Home' Australian Printer Magazine : February 2014 Contents 20 February 2014 - Australian Printer
Whatever happened to
Printers can make too many
assumptions about the state
of their relationships with
the clients, while clients
may see that relationship
di erently, says
THE following is a far from
uncommon statement that
I hear as I travel around: "I
can't believe this," the printer
says. "We have bent over backwards
for these people for years, and they
go with someone else over a $10
price difference. What happened to
loyalty? What happened to keeping
your business with the printer who
These are good questions,
but they raise a few more good
questions, starting with, "How
exactly did you earn their business?"
and then fnishing with, “Are you
sure they agree?"
Printers and customers can
have very different perspectives
on a printer's performance. From
the printer's perspective, "I haven't
heard any complaints," seems to
qualify as a rock-solid relationship.
From the buyer's perspective, there
is a lot of opportunity for little things
to add up to a less-than-satisfactory
Think about this for just a
moment. It's pretty well established
that Murphy's Law runs wild in
the printing industry, and that just
about every order is an accident
looking for a place to happen. That's
not an indictment of your printshop,
it is just a fact of life in any job-shop,
custom manufacturing business.
There's a lot that can go wrong,
affecting quality or service or both.
Now think about this. Your best
customers give you the most chances
to mess up, and the convergence of
Murphy's Law and multiple chances
makes it likely that your best
customers see you at less than your
best far more frequently than you
probably want to think. So yes, you
may bend over backwards for them
on some occasions, but if you also let
them down on other occasions, they
probably see all that as balancing
out -- at best.
Here's an exercise that might
help you to understand this dynamic
a little better. On a clean sheet of
paper, write down the names of
your three best customers, and then
for each of them, assign yourself
a point for everything you have
done in the last 30 days that you
think represents earning their
business. Now deduct two points
for everything you have done that
may have had the opposite effect. Be
objective, what we are looking for
here is a true assessment. Think of
it as the opposite of being in denial.
Then I think you may fnd that you
have done less to deser ve loyalty
than you originally thought.
By the way, it may not be fair, but
letting them down does carry twice
as much weight as bending over
backwards for them. Remember that
there's money involved in this. You
don't get any points for meeting their
expectations (ie giving them what
they paid for). You do get a point for
anything they perceive as exceeding
their expectations, but you lose that
point and at least one more if you let
PLEASE note the words they
perceive. Ultimately, your
perspective on value and loyalty is
meaningless if it doesn't conform
to theirs. If you think you did
something that deserves a loyalty
point and they don't agree, then you
don't get the point you think you
And if they think you let them
down even though you don't agree,
you still lose at least two points.
They say beauty is in the eye of
the beholder. They should also say
that value is in the eye of the buyer.
Sellers can talk about value, but it is
ultimately the buyer who decides.
I spoke with another printer
recently who told me about
a ridiculous problem he just
encountered with a customer.
"I couldn't believe he got all bent out
of shape about it," he said. "Sure, it
wasn't quite what he wanted, but it'll
do what he needs it to do."
I'm not accusing you of sharing
that attitude, but I hope you'll agree
that this printer didn't earn any
loyalty in that exchange. I can assure
you that he doesn't see the problem,
and I hope that you do.
AS with so many things in life,
the solution to the loyalty problem
lies in better communication. As a
starting point, don't assume that
your customers are happy and
therefore loyal. Get out there and
ask them how they feel about the
quality and ser vice they've been
getting from you, and beyond that,
how they feel about the overall value
you provide. Tell them that you value
their businsess, but you don't want
to presume their satisfaction and
loyalty. Ask them to tell you exactly
how they feel.
With that information, you can,
hopefully, shore up any weaknesses
in your relationships -- before
someone buys from a competitor
over a $10 price difference.
Dave Fellman is the president of David
Fellman & Associates, a graphic arts
industry consulting rm based in the USA.
He is a popular speaker who has delivered
keynotes and seminars at industry events
across Australia , the United States,
Canada, England, and Ireland. He is the
author of "Sell More Printing" (2009) and
"Listen To The Dinosaur" (2010). Visit his
website at www.davefellman.com.
Customers always have choice
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