Online Ordering Print Providers Discuss Their Approach to Web-to-Print
At one time or another, we have all had a bad experience as a consumer. Poor service from a waiter, a repair job that comes in above the quoted price, a delivery that is days beyond the promised shipping date ... anger and frustration engulf us, and we can only vow to never patronize that business in the future.
On rare occasions, we take steps to voice our displeasure. A phone call to corporate headquarters, a well-worded letter, or sometimes we unleash an expletive-filled rant onto an unsuspecting customer service rep who just happened to be on the train tracks at an inopportune time. And that’s the end of it.
Unless you’re Lawrence Chou.
About six years ago, the UCLA graduate and founder/CEO of San Diego-based MGX Copy needed to have something printed. It turned into a nightmare for Chou; the job was late and he wasn’t apprised of the status. He showed up to pick up the order, twice, and it still wasn’t ready. There were hidden charges in the final bill. It was an utter nightmare.
“The whole experience left me with a bad taste in my mouth,” Chou recalls. “This is why a lot of customer service-oriented companies like Amazon and Zappos have flourished, with customer satisfaction guaranteed.
“I conferred with some bright people in my network and we discussed how printing is a huge, great industry, but perhaps it hadn’t changed as much as needed. I saw an opportunity for us to take more of a cloud-based approach to Web-to-print and customer service-oriented approach to the printing industry.”
Chou, who had zero experience in the graphic arts industry, ramped up from the comfort of his garage and quickly put together the roadmap that would lead to MGX Copy, an online printing business that now employs 50 and boasts an impressive array of digital printing gear. More importantly, it is a firm that carries an impeccable customer service record, with an average rating of five stars on Yelp, Google and the automated Feefo Reviews (98% all-time satisfaction rating). The company is highly visible on social media and online searches.
What’s amazing is that none of the initial 20 employees hired at MGX Copy had any printing industry experience. This enabled Chou and his management team to mold their enterprise to serve people who are neophytes when it comes to ordering print, but who can appreciate the value of quality customer service. The company has 15 dedicated CSRs answering phones and email. One of its programs, Rush Critical, promises to deliver printed jobs within 24 hours anywhere in the United States.
Chou used copiers when the company debuted, but has graduated to a fleet of six Ricoh Pro 9110 and Xerox iGen digital presses. The finishing department houses Standard Horizon perfect binders and saddle stitchers, and Polar cutters. The printer targets medium-sized customers (50 to 500 employees) with commercial products, namely business cards, brochures, booklets, postcards and posters.
MGX Copy uses a proprietary Web-to-print (W2P) system from front to back. The desire for customization is what prompted Chou to forego an off-the-shelf W2P solution.
The system build out, from marketing to shipping, was put together with the customer in mind, which meant simplifying the experience. On average, MGX Copy clients can trigger an order entailing one-third as many clicks as some of the major national providers.
The company has a branded Web portal solution called MGX Cloud, which caters to high-traffic customers with multiple locations and frequent reordering needs. According to Chou, MGX Cloud represents a significant portion of the company’s revenues.
“We’ve seen an incredible amount of growth and demand,” he says. “A lot of our employees are millennials and they absolutely love to see and touch printed products. Print is as alive as it’s ever been. We said to ourselves, ‘If print is a commodity and it’s dying, what sets us apart?’ We came to the conclusion that our software and business approach to the customer experience is unique in the industry. We believe we have developed one of the best Web-to-print solutions out there.”
DFS, a 35-year-old wholesale trade printer based in Groton, Mass., offers an array of more than 2,000 printed products that find their way into the hands of small- to medium-sized businesses. The company serves printers, graphic designers and other businesses, such as advertising specialties distributors that sell printing.
According to Fred Collins, company president, DFS employs a custom-built W2P solution — DFSfullcolor.com — constructed on the back of a massive database. He says it is built with the reseller in mind, with quotes and reordering functionality that is fast, efficient and easy to use. And since many of those resellers hail from organizations with only a handful of personnel, the customer support function is particularly important.
“We looked at a day in the life of a reseller and tried to build the website around what we thought their needs were going to be in terms of making the site a one-stop repository for their work,” Collins explains. “The site itself — functionality, storing order history and quotes — is the cornerstone of the program.
