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Why great customer service doesn’t win new print clients…but how it’s the key to building more business

As a print buyer, I was very popular with print sales people

I used to buy a LOT of print. As a result there were many printing companies that were extremely keen to become one of my suppliers. In fact, over my buying career, I have calculated that over 1,400 printing companies tried to sell their services to me.

Many of these companies used very similar sales messages. The majority of them led on the fact that they would give me two things: excellent quality print and an extremely high standard of customer service.

This sort of sales approach leads to two problems:

Problem 1

Firstly, buyers aren’t impressed because they expect good quality and a high level of customer service as standard from any printing company.

Problem 2

Worse than that, this approach actually leads buyers to choose on price. If all printing companies sound the same, buyers simply choose the cheapest.


If you want to attract buyers, you need something that will make you stand out from other printers, you need to develop a worthwhile point of difference. We’ll cover how to do this in another blog article. Right now, let’s go back to customer service.

Why should customer service matter so much to printers if it doesn’t win new clients?

Here are some statistics that we should make sure we remember:

  • According to BusinessBrief.com the average company will lose 14% of its customers every year
  • According to Google, the main reason for losing customers is that they think you don’t care about them enough. That’s the reason that 68% of customers give for leaving a supplier
  • The UK customer satisfaction index surveyed clients who scored their suppliers a whopping 8-8.9 out of 10. Even among these high scoring customers only 66% classed themselves as loyal clients

Clearly, if you want to keep your clients, the highest standards of customer service are essential. But how do we achieve this?

Customer Service Failures for Print Providers

Here are three big customer service fails for print providers:

Failure #1: The first of these is prompt quoting. Buyers expect to receive their print prices quickly as a matter of course. And, unless you have an instant pricing system (like SinaLite does), your top speed is rarely quick enough to satisfy an impatient buyer.

Failure #2: The next fail is on-time delivery. Buyers do not appreciate the complexities of the printing process. They don’t care about all the processes that you have to go through to create your product. They expect their delivery to be on time, every time. Many buyers won’t appreciate an early delivery either: that often messes up their logistics chain.

Failure #3: The final fail is pointing out errors. Again, this is something that buyers expect. It doesn’t matter if they are creating the PDF and that errors are their responsibility. They still expect you to spot their mistakes.

Naturally, it is important that you do provide swift quotes, deliver on time and spot errors. Otherwise you are likely to lose rather more than the average of 14% of your customers! But these don’t create the outstanding customer service experience that it is so important to deliver.

So how do you create outstanding customer service? How do you make sure that your customers want to give you more and more business because they like dealing with you so much?

Making Your Customer Service Stand Out

Here are three ways to make your customer service really stand out:

1. Ask Why

Firstly, when a customer requests a quote, ask “Why?”. Take a little time to make sure that the client really is asking for what they need. If they ask for a brochure, what will they use it for? If it is to be mailed, could they benefit from a lighter paper weight? And if it is for a prestigious product, should they be specifying a varnish or other finish to make the cover stand out? Many printing companies simply expect the customer to know what they want. They just provide a price for a supplied specification. Having the “Why” dialogue really does make a difference and will make you stand out.

2. Say Thanks

Next, send your customer a handwritten note to say thank you for the business. In this age of automation, the personal touch will be appreciated. It’s a very powerful way to say you care. Create your own, personal thank you card. It’s a great way to promote other print finishes to customers. You may also find that they want to copy your idea and order thank you cards from you. You don’t have to send a card for every job. But, when you do, make sure it is handwritten. You could also consider sending a small gift such as a promotional item or some candy.

3. Keep in Touch

Finally, make sure you keep in touch with your customers regularly. A powerful way to do this is not to call them to sell to them but to call them for feedback. Ask your customers what you could do better. They will appreciate you doing this. In addition, you may expose hidden issues. Many customers do not raise minor problems. They simply put up with them. But these issues can be the tipping point that makes them change supplier. You might want to consider asking outside your organisation to make these calls: some customers are more open with callers that they do not know.

Taking Action

It’s time to take action.

Step 1: Take five minutes to write down what you can do to make your customer service better. (Make sure you do actually write this down: research shows that people are much more likely to carry out written targets.)

Step 2: Set down a quick action plan on how you will implement this.

Step 3: Create a deadline for when you will first carry this activity out.

Remember, shouting about your customer service is unlikely to win you new customers. However, it is the key to retaining and growing your existing customers.

P.S. On Printer Success, we are committed to sharing best practice for print providers. Please add any tips you have for creating great customer service in the comments section below.

Matthew Parker

Matthew Parker

Matthew Parker is a poacher turned gamekeeper. He used to be a buyer and, over his career, he was sold to by over 1,400 printing companies. Now he helps companies that sell print engage more effectively with today’s buyers

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