Your printer’s customer service involves a lot more than a friendly voice on the other end of the phone line. Or at least it should.
Sure, customer service that’s adequate should keep misinterpreted orders, stalled projects, and missed deadlines to a minimum. But is that all you should expect from a printer’s customer service? We don’t think so.
In this post, we ask the following six questions to help you rate the performance of your printer’s customer service:
- Do you consistently get answers—even before you ask the questions?
- Do you have multiple points of contact you can count on?
- Does customer service staff have the insight to catch problems early and keep projects moving forward?
- Does your customer service include getting cost-saving solutions?
- Does your customer service place a priority on your brand and your brand colors?
- Is customer service a company-wide focus for your printer?
In the process, we’ll also help you distinguish adequate customer service from the truly awesome!
1. Do you consistently get answers—even before you ask the questions?
How much back-and-forth should there be for a typical print project? Answer: as little as possible.
Sending emails, calling staff, leaving voice messages, waiting for replies—the time it takes for you to do these things adds up.
“A customer should know what to expect. That’s customer service 101. Detailing the steps of their project and anticipating their needs saves them from having to chime in multiple times with queries,” says Kris Holden, Customer Service Manager at Thysse.
In other words, of course you’re going to want to know when:
- The estimate is coming.
- The proofs will show up.
- The delivery can be expected.
Should you really need to ask?
2. Do you have multiple points of contact you can count on?
When you do really need to talk with customer service, it should be an easy process to get the help you need. But have you ever had a situation where the customer service rep you normally talk to was gone and their backup just plain didn’t understand your needs?
Print vendors who use a team-based customer service system ensure you have more than one helpful point of contact.
More specifically, a team-based system means you have:
- Info on your go-to’s. This should include the names and contact info for more than one person working on your account.
- A helpful front desk. It shouldn’t be too much to expect receptionists that know who’s filling in for who and can redirect you accordingly.
- Staff who care, even if they’re out. Staff who actually use out-of-office automation tools make it possible for your emails and voicemails to get redirected to those prepared to help you.
- A group communication option. If it’s right for your needs, you should have an option to use a dedicated group email address so your messages always go to multiple people in the know.
3. Does customer service staff have the insight to catch problems early and keep projects moving forward?
Taking your order and getting your request exactly right is obviously critical. But you should be able to expect more than that.
When customer service staff have job training in print production and/or backgrounds in areas such as graphic design, pre-press operation, or project management, that can play a significant role in keeping a project moving ahead.
“If your customer service support has the knowledge to notice basic file issues, they can shoot an email back immediately to say there’s a problem. That can really help prevent delays,” says Holden.
Specific examples include:
- File formats. You sent a JPEG, but your printer can’t work with that format.
- Basic file readiness. You forgot to include bleeds.
- Spec requirements. Files for large-format print items require different specs.
4. Does your customer service provide cost-saving solutions?
You pay your printer for products and services that you hope will help your business function better. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they should just rubber stamp every request you have—especially when more cost-effective options are possible.
“We had a customer order thousands of thank you cards to be mailed. Originally, they requested a size that couldn’t be machine-inserted. The project estimator flagged that, and we ended up giving them an option for a slightly larger card that could be machine-inserted. That ultimately saved them hundreds of dollars,” says Holden.
That’s just a small example of a larger concept: Your printer’s customer service should have a vested interest in helping you perform more cost-effectively. Here are additional examples:
Mailing lists. Is purchasing a mailing list for a certain geographic area always necessary? EDDM® (Every Door Direct Mail®) could be a much better solution—with no list purchase cost and lower postage rates to boot! But first, you need a printer to suggest it.
Inventory management services. If you lack space for your print inventory, you may be forced to order smaller quantities at higher rates. But a printer who offers warehousing can store your high-volume items and empower you to take fuller advantage of economy-of-scale costs.
Fulfillment services. Are you desperately grabbing staff for all-hands-on-deck kit assembly marathons? Using a printer’s fulfillment services could be a less stressful—and way more cost-effective—alternative.
Standardized pricing option. Standardized pricing is an approach that views your print needs as more than a series of single projects. It involves a print vendor taking the time to analyze and evaluate your projected print projects to maximize the potential for economy-of-scale pricing.
Digital storefront. Would having all your print assets available through a single web portal be right for your organization? Depending on your print needs, a digital storefront could create significant improvements in ordering consistent print assets, tracking what you have, controlling item distribution, and reducing waste.
5. Does your printer’s customer service place a priority on your brand and your brand colors?
Think of the time and care you’ve put into your brand colors. Those concerns should be more than afterthoughts for your printer, right?
That’s why your printer’s customer service should include color management, which is really a concerted effort to understand your brand and your brand colors—and to reproduce them to your satisfaction.
One way a printer shows they take your colors seriously is by asking you specific questions upfront about your color expectations, such as:
- What are the color standards or branding guidelines we need to adhere to?
- Are we matching to a previously printed sample or contract proof?
- What kinds of color issues have you encountered in the past?
Beyond that, attention to your colors should be unrelenting over the course of a print project. Thysse Project Manager Jana Woodhouse says that should include keeping an eye on color performance even after a file has been approved and is “ready.”
“Our pre-press department recently brought a customer’s print sample to me and were concerned about the hot pink color,” recalls Woodhouse.
“They wanted to know if that was really what the client was going for. Well, it wasn’t at all. We caught that mistake, let their designers know how to fix it, and were able to save them from costly reprints,” she says.
6. Is customer service a company-wide focus for your printer?
What #5 also points to is that customer service should be the concern of more than a few people who have “customer service” in their job title. In practice, every step in the printing process is an opportunity to carry out customer service.
Woodhouse points to a recent project example where a customer’s booklet had reached the finishing stage and was all set to be stapled, trimmed, and put out the door.
“Our staff noticed the page numbers were off, and upon closer examination we noted several other mistakes that the customer had missed. We let them know, and that actually led to more than one document being corrected and reprinted.”
Woodhouse says that good customer service ultimately comes down to trust. “Nobody can catch every mistake. But just because you approved something four steps earlier doesn’t mean customer service is a switch that gets turned off.”
How does your printer rate?
Do you recognize the awesomeness of your printer’s customer service from the above points? If so, then great!
But if you don’t, you may want to have a frank conversation with your printer about their customer service. Are there specific things you’d like them to work on? Let them know!
You may also want to strengthen your connection by becoming more familiar with your printer’s staff and procedures. A great way to do that, assuming it’s practicable, is to request a tour of your printer’s facilities.
If in the end, you’re still not getting the exceptional service you should be, maybe it’s time to rethink your loyalty.
Lots of details go into creating awesome customer service. But in the end, it really comes down to feeling—and experiencing—that your printer has your back.