Three Ways to Avoid a Print Customer Disaster, Disaster
A funny thing happened to me leaving the thINK Conference in NYC on my way to Chicago for GRAPH EXPO 15, and no, I only wish this was the start of a joke. There was a little altercation at security with a line-cutter who was directly in front of me (side note—who in their right mind would cut the SECURITY line at an airport?) then fast-forward to 10 p.m. Chicago time when I traumatically experienced the realization that I had left my laptop and iPAD in the bin at TSA in Newark, New Jersey. Anyone feeling nauseous and/or dizzy thinking about that last sentence is having the appropriate reaction. Mine was that, plus panic. I was experiencing temporary amnesia in regard to where I was and what time zone I was in, and stuttered when I tried to speak. Considering my LIFE is on my laptop—and everything I needed for GRAPH EXPO as well—categorizing this as a disaster is quite apropos.
I immediately called my Print Media Centr emergency hotline 1-800-PatMcGrew. If anyone would know what to do in a travel crisis, it’s Pat. She found me all the appropriate contact info for TSA, instructed me to breathe, and as always, I felt better after talking with her. Now, all I had to do was wait.
And wait. And wait. It’s seemed like years but it was only hours into the next day when TSA called me back, and verified that they indeed had my electronics, and confirmed that they were safely locked in the Newark vault until the Custodian could get them and bring them to an office outside of the airport where they could be picked up, or have them sent to me. It was Friday and he wasn’t making a pick-up until Sunday, so best case scenario, I hoped to get my items by Tuesday. Then they went silent, finally calling me back on Tuesday that my laptop and iPAD were in the office, verified as mine, and ready to be sent. Knowing I was leaving Chicago on Thursday morning, I called my sister who lives 40 minutes from Newark. My brother-in-law picked up everything on Wednesday, and my sister sent the package to arrive Friday morning when I would be home to receive it, and I did!
So why am I telling you this story here? A few reasons…
When I worked in Advertising, people liked to joke around about emergencies because someone was always having one. But a disaster is another story, and in a disaster there is no joking around. That is when the wagons get circled and resolution "by any means necessary" comes into play.
As a print customer, you can learn more about your service providers in a disaster than in any other situation. Here are three things printers and service providers should NEVER do when your customer is in crisis:
1—Go off the radar. I don’t care if it’s 4 p.m. in the afternoon or 4 a.m. in the morning, keep letting me know where you are—an alternate way to reach you or someone else to speak with if needed, and give me as much info as possible each time we speak. The purgatory of not being able to communicate for an hour while you are in a meeting will turn into hell unnecessarily and rather quickly. I need you, be there!
2—Assume. The saying goes when you assume you make an "ass of u and me," but in this case it’s just you who will get the credit. More than likely I have nine account executives that have five account directors who have two clients freaking out on them, freaking out on me. You do not want to make any unilateral decisions, even if they are the only decisions, even if they are the best decisions. I need you to communicate and recommend actions, not take action without input and approval. Trust me, "the road to hell is paved with good intentions," was probably coined after a printer made a decision for a customer in crisis.
3—Act like it’s no big deal. Just like me, you probably have 20 other emergencies and fires to put out—worse case a few disasters mixed in. Regardless, don’t underplay my temporary crisis. I don’t want to hear anything other than you have heard my problem, offer options for resolving it, or you will get back to me with options on how to resolve. All the rest can wait until after. If you are calm, I will be calm…but if you tell me to calm down, it will feel dismissive and that is hard to get over, even when we resolve the problem.
When I was in the throes of my electronics disaster, it was not knowing and not having trust in the process that did me in. Now that I have experienced it, I have a totally fresh perspective about how awesome TSA was, and dare I say trust of their "idiot left her laptop/iPAD in the bin" return system. That feeling is what you want your customers to have, and better yet, let others know. When buyers recommend service providers, more often than not, it is based on crisis management and situations when we really need you to come through—not on the magic you deliver every day.
I can’t end this post without mentioning the new head of social media for TSA walked into The Printerverse booth at GRAPH EXPO, and Lady Scanalot "detained" him until the panel I was moderating was over so I could meet him. TSA just started up a Twitter account, and if you want to see GENUIS crisis management with FUN mixed in, follow @AskTSA and get a notebook. It was too late for him to help me, but he took the names of everyone who did to thank them, and I got his phone number—just in case there ever is a next time...Disaster averted!
Don’t forget October 14th is International Print Day! Help print trend the planet by using #IPD14 in all the social media sharing you do on Wednesday. All info is here: http://internationalprintday.org
Deborah Corn is the Intergalactic Ambassador to The Printerverse at Print Media Centr, a Print Buyerologist, international speaker and blogger, host of Podcasts From The Printerverse, cultivator of Print Production Professionals the No. 1 print group on LinkedIn, Girl No. 1 at Girls Who Print, host of #PrintChat every Wednesday at 4PM ET on Twitter, the founder of International Print Day and the founder of #ProjectPeacock. She is the recipient of several industry honors and sits on the board of the The Magazine Innovation Center at the University of Mississippi, and is an advisor for the Advertising Production Club of NYC.
Deborah has 25+ years of experience working in advertising as a Print Producer and now works behind the scenes with printers, suppliers and industry organizations helping them create meaningful relationships with customers and members, and achieve success with their social media, content marketing, event marketing and sales endeavors.