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Hearing Customer Voices --Dickeson

May 2003
Here's the Voice of the Customer as heard by a folding carton printer in St. Paul, MN. Mike Jorgensen, president of Impressions Inc., an ISO 9000 certified company, gave us permission to reproduce their checklist. Look at it first and then let's talk about it.

A. Delivery requirements

1. Delivery timeline drawn and discussed

2. Physical restrictions

3. Hours of operation

4. Labeling requirements

5. Transport time required

6. Preferred delivery parties

7. Bill of lading

8. Pallet requirements

9. Packing requirements

10. Weight restrictions

11. "Attention to" identified

12. Special wrapping or secondary packing needs

B. Quality requirements

1. Customer's audit system (ISO, Baldrige, Mil Std 105, Six Sigma)

2. Identify objects to match as standard

i. Computer monitor lasers, previously produced pieces, original images, check quality with customer before scanning

ii. Actual product

iii. CD or downloaded images

3. Branding requirements (available guidelines)

4. Corporate colors or logos

5. Delta E tolerances

6. Bar codes

7. Creative or design process understood

i. Agency or creative service, file formats, applications used, operating system

8. Special effects (HiFi color, blends, vignettes, metallics)

9. Hard copy provided (latest version)

10. File directory provided

11. Customer revision control procedures understood

12. Regulatory requirements

C. Counts

1. Customer demand signals

i. MRP, Kanban, JIT, supply chain, VMI, requisition

2. Identify control procedure

3. Over/under policy understood

4. Past order history

5. Discuss how batch count is made

6. Carton or packing lots required

D. Service requirements

1. Customer's proofing cycle understood

i. Time needed to evaluate proof

ii. All individuals responsible for proof evaluation identified

iii. Preferred proof type identified

iv. Party responsible for sign-off identified

v. Probable number of proof rounds and previews of proofs

vi. Preference for advance notice or appointments

vii. Press okay required

2. Customer provided alternatives for direct contact (cell, pager, etc.)

3. Alternative contact identified

4. Project status reports or confirmations required

5. Billing procedures discussed

i. P.O. Box address

ii. Required data complete and accurate

iii. Attention to identified

6. Information of value provided

7. Understand quotation process

i. Fax, Internet, e-mail, appointment, phone, U.S. mail

8. Prices broken out per customer preference

9. Fast, accurate and courteous response to customer inquiries

10. Understand customer sample requirements

11. Guarantee of confidentiality of customer's work and information

12. Art and materials tracked and returned

13. Best method of reaching customer identified

E. Performance expectations

1. Understand how product is being measured and evaluated

2. Understand how customer is being measured and evaluated

3. Understand the purpose of the product or project (what is customer's concept or intent)

4. Product protection needs (breakage, spoilage, moisture)

5. Merchandising, display objectives, plan-o-grams

6. Proper engineering tests established and performance built into process (fiber tear tests, adhesive tests, forced opening, coefficient of friction, score bent testing, rub test, scuff resistance, gloss tests)

7. Project or product's handling and distribution understood

8. Customer's environmental concerns understood

9. Customer's regulatory concerns understood

10. Performance standards and testing properly documented

11. Customer's manufacturing process understood

F. Budgetary considerations

1. Payment terms discussed, understood and agreed upon

2. Supplier competitive environment understood

3. Total cost issues discussed—options and alternatives as appropriate

4. Alterations and additions policy understood

5. Overage/underage acceptance discussed and understood

6. Freight and F.O.B. discussed

7. Price breakouts done per customer specs regarding tooling and prep

8. Future product use and forecasts discussed

Is this what the customer is saying to a commercial printer? If this is the implied relationship, it's far beyond that of a printer as producer of a commodity, isn't it?

Indeed, it puts you in mind of doctor/patient, attorney/client, minister/communicant relationship. It's a perception in the mind of a customer of the value being added by the printer to the raw materials converted.

Make a Checklist

Do you have such a checklist for the kind of work you're producing? Shouldn't you? Can we intelligently price what we're doing without similar understandings of what's expected?

This is the VOC—Voice Of the Customer, which we must match with our VOP—Voice Of the Process. What if the VOC demands more than our process is capable of producing? Using our XmR charts we should demonstrate to the client the capability of our processes and their stability. These are constraints of commercial printing that a customer must acknowledge and accept, as we do.

Then there's the VOL—Voice Of Liquidity—the cash needs of the printer. The VOL must be resolved right "up front" with the customer just as it is in the medical or legal professions. If it's cash on delivery or in 30 days, that has to be understood at the outset, without any equivocation, and it must be enforced.

The VOC, VOP and VOL must harmonize as a trio to create a satisfying relationship for all.

—Roger V. Dickeson

About the Author

Roger Dickeson is a printing productivity consultant based in Tucson, AZ. He can be reached via e-mail:

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