In the world of print we are a service industry as much as a manufacturing industry, yet sometimes I think we forget this.
Customer service is the one constant in these ever-changing, fast-moving times, not only in our industry but all industries.
Our industry is unforgiving in that we can quote and quote and quote and still not win the job. We are allowed to get a little frustrated when we realise we have been doing dummy quotes for a competitor or an arts student, but we can’t let it jade us.
We are all madly looking for added value to add to our businesses such as online stores and what not, but are we forgetting about good old-fashioned service?
While many customers love ordering online, there are many customers that don’t like it; they want a human voice and the chance to ask questions.
Some may refrain from asking necessary questions because they are put off by some of our jargon, resulting in a job that isn’t what they were after. Rather than come back, they just go elsewhere, where it will probably happen again, leaving them with a bad taste in their mouth.
If we take the time to explain such things as the difference between digital and offset printing we actually make it easier to deal with them the next time.
One customer in particular comes to mind when I think of customer service. She came to me in 2011 wanting a logo and a card designed. The design process dragged on forever and there were times I wanted to tell her to go elsewhere. But I persisted and I came to realise that the problem wasn’t with the client it was me.
I had started out in print that year as an absolute novice; I did not even know what CMYK was! I’m a quick learner, but printing involves so many different elements, as does design, which was also new to me.
I made it my mission to learn as much as possible about every aspect of our craft, for example foiling. The lovely boys at Goldcraft Embossing were very generous with their time, answering questions about everything I was unsure of.
I then moved onto stocks, machinery and everything to do with printing and design. I have been lucky to learn the old-school way of doing things and the new-school way. Personally, I think a mix is good.
I get very disappointed when talking to sales people in our trade who don’t actually know what they are selling. Yes, they know the names of the products, but they may not the stock or the difference between Pantone colours and CMYK – and we all know how horribly wrong that can go.
Once I’d mastered the technical aspects of the trade, my next challenge was learning how to explain these things to customers in layman’s terms.
If we flash forward to 2013, that customer I mentioned earlier has just ordered another business card with a completely different design.
Do you know what reminds me of why I do this? During a meeting to discuss her budget and finishing options, she took the opportunity to show off her knowledge by saying that she definitely wanted matt celloglaze. I was tickled pink as I listened to her tell me that she had had to explain the samples to her web developer.
I know time is a precious commodity these days, but if we make a little time and go that extra mile, word gets around. And isn’t that the best form of advertising?
The design process doesn’t have to be so tedious if we really listen and educate a little from the beginning. Of course, there will always be those who, ahem, test us. Every customer demands our best service, whether it’s their very first business card or the juicy ones that make us a lot of money.
You just never know with the little ones. They may become big one day. If they do, they won’t forget that little bit of time you gave them when they were starting out.