DO YOU FIX CUSTOMER FILES WITHOUT CHARGE? IF NOT, DO YOU EXPLAIN THAT THIS IS A VALUE-ADDED PART OF THE SERVICE? PHIL THOMPSON, HEAD OF BPIF BUSINESS, EXPLAINS WHY IT’S IMPERATIVE THAT YOU HAVE A TRUE COLLABORATION WITH YOUR CUSTOMERS.
TYPICALLY THE FURTHER down a company resides on the supply chain the greater the pressures from both suppliers and customers. However, because of the expertise that is available to the industry, there are areas where the business can go on the offensive and make life a lot easier and more profitable for itself. Educating your customers, if done well, can tie them in to share investment to create transaction technology infrastructure and develop an almost symbiotic relationship that will benefit both parties. Companies can also look to standardise files in a format that is compatible, to reduce the sometimes significant amount of work needed in order to make them print ready. Often, for the one off and irregular work there is little opportunity to influence the work that is coming in; however, are there ways of improving the transfer of information between the end client and the printer? Obviously there is little point in doing this unless it will reduce your costs, turnaround time and improve profitability - so what can you do to maximise these benefits?
The starting point will be to look at what you are doing right now. Customer service is well documented in all industries to have a significant impact on customer satisfaction, so what is your business doing to make the most of the service that you offer your customers. There is a direct correlation between good customer service and profitability in every sector of the print industry. Have you set up a system to measure customer feedback, including work carried out on time and in full, if you can measure it, you can improve it?
UNDERSTANDING CUSTOMER REQUIREMENTS
Easier said than done, but it is possible. It is certainly worth spending time at the start of the process to make sure that both parties have a clear understanding about what is expected by the customer. But this is not one way - requirements by the customer can always be commented on. This can be by both suggesting improvements, or by pointing out the drawbacks of a particular product or method of working. As mentioned before, no customer will fully appreciate the options available to them unless you make this a two-way discussion.
With the various computer software available for designers and brand managers, printers often end up with a file that needs adapting before it’s print ready. This requires time and expense but also, in the worst cases, this can lead to a job being rejected as the end product does not match the customer’s expectation. This is more often than not variance in colour, so proper colour management and digital file transfer is essential. It is also critical that your customers understand the time and costs associated with this process, so that even if you are offering it as a nonchargeable value-added service, they can see the true value of what you are doing for them.
Technology has moved forward in every industry at a fantastic rate. This has led the relationship between some companies and customers develop to an almost consultative level. Where the performance and specification of the job is actually determined by the company and the customer then adopts this. But, beware, investment for the sake of investment without careful consideration of your customers needs often proves costly.
Often companies shy away from too much integration with customers. Understandably cost and complicated process means that this is often too great a risk. With work in progress and stock levels often an absorbed cost for the print company and not the customer the result of improving the ordering process will greatly reduce both and as a result increase profitability considerably. Best practice suggests a ‘Pull’ type ordering system, where the product is produced just in time and in full according to the customer’s needs. This is by no means a simple task, but the benefits if achieved will be significant. Print companies have both an opportunity, and responsibility, to better educate their customers about steps that lead to their final end-printed products and explain the benefits that better collaboration will have for both parties.