When you’re running a print business, it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day activities and minutiae of your print shop. You focus on pushing more and more estimates and jobs through the door without really taking the time to think about if your clients are fully satisfied with the process and the final product.
Clients come to you because of your expertise in printing, but not just that; they’re looking for your ability to translate their vision into reality. Most customers don’t understand the ins and outs of the print production process, and they probably don’t really want to. They expect you will take their request and turn it into a beautiful error-free finished product on the day you said it would be done – for the price you quoted.
They also want to be kept in the loop if there are any issues, delays, or changes, and to get an immediate project status update if they check in. Clients don’t like surprises, unless it’s an unexpected friendly discount on their invoice! Chances are good that they want to have an established relationship with one single person at your shop, but they also expect to be able to get an accurate update from anyone who answers the phone or checks the email inbox. Which brings us to here: clients also want understanding and patience. It’s not uncommon for a job to be submitted for print and then require last-minute changes. Your flexibility to adapt to these types of situations is critical.
Every client wants a job well done, at a competitive price, with a reasonable turnaround. But the difference between having a satisfied, loyal client and a one-off client that doesn’t return is how well you understand their needs and leverage that knowledge to make their lives easier.
Are You Meeting Your Print Client’s Expectations?
Many people think that client satisfaction will happen if you just have the right people in place. While having the right people makes a difference, providing quality service doesn’t end there. In order for your employees to meet your print client’s basic needs, you need a smooth operating system and the right processes in place.
Customer expectations are defined as the “perceived value that the client looks for when purchasing a product or service from you.” In the printing world, it’s important to be able to understand those expectations so you can make improvements and adapt to changing demands. Here are some areas of your business that make up your customer’s perceived value of your business:
- Speed and accuracy of the estimate process
- Fair and competitive prices
- Unexpected errors and mistakes in production
- Timely communication of project status and possible delays
- Ability to meet deadlines and stay on budget
- Friendly, helpful, and knowledgeable staff
- Flexibility to adapt to order changes
As you can probably guess, setting and managing these client expectations can be tricky without the right data and systems in place. If your business systems and processes are clunky and outdated, with lots of manual processes that cause bottlenecks, it’s significantly more challenging to deliver the service your customers crave. For example, your employees can’t keep clients informed on job status updates if they don’t have visibility or access into the production and scheduling workflow.
One of the keys to meeting client expectations is to find ways to operate as efficiently as possible, so your team spends less time on administrative tasks and more time on delivering a better customer experience. Unfortunately, outdated print MIS solutions, disconnected systems, and/or manual workarounds don’t leave much spare time for this.
The big question is, how happy are your customers? To assess your customer satisfaction levels and the efficiency of your current processes and systems, here are some questions to ask your team:
Do your existing information systems support the needs of your clients?Having multiple sources of information, like a CRM, QuickBooks, an inventory system, and a delivery system that do not integrate well together means that information must be duplicated from one system to the next, almost always being transcribed by a human. That means there are several opportunities for data to be entered incorrectly or missed entirely, or changes may be updated in one system and not another, depending on who records the change and what their priorities are.
Your clients expect accurate information and quick answers to questions. Having multiple disconnected systems makes it more challenging for your staff to answer questions, quote prices, and timelines accurately, and feel confident in the data in front of them. Lack of confidence in your systems and unreliable or uncertain answers becomes clear to clients and degrades their trust in your shop. If your clients don’t trust you, your systems are not supporting their needs.
Do your people work collaboratively or in department silos?For most print companies, workflows typically considered ‘back office’ like inventory, purchases, accounts receivable and payable, etc., are not considered order-focused, and the associated info often has no link to the order or production process. If inventory, accounting, sales, and production are working separately from each other, from separate sets of data, you’re guaranteed to have discrepancies between what’s been promised to a client and what can actually be produced and when. Critical data about projects and client activity needs to be instantly updated for everyone working on a project so that they can adjust and adapt.
Does it seem like there is too much inventory wasted and never enough cash flow?If there are disconnects between the sales and estimating team and the inventory and production teams, you’re likely dealing with challenges that affect not just your business but also your client experience. Inventory that can’t meet the current production demands or that has an excess of an unpopular stock is eating into your cash flow and could be causing project delays, leading to missed deadlines. If communication about project changes isn’t disseminated appropriately, you’ll be writing off unnecessary product waste.
Do your customers provide repeat business or are they jumping ship to one of your competitors?There are a lot of reasons why a customer decides to go with another competitor. Maybe they wanted to go with the cheapest option, or the other printer had a better product selection; either way, it’s important to understand why your customers aren’t coming back. If you’re regularly receiving complaints or losing business due to performance, it’s time to take a look at your technology.
Based on your responses, it’s easy to see what your next step should be. To achieve smooth and efficient workflows across your operations to better serve clients, you need an efficient print management system that allows everyone on your team to access critical information across the organization and easily collaborate. The best way to achieve this is with a centralized print MIS and/or ERP system built for printers.
A flexible print business management system will allow you to maximize margins by eliminating redundant activities and giving your staff more time to focus on client relationships and production. By connecting your people, processes, and data together in one platform, your print shop can dramatically improve turnaround time and reduce production errors. Faster, error-free production will build trust with your clients, so they’ll keep coming back to you.
So, is your print shop ready to invest in business management software? Use this scorecard to evaluate what areas of your business are ready for a change and which areas need attention before moving forward.
How to Leverage the Right Technology to Better Serve Your Customers
The right-fitting technology and implementation partner can transform your print business and help you elevate the customer experience. At Clients First, we have extensive experience working with print operations of all sizes and we understand the technical and functional needs of your industry. By consolidating your business data and operations into a centralized print ERP (MIS) system, we can help you easily exceed client expectations and improve the customer experience by:
- Quickly responding to changes in the market and adapt through competitive pricing
- Streamlining operations for faster, more effective workflows and production
- Providing faster communication and collaboration based on one version of the truth (not multiple datasets and systems)
- Ensuring less errors and stress for staff to deal with – meaning fewer negative interactions with customers
- Having complete historical customer data empowers staff to deliver tailored and personalized service
- Better visibility and management over inventory, demand, and stock reservation
- Access to useful metrics and valuable reports for performance improvement and smarter decision making
Consolidating your print operations into a single system and finding ways to operate more efficiently gives you an undeniable advantage in the ever-changing print industry. But overhauling your systems and processes is not nearly as simple as it sounds. Where and how do you get started?
You don’t have to tackle making all these changes to improve customer experience on your own. Clients First is your technololgy partner throughout the print ERP (MIS) implementation process and beyond. We are here to support you through the process of figuring out exactly what you need from an ERP system and ensure that your team has the tools and training they need to build long-lasting relationships with clients. To help you get started, download the whitepaper below on how to select a print ERP (MIS) system that fits your specific print requirements. Taking the time to follow the 7 steps to software selection will help you develop a practical and realistic plan that fits your people, your current infrastructure, your timeline, and your budget.