A relationship between you and your Web2Print customer is just like a marriage. No, really – stay with me, here.
There’s give and take. You have to be honest with your customers about what you can provide and what’s impossible; sometimes you have to have difficult conversations with people who may not like what they may hear. You have to be patient, giving, tolerant and receptive.
But at the end of the day, you and your customer can both agree: it is definitely well worth it.
I’m making no claims about saving your marriage, but I can help you apply what I’ve learnt from mine, to managing customer relationships – and who knows? Perhaps your spouse will gain a little benefit from it, along the way… Your customers definitely will!
The whole point of Web2Print, from a customer’s point of view, is the ability to place a work order as and when they please. The independence that comes with being able to do this is a giant hook for your end users.
After all, your customers may use multiple printers, depending on the sorts of jobs they normally place – but usually, they will only have one Web2Print solution.
You are solidifying a relationship between two businesses, by offering this solution. This may go against how they are used to doing things – after all, for your clients, this is a change to their actual business processes – so be patient while you encourage them round to your way of thinking. No one likes to take huge steps. You never know when you’ll trip up!
2. Listening and Communication
Know your customer’s language.
Are they lawyers? Probably best to be concise and clear when communicating with them. Are your customers in the financial services industry? Might be time to pick up golf…
Regardless, if you know your customers and what they like, it will be a lot easier to get them on your side. Large print contracts will only be offered to businesses that are trusted, so if your customers don’t feel comfortable talking with you, this is unlikely to happen.
Listen to them – really listen and hear where their pain points are. If you can address these directly and in few words, then you are likely to close that deal.
Always be aware that this can be a daunting undertaking for your end users and therefore the turnaround for signing a new client on to a Web2Print platform can be longer than it usually would, compared to simply receiving a print job.
Either way, just like in every marriage, if you talk down to your spouse or your customers and simply do not communicate in the same way that they do, both of you will be in for a nasty time. Remember, communication is only possible among equals so your role as your customer’s liaison is to ensure you are at their level.
3. Laying the Foundation for Trust
How do you convince your potential client that you are the ones to entrust with their precious print jobs?
Where does the value lie, for your customer? Do you understand their business needs, their goals – them?
Ultimately, this is a service you are providing for them, therefore your Service Level Agreements (SLAs) must be clear, with properly-defined commitments. It is also where you can most effectively demonstrate the added value you are providing.
One of the techniques I like to use is to let my customers log into their personalised Web2Print platform, before it’s ready. I like to show them how it all looks, take them on an informal tour and generally show them just how much work we put into customisation and branding for our end users. Think of it along the lines of a backstage tour at a theatre – a place where only the privileged and invited may go. The added benefit here, of course, is the ability to gain early feedback straight from our clients’ mouths which can be funnelled straight into the ongoing back-end tinkering, before we do something wrong. Customisation should definitely be one of the items on your SLA.
Your SLA should clearly outline the level of quality your customer can expect, alongside the reviews and complaints processes they are entitled to use. Make sure they understand that you want their feedback – and use it when it arrives, to improve services – because what affects one customer is likely to affect everyone else who uses your Web2Print platform, too.
Through an SLA, which shows completely transparent and open principles, you can clearly demonstrate your willingness to fulfil your obligations to your customer. Added to that, a proper ticketing system where customers may submit requests and bugs, will convince them that their grievances are meaningful to you – especially when their complaint is acted upon and fixed! Having these provisions at all within your SLA demonstrates your commitment before anything is even signed, so be sure to point them out.
You should also take the time to chart your expectations, too – for instance, as a printer, you expect your customers to properly proof the work they send to you; you expect someone to be there at their location to sign for the order when it’s ready to be delivered to them. All of these expectations, as long as they are reasonable and outlined clearly, should be included in your SLA so your customer understands the expectations placed upon them, just as they place expectations upon you.
If you repeatedly deliver on your word, you will increase the trust between you and your end user. That’s just how people (and marriages) work.
4. Take Responsibility
Own your mistakes. Quality is everyone’s responsibility.
Don’t be one of those businesses that always find an excuse or a reason to fail – find excuses to succeed, find reasons to win, instead! Psychologically, exuding a confident and positive persona will not only convince those around you that you’re solid, it will also work its magic on you, giving you an edge over your competitors and convincing your clients that you are there and ready to take on the responsibility of producing their precious print jobs.
When talking with your customers, propose your Web2Print platform or else your competitors will! The worst that can happen is they won’t be interested, but at least you tried.
Meanwhile, when dealing with existing clients, if errors crop up during printing and they are obviously not client-side, take the responsibility and accept that mistakes sometimes happen. Your client will be impressed with your willingness to correct a mistake, even if the source was out of your hands.
However you chose to deal with errors in a print job, make sure you are always above-board, upfront and honest. Remember what Thomas Jefferson had to say about honesty: it’s the first chapter in the book of wisdom.
5. Never Take Your Customer for Granted
Always be sincere when dealing with your customers.
It has been my experience that the more you try to control your customer, the faster they will flee to your competitors. If you make them feel valued, however, they will return again and again to experience that feeling, once more. For instance, if you have a regular customer and you’re used to hearing from them every three months, anticipate their request and get in touch first. Never be lazy with your customers or how you provide customer service.
Just because the Web2Print platform is self-contained doesn’t mean you can get away with never communicating with your customer! Call them up and find out how they are. Send them a free gift to thank them for their loyalty.
Likewise, always be sincere when dealing with your end users. If you can’t give them what they want, explain why and be genuine in your distress at not being able to fulfil their requirements. Try to find a workaround, instead. Even if you still ultimately fail to deliver, they will remember the work you put in, that you tried. Remember, it’s not just about selling a product – it’s about providing a service for your end user. Don’t just think about your customers in terms of what sales you can extract from them, but also what you can do for them.
Lastly, don’t make things more problematic for your end users! More often than not, printing is not where their expertise lies and therefore they will rely on you for clarification and to help demystify the entire process. If you are experiencing problems, tackle them yourself – you don’t need to drag your customer into it. They are your problems and any interference with the sales cycle shouldn’t be passed down to your end users as though it was their fault, even if it was. You may gain mental-rightness points for hammering home a customer’s mistake to them, but you are certainly less likely to gain that sale or retain that business.
Same with a marriage – if I pointed out the number of times my wife was wrong, I would have to keep a permanent bedroom in the garage. If she was to point out the number of times I have been wrong…! Let’s not keep that thought going – I’d probably be single…
Your relationship with your client is exactly that: a relationship. And what relationship isn’t going to have its ups and downs?