new streams of business but also a new breed of professionals who must possess a good sense of colour.
"It's not easy to define the job of a colour specialist even though that's exactly what I am," says Samuel Pong, supervisor, colour & system support, marketing, Konica Minolta Business Solutions (HK) Ltd.
In a nutshell, the job of a colour specialist at Konica Minolta includes meeting clients, giving presentations and demonstrations, handling on-site installation, offering colour calibration and colour management solutions, holding seminars and organising workshops for corporations and government departments, as well as designing and providing training for the company's sales and marketing teams.
"We also act as troubleshooting experts," Mr Pong adds. "Different clients (internal and external) may come up with different queries but most of those are related to the software they use."
The duty-list may look impressive but the job entails great satisfaction. "To the naked eye, an original 3D object usually looks different from its image on print or on the computer screen," says Mr Pong. For that reason, clients may bring along materials such as fabrics or even wallpaper or floorboard when choosing a photocopier at our showroom. "The fact is that there's no perfect match. So, we need to communicate to clients the technological limitations and help set a standard that will best meet their colour calibration needs. Doing so, we must understand a client's business and may also need to deal with third party hard and software. During a pre-sales presentation or an after-sales calibration process, clients do show appreciation for our expertise, effort and assistance," Mr Pong adds.
"It's always wise to discover problems early on, ask questions, look for help before things get out of hand"
The rise of digital media may have an impact on the print media, but simultaneous growth is expected, though at a different rate. "Many things will need to be on paper, so I'm fairly optimistic about this new profession," Mr Pong stresses.
Today, colour printing can be classified into three categories: office document; creative & design; and professional printing. Robert Ip, the company's sales, marketing & PR director, says, "Our colour specialists offer assistance to the second and third categories, taking a vital role in both pre- and after-sales processes with an aim to satisfy client needs, transfer knowledge and maximise the functionality of current models of colour-photocopiers."
Recent market research indicates total colour-photocopier sales increased by 30 per cent last year, and predicts a further 10 per cent growth by the end of this year, Mr Ip points out. "In the near future, peripheral software development will make colour photocopying or printing a total business solution that can efficiently facilitate even speedier documentation process and file sharing among users," he notes. "The demand on quality colour printing and specialist support is obviously on the rise."
Prior to joining Konica Minolta as a colour specialist in 1998, Mr Pong had spent eight years working as a photographer, and in photographic equipment sales for a local electronic appliances chain. In the three years leading to his present job, he worked for a digital output services provider based in Zhuhai. That's when he started to learn about colour management and saw the prevailing technological trend.
With such a solid background in sales and digital printing, Mr Pong finds himself more than capable of serving his clients' needs. "This job also involves a great deal of customer service. You'll need to combine your technical know-how with sales and customer service skills," he remarks. "While maintaining a high level of integrity as a professional, you need to bear in mind that you're helping the company to make a deal with clients, in other words, creating a win-win situation."
Now a leader in the field, Mr Pong advises young people to actively identify and face problems. "Ignoring problems could lead to client complaints and this reflects one's own technical competence and attitude," he says. "It's always wise to discover problems early on, ask questions, look for help before things get out of hand." He believes that by raising questions, one can also help the company be better prepared for further service and product upgrades.
A top graduate from DesignFirst Institute and still a keen learner, Mr Pong believes in the power of knowledge and took his professional capability one step further by enrolling himself in a print media programme at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University two years ago. "One must also try and turn theories into practice so as to create practical experience," he adds.
Just a year ago Konica Minolta tapped into the Shenzhen and Dongguan markets, and expansion plans are underway. To those who look for China exposure, Mr Ip notes, besides the technical know-how, perseverance and an inquisitive mind are among the prerequisites. "You need a passion for solving problems," he adds. "Product installation is a critical point where our specialists are required to attend to the smallest details and be able to explain to our mainland clients all necessary procedures in plain language. Usually they're expected to stay there for a day or two."