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American Printing of Rhode Island — Putting Clients First

February 2008 BY George Linkletter
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LIKE MOST privately held firms, American Printing of Rhode Island (APRI) does not disclose financial results to outsiders. But a half-day visit to the 35-year-old firm, which is located in suburban Providence and employs 55 workers over two shifts, clearly revealed an organization bustling with activity—which gives credence to owner Paul Carroll’s claims that the firm’s sales have quadrupled in the past four years and are likely to double again over the next four.

What is driving the growth? A company-wide focus on achieving customer satisfaction and an ex-panding expertise in retail signage.

“Just about everybody claims to provide great customer service,” he recently told PRINTING IMPRESSIONS, “but very few actually deliver on the promise.” He believes the lack of service excellence disappoints customers and causes costly “churn” for printers.

Ask Carroll what he means by superior customer service, and you’re in for a long conversation and lots of examples. One example centers on something as routine as answering the telephone. If you call APRI during working hours, 99 times out of 100, you will be connected immediately to a live person—and one who has been with the company, knows the business, and can answer questions, as well as connect you to the person you are looking for.

Carroll believes that trying to save money via an automated answering system with elaborate prompts forces inconvenience on customers and sends exactly the wrong kind of message. “Customers are the reason we exist. We should react to their needs, and not vice versa,” he points out. Carroll himself is not above the need to respond promptly to clients: He interrupted this interview at least six times to take or redirect calls, or otherwise assure that various printing projects were on track.

“Many of our customers have reduced staff in recent years to lower costs, but their workload hasn’t decreased. They need proactive vendors, partners. Anything we can do to help them helps us build a stronger relationship.”

Superior customer service also means being flexible, as well as fast. And Carroll credits his firm’s flexibility with helping it grow in a difficult environment.

See a Chance, Take It

“One of our customers, a grocery store chain, was having difficulty with a complex signage project that involved small quantities and extremely quick turnaround times,” he explains. The project required multiple steps: printing on mylar, mounting on styrene, affixing brackets on the rear of the sign so it could be mounted on store shelving, and packing and shipping the assembled signs to multiple locations.
 

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