Keep Those Cards and Letters Coming

Dean Martin in his television show used to close with, “Keep those cards and letters coming.” We don’t do cards and letters much anymore, so I say, keep those comments and emails coming. You see, a blog works best when it is interactive. I love it when someone takes the time to tell me they are appreciating my work, or even they disagree with something I’ve written. I publish every comment, good, bad, or indifferent, except those I deem to be spam. For any readers that may have made comments that seemed to be spam, I’m sorry if I deleted it. Send me another and try to make it less spammy.

So why am I going on about reader comments, because a reader reminded me recently of something I haven’t thought about in a long time, that printers always say the same three things:

  1. Quality:  I don’t know of a printer out there that doesn’t tell their customers that they are a top quality printer. Just check your local telephone book yellow pages and notice how many printer advertisements use the word “quality.” It doesn’t matter if they are printing on paper plates, with a 30 year-old press, and a part-time high school drop-out press operator, they still promise quality. Are they lying? Not necessarily, quality could be defined as  producing a product that meets the customer’s needs. What is quality to one customer may not meet the standards of another. The two customers would define quality differently but that doesn’t make either one right or wrong. Its all in how it is measured. What is the standard? In printing quality is often determined by customer satisfaction. If the customer is happy, we’re happy. If the customer is unhappy, nobody is happy.
  2. Price: Again look at those ads. How many promise a good price or even the lowest price? Most people think that printing costs too much, so if you can make a case for bargain basement pricing you will get customers. In my 35-ish years in the business I’ve learned to be wary of customers who are only focused on price. They frequently turn out to be very high maintenance people who will nickle and dime a printer to death. A competitive price for a good job is more important to me than saving a buck or two.
  3. Service: Every printer prides themselves on good service. What does that mean? Just like quality, service is one of those words that mean different things to different people. It depends on what you are looking for. Some customers need reassurance. Others need to know that their questions will be correctly answered. There are customers that get annoyed if contacted too often, and others that want to see you almost daily. Some want your billings and paperwork to be immaculate. Some judge service on how quickly the phone is answered, or how long they have to wait on line. I’ve had an upset customer complain about the clothing the delivery guy was wearing. Good service to them would have been satisfied if the delivery person was wearing a clean uniform.

Years ago I worked for a printer in Denver, Colorado. The sales manager was fond of saying, “A good relationship with a customer doesn’t just happen, you have to build it like a marriage. You must discover what their preferences are. If you squeeze toothpaste from the middle of the tube, and they roll it up from the bottom, you can guarantee future problems.”

The next time a sales rep from a printer comes by to ask for your business, notice how long it takes them to say, “We have the best quality, our prices are excellent, and we will provide you with great service.” I’m betting, not very long. If you work for a company that does a lot of printing you could hear the same thing coming out of different lips many times a day. You may tire of it, but they couldn’t very well come in and say, “We have poor quality, our pricing is terrible, and our service really sucks” could they? It might be refreshing to you, but it wouldn’t be very reassuring.

Now this is where I would like to see you keep those cards and letters coming. If you have any thoughts, all of you marketing geniuses out there, that you think would be a better approach please send it in. Whatever we do in this business it shouldn’t be mundane, or repetitive. Creativity is the name of the game. If you would like to hear something fresh from printers let’s give them some ideas. Are you with me on this?

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© Bill Ruesch, Talking Through My Hat, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Bill Ruesch, Talking Through My Hat with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.