How to provide great customer service in the printing industry (or any industry!)

Even as technology makes our society more impersonal, customer service still plays a huge role in any business and often makes or breaks an operation. When our company was struggling under old management over a year ago, one of the biggest complaints was that the phone would often ring and ring, unanswered, and that calls were not returned. With an overhaul to the leadership team came a renewed focus on customer satisfaction, and slowly but surely the tide has turned. The new management has made a commitment to provide exemplary service, including in-person deliveries, company tours for any client or potential client who is interested, a goal of never letting the phone ring more than twice, and expanded marketing efforts to keep our client base up-to-date on the company’s initiatives. Thanks to this hard work, we have more happy customers than ever before and our sales reached a new level in April. All of that said, there are a few basic tenets that any company must follow for customer relations success, and a few that are specific to the printing industry. Here are five that we practice at Vibrant Graphics on a daily basis:

 1.    Answer the phone promptly. This seems intuitive, but it can become difficult with the impromptu meetings that govern our industry, and the fact that less than half of our staff actually works at a desk all day. But it makes a huge difference for customer satisfaction – think about the times you’ve called a business to get an update or an answer, only to have the phone ring repeatedly or get dumped into a voicemail. Answering the phone is one of the best ways to have a personal interaction with a client or potential client, and most importantly, it shows you care. Even if the intended recipient of the call isn’t around, talking to someone – anyone – shows that you are committed to making sure that you meet the needs of the caller.

2.    Respond to emails promptly. Anyone who gets flooded with emails on a regular basis knows that it’s easy to let some of the less important queries slip through the cracks. But when it’s a client or potential client, it’s very important not to sit on the email until you have enough time to answer. I get fewer emails than the rest of the team, so I make it a priority to answer every email I get the same day – I know how frustrating it can be to have an important question go unanswered for days. It’s a simple thing, but another part of asserting your responsiveness and connecting with the customer.

3.    Keep customers updated on the status of their orders. In the past, our customers could go days without hearing a word about their order, and often orders would just sit around without even being processed. Since the staff overhaul, we always try to fill orders the same day that they are placed, and communicate with our customers about lead time, ship dates, and if there are any logistical concerns with materials and size requested. If we get a call or an email about the status of an order, we investigate and respond the same day. We also provide tracking numbers for orders that have shipped, so our clients can have the most up-to-date status on their shipped goods. The more we stick to our word and provide fast, accurate turnaround times, the more likely we are to get future orders from our customers.

4.    Connect with customers through public relations and marketing efforts. We don’t want to be a mysterious company. We do exciting things every day at Vibrant Graphics, and we’re primed on the cutting edge of the industry. We want to share this with our clients, potential clients, and industry partners, so they know how we’re making use of our time and dollars. Each quarter, we send out a newsletter with the top stories from the past three months, as well as useful information for our clients. We’re also heavily connected on the big three of social networking: Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, where we can interact with the industry on a daily basis and keep our followers informed on our projects. We send out samples of our work on a regular basis, and we’ve just started to implement free giveaways of our most popular products. Finally, we send out a customer satisfaction survey twice a year to track our improvements and find out areas where we could do a better job. We want to be active listeners, and gain trust from our audience by being transparent.

5.    Welcome the opportunity for face time. Even though we’re a busy small business, we know how important it is to interact face-to-face with our customer base. Because of this, we offer in-person deliveries to our local clients, and our general manager often schedules personal meetings with many of our clients to ensure that we are communicating effectively. We also welcome any interested parties to stop by for a tour of the company, and our passionate employees love talking about the intricacies and challenges of the printing industry. Sometimes, putting a face to the name seals the deal, and for us, it’s perhaps the best way to demonstrate our core competencies and our determination to providing the best possible products and services.

Thanks to a renewed dedication to customer service over the past year, we’ve successfully re-branded ourselves as an innovative company who actually cares about meeting the needs of our audience. And we don’t just talk about quality, we actually make good on our promises, which has allowed us to gain trust on a whole new level. Most of these steps seem simple, but good customer service is often challenging and never easy. However, when you do it right, you’ve positioned your company on the path to success, and new opportunities will present themselves every day. As Benjamin Franklin once accurately noted, “Well done is better than well said.”

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