Annoying Your Customers for the Right Reasons
Last month I implored Johnson’s World readers to stop posting inane political opinions on social media. Somebody needs to share that column with the ad agency that has this bumper sticker on their front door.
Are you, despite my pleadings last month, determined to abrade and upset your clients? If you must, I humbly suggest you do so in a manner that at least has some potential to enhance, rather than destroy, your relationship. For example …
In the early days of desktop publishing, a common problem was missing graphics. High-quality photos and illustrations were sometimes not included with furnished files, resulting in fuzzy images from low-resolution placeholders. As soon as this problem was discovered all production stopped until the client furnished the missing high-res graphics. We wouldn’t have dreamt of printing blurry artwork.
That hard and fast rule relaxed with the twin advent of digital photography and the World Wide Web. Suddenly, the high-resolution file wasn’t missing; it never existed! Art directors and print buyers began to tell us, “We don’t have a better file. You’ll just have to print it as is.”
Printers shook their heads, but dutifully obeyed, and high-quality things of beauty suddenly became merely “good enough.” Nobody likes substandard quality, but who wants to offend a client?
Offend the client, I say! Tell them you won’t print crap. Tell them their marketing is too important, and that their product or service deserves better. Next, offer alternatives. Do you tell people that you are “more than a printer?” Here’s your chance to demonstrate that fact.
Offer to hire a photographer to replace the bad photo, or offer your staff photographer if you have one. Offer to clean up the graphic using software (specifically Photoshop plug-ins) that, in trained hands, can raise the resolution of low-res graphics.
Don’t have the nerve to tell your client “no,” even when it is for their own good? You’ll declare on Facebook that their political candidate is literally Hitler! But you won’t confront them about a defect in their artwork?
Sure, you might offend some clients. You might even lose a client. On the other hand, you might establish your expertise, show your genuine concern for your customer’s integrity, and differentiate yourself from your competition. I think the benefits are worth the risk.
How about spelling? Do you proof your customers’ text? Here at Copresco we don’t officially proofread every word of customer furnished copy, but we do check every page for imposition, reflow, folios, gutter, and general appearance and, in the course of doing so, we catch a lot of misspellings. We always notify the client, who either fixes the error or asks us to do so. We’ve gained much customer goodwill for this. Nothing controversial there.
But how about grammar? Have you ever told a client that their copy was grammatically incorrect? Now things get a bit riskier. Nowadays your client may not even know what good grammar is.
How about bad or unclear writing? Now you are really risking your neck. Do not, I repeat, do not offer your opinions on writing quality. That’s no better than offering your opinions about politics.
Do identify unclear or confusing copy. “Mister customer, I don’t understand what you are trying to say. Your copy left me confused. If I, who knows your company, am confused, your end users may not understand either.” Once again, this takes nerve and may offend some clients. It may also win you the undying gratitude of others.
I do know that the clients who appreciate your comments will be the most quality conscious. It will be their pieces that win you awards for print quality and win them awards for communication excellence. It will be those customers who tell others what a great vendor you are. They will be the ones who recognize your value rather than your price.
Aren’t those the customers you want?
Steve Johnson, president and CEO of Copresco in Carol Stream, Ill., is an executive with 40 years of experience in the graphic arts. He founded Copresco, a pioneer in digital printing technology and on-demand printing, in 1987. Email email@example.com or visit www.copresco.com