“Also, because of the wide range of products we sell, we have a really strong customer service team. Resellers want to be able to call and talk to somebody about a job, ask questions and discuss the best approach for a job. That requires a call center that’s well-trained in our product line and has all the information at their fingertips. That’s a big part of our value proposition. We put quite a bit of our budget into having a strong call center.”
DFS is entering the third full year of its W2P platform, which has been massaged since the initial launch. “The trick was understanding how much IT money to invest and how much to get done from the wish list before pulling the trigger to go live,” he recalls. “We had a successful launch and it took off fast for us. About a year ago, we dove into phase two to focus more on the user experience. As a result, we really improved the whole functionality of the site.”
Collins meets with his inbound call center and outbound sales team every two weeks for feedback that helps drive the roadmap for product and site development. One of the recent enhancements is Full Color Select, which offers a suite of services (including design) for clients who lack expertise in various aspects. He calls it a “do it for you” program where DFS enters all of the orders into the system on behalf of the dealers. The company has received a lot of positive feedback with this new offering, according to Collins.
One of the biggest W2P providers in Europe is on the verge of debuting in the United States. Pixartprinting, which serves more than 250,000 creative professionals, print resellers and local printers, produces general commercial work, wide-format products, packaging and textile print, among other items. Founded in Italy in 1994, Pixartprinting joined Cimpress [parent of the well-known Vistaprint brand] in April of 2014, where it now leverages the strength of Cimpress’ mass-customization platform.
According to Mathilde Neiman, manager, Pixartprinting North America, technology is the cornerstone in constructing a W2P platform that attracts customers and forges long-term relationships. “Leveraging state-of-the-art equipment, systems and processes is the way to get to the best value for your customers,” she says. “Technology drives our product quality, Website navigation, customer care platform, logistics and marketing platform. Importantly, technology is also what enables us to optimize costs and pass on those savings to our customers.”
Neiman feels the best W2P systems are those that demonstrate a strong understanding of a customer’s individual needs. The baseline variables — navigation, product selection, pricing, delivery and customer service — are always sought. However, a micro-business with limited knowledge of the printing market needs a more curated selection as opposed to a site for creative types, which demands a more expansive offering.
Similarly, she says, some businesses rely on pre-produced templates to create their products, while graphic designers and creative professionals prefer to design and then upload their own content once it’s print-ready. Pixartprinting customers represent a narrower focus.
“Our customers appreciate that we are focused on the creative community and are not trying to serve anyone and everyone,” Neiman adds. “Some aspects of our value proposition would appeal to all types of customers: competitive prices, high quality, free shipping and a 100% money-back guarantee. Others are more specific to creative professionals. For example, designers don’t want just ‘any brochure.’ They have something precise in mind, and this is where offering four sizes, six types of folding, eight paper types with up to five paper weights each, makes a difference.
“Take that depth and apply it to books, signage and decals and you get an idea of the range that most creatives want,” Neiman remarks. “Another example is our customer care department: we train our associates to offer services that go way beyond a call center and to help them answer highly technical design and print-related questions.”
Print Three, a network of 46 franchise locations across Canada, provides printing and marketing services to its customers. At the dawn of the 21st century, the 40-year-old organization took note of the proliferation of online ordering portals. As a result, it set out to enable customers to submit files online to any Print Three location and to provide its franchise owners with the ability to create and support customized digital storefronts.
Andrew Hrywnak, president of Toronto-based Print Three, notes that it was critical for the organization to complement its Web technology initiatives with a marketing strategy on a par with its industry advancements. The company turned to Racad Tech and its W2P Shop ePOWER technology solution that, buoyed by Print Three’s ability to accommodate virtually any customer request, has proven to be an effective mix.
“An additional advantage that works in our favor is our prominence as a national print chain that offers a uniform, network-wide solution,” Hrywnak points out. “When we bid for national accounts that have multiple locations within Canada, our network of stores across the country can accommodate their production needs.
“This enables companies to manage their spend on a single system and obtain a unified report, even though the actual print production may be occurring at different Print Three franchise stores.” PI