A Mistake Was Made–Kill the Printer!

The question of giving a supplier the boot comes up from time-to-time. Before doing something rash, like firing a previously reliable printer, you should ask yourself  some important questions:

  1. How important are they to the success of your business? Would your business really be better off without them?
  2. What is the history of the vendor? Have they always had problems or is the current difficulty an anomaly?
  3. Could changing vendors negatively impact any immediate or ongoing projects?
  4. Can it, whatever is causing your upset, be worked out? Maybe instead of drawing out the axe would you benefit from a non-threatening heart-to-heart? Have you asked the printer to honestly share their side of the story? Are you willing to listen to it?
  5. Are you being fair? Think about it, does your company supply your customers with a product or service? How would you like it if your customers treated you in the same way you are about to treat the printer?
  6. Is there more to be learned by watching the pot more closely than tipping it over?
  7. Have you considered that the fault may belong more to you, or your employees, than to the printer? Remember, your employees have everything to gain by shifting blame to the printer.
  8. Is the problem one of substance or style? In other words, does the job get done right, and on-time even if done in a different manner than you would do it?
  9. Were there unfortunate circumstances beyond the printer’s control, such as paper delivery issues, or equipment failures?

Every customer has the right to say, “Enough is enough!” In business relationships things can, and will, go wrong. I’ve noticed in my job as a print broker that customers sometimes too easily state/demand that we cross a certain printer off the list. Something went wrong  and that’s it.  No trial. No hearing.  If I try to point out that the fault was not entirely the printer’s, the customer turns on me. They get angry and want someone to pay with their heads. The problem of this “off with their heads” approach is that developing a trusted working relationships often takes years. And, even though there is an impression that printers are the cliched dime-a-dozen, it may not be true. Sure there are printers everywhere, but are they set-up to do your kind of work? Replacing one may not be as easy as you think.

I’m not saying that printers don’t have their problems too. They, like everyone else, are fallible. In my years of experience going in and out of print shops I can honestly say that there isn’t one that is mistake proof. Printing, on the surface, may look easy, but it is not. For every one thing that is going wrong, it could be caused by ten different things.

I’ve had customers love, love, love a certain printer, and other customers think that same printer is the scum of the earth. How could both perspectives be true? Obviously, they can’t. The truth is that printing is a complicated business. There are so many things that can go wrong, that it is amazing that most things don’t. As a keen observer of printing and the printing business, I have learned to sort the aberrations from the fatal flaws. Also, after awhile you learn to see what a printer’s strength is and play to that and not to the weakness. Place printing orders with companies that are best equipped physically and psychologically for your job. If you do that consistantly, you will have less frustration and enjoy smoother sailing.

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