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Michael Casey

Pressing Ahead

By Michael Casey

About Michael

Michael Casey is the founder of Survey Advantage and strategic partner with several printer associations and franchises. By leveraging information from a printer’s estimation and production software, Mike’s business has helped hundreds of printers automate their customer feedback and lead generation process. He may be reached via e-mail or (401) 560-0311 ext. 103. Read printer case studies on the Survey Advantage Website.

Speed and Accuracy are the Top Drivers of Buyer Loyalty

Reviewing a sampling of the 12,000 print buyer surveys we collected in first quarter of 2012 revealed that speed and accuracy are mentioned consistently when praising or complaining about their buying experiences. While courtesy and friendliness are top satisfiers in the hospitality industry, that isn’t the case for printers.

Yes, courtesy is important, but you miss a deadline or botch a job too many times and customers don’t care how friendly you are. Helping print buyers succeed at their jobs is what matters. Their jobs are on the line and you must make them look like heroes—to their bosses, peers, staff and customers.

Four main processes that need SPEED:

1) Speed of turning quotes.

Getting buyers the price in less than a day impresses them and shows discipline. It gives them more confidence that you can turn the job around quickly as well. It shows you know what it takes.

Track your performance. You may want to try putting two dates on every quote: “Customer Request Date” and “Customer Received Pricing Date.”

2) Speed of answering emails and phone calls.

When contacted by a buyer, respond immediately with a personal acknowledgement from a warm body unless your approach is totally self-service. A warm body response is sometimes confused with that auto-reply sent by Outlook. There is a place for that approach, but try to minimize automated response and make things personal.  Similarly, phone calls should be answered or the voice mail message acknowledged within a few hours by someone.

Do you measure the speed of answering emails or phone calls at your company?

3) Speed of job status updates.

Print buyers want to know the status of their jobs either by viewing updates on their personal customer-facing portal, or by calling or emailing to get an immediate update.

How long does it take a CSR to discover the status of an order in your plant? Do an audit of your shop’s speed by asking about any random order.

4) Speed of turning around projects.

It all comes down to deadlines—knowing when the customer needs it done, and hitting that mark. This is the biggest satisfier for buyers in the realm of speed. Out of a pool of 30,000 print buyer surveys, missing deadlines is the second biggest complaint; quality of the end product is highest on the list.

Set realistic expectations and educate the buyer on how to collapse turnaround time. Many times the customer doesn’t help you turn projects quickly, but explaining what you need and by when clearly can speed things up for both of you—making the buyer look like a hero.

Measure—Measure Again—Improve. You must be doing all of these constantly. If you are measuring it, then you can manage it.

Five main processes that need ACCURACY to set you apart:

1) Accuracy of advice.

The value-added service you offer is consulting and advice. Offer quality advice that saves money, produces a better outcome or result, shortens the turnaround time, approaches the goal in a creative fashion, and makes buyers look smart. Remember, it’s about making your customers look good.

Be careful when hearing praise from a customer. Don’t get complacent. Sometimes we feel we are positioned as the knowledge experts with everyone, but it may just be with that one customer. Stay abreast of cutting-edge technologies and production approaches. Invest in yourself and your staff to be more marketable. You must have the most talented staff around.

How much did you set aside for education in 2012? Make it part of your budget.

2) Accuracy of proposals and pricing.

The proposal should be clear, easy to understand, accurately explain the scope of work, and detail how the price was calculated. This doesn’t mean having a line item for every gory detail, but outline what clients are getting for the money. The best printers lay out enough details so even if their price is high, the buyer has the ammunition to justify it to his/her management team. You want clients to be able to explain clearly why they chose you over the cheaper printer.

Yes, cheaper is not better and buyers know it could come back to bite them. Your proposal should shine when laid out on the table next to the other two bidders.

Do you know how your quotes stack up to the competition? The customer should always know the expectations going in, know what the check is for, and have no surprises midstream.

3) Accuracy of job status.

Print buyers love to feel confident with your answers about job status. If you say it will be there by a certain day and time, you better hit it. The majority of customer survey response comments are about missing expectations. “I was told I would have it by Tuesday and when I called I was told it wouldn’t be until Friday.”

Be accurate with your updates and, if possible, build in a little buffer—ut don’t go too crazy since speed is a big satisfier for many buyers. And call them when things change. Don’t assume or wait for them to call you for an update if something has slipped. Assume they noticed and will be upset.

4) Accuracy of finished product.

Build to specifications. Customers may not give you all the details you think you need, but push back if needed to make sure you don’t have to wing it. There is no place for excuses. ISO 9000, Six Sigma, Lean Manufacturing all focus on that zero-defect philosophy and monitoring.

Do you have a quality process and language inside your organization that is clear to all employees?

5) Accuracy of invoices.

This is a small pet peeve of print buyers, but invoices need to be understandable and clear. Language from the proposal should be understood so the invoice matches. Seems basic, but have a quality invoicing processes in place, with everything integrated from quoting to invoicing.

In summary, map out your processes, educate your team, monitor for speed and quality, and promote it with your customers. Walk the talk and make discipline the differentiator that sets you apart from competitors, drives up accuracy and drives down processing time. In the end, doing that builds a more loyal following.

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