Enhancing the Customer Connection—Part 1


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Enhancing the Customer Connection—Part 1
Customer Experiences that Build a Competitive Advantage

By Noel Ward, Editor@Large

The pandemic has done at least a couple of things to the print business. First, it has influenced demand, in some cases reducing use of print, while in other instances demand has held steady or even grown. Second, and perhaps most importantly, the pandemic has forced organizations to rethink how they engage and communicate with customers and prospects. Savvy print providers can take advantage of changes in demand by meeting and even exceeding customer expectations.

These were just two findings from the 2021 market research done by NAPCO Research on behalf of Canon USA. The study reached out to 193 commercial printers, 80 in-plant managers and 211 communications buyers to measure job submission and production trends across the print supply chain. The research spanned five topics areas with this first story capturing the findings that encompass ways of delivering customer experiences that can build competitive advantages. I was not involved with the study but have been given advance and exclusive access to the data and want to share some key findings. You can download the first of the five reports here Print Planet | Canon White Paper Signup - Optimizing Color. The reports will provide a compelling view of our evolving market and as you evaluate the data, think about how you can make changes in your business to take advantage of changes in customer expectations and stay ahead of your competitors.

Enhancing Customer Connections
Customers want providers to provide smooth on-boarding, easy order submission, offer continuous communications and solid job management, from submission through delivery. Security and services that add value to the job and relationship have come to be expected, all empowered by ongoing investments in continuous improvements that support the customer. This is backed up by findings in NAPCO Research’s 2019 Digital Printing 5.0 research series, also sponsored by Canon U.S.A., which showed more than half of print providers reporting that a key force impacting profitability is competitive pressures to lower pricing. As has been often observed, many printers seem to relish a race to the bottom over providing an experience that strengthens the printer-customer relationship. Some customers will always buy based on price, but the data show that price is often only one factor in the purchase decision. Applying the findings of this research to your business can enhance customer experiences, increase customer utilization of web-to-print ordering, guide investments, and improve marketing efforts.

Create Great Experiences!
Creating great customer experiences starts with identifying what customers deem important so they keep coming back. In broad terms, this study showed that over half of communication buyers said better management and visibility of their print orders and costs. Drilling deeper, nearly three-quarters placed a high value on being able to place print orders at any time while nearly half said real-time access to print job status, cost tracking, and price quotes were valuable to their organizations. In other words, a key path to a great customer experience is keeping them in the loop and removing the fears that come out of the dark at 2 a.m., worrying if the job will be ready to ship at noon the next day.

Tied to this is control, because communications buyers are usually under pressure to reduce costs and maximize return on investments. Back when I bought a lot of print I was fortunate to have stellar print providers but always wished I had more control over the process. Today, with always-on connections between customers and print providers there is no excuse for not keeping customers looped into every aspect of every job. Doing so is another way of creating a great customer experience.

While customers are worrying about production deadlines and price quotes, they are also thinking about print quality, color consistency and color matching. Here is where tools I’ve written about previously come in, like G7, which can help in ensuring accurate color across documents.

Make job submission easy
Nearly three quarters of respondents want multiple job submission options that make it easy to submit a job from anywhere at any time. This means being able to pull a job down from the cloud while binge watching a TV show and sending it to your web-to-print server at midnight. Or sending it to your Dropbox. Or attaching it to an email (even though this is not very efficient). And they want to do this from home, a restaurant or a bar, because the CX—the customer experience—is all about the process being easy for them. You can find out your customers’ job submission preferences and offer a full range of options, or just offer a full range of options and integrate them into your digital storefront. Customers will very likely use more than one method of job submission so making it easy to do business with you is critical to securing their business. And their repeat business.

Related to this is the need to provide easy-to-follow instructions that make whatever options customers may choose as easy as possible. The report noted that print providers also need to educate customers on how these solutions add value and efficiency. Efforts to help on-board customers to your online web ordering platform should help address these needs. Online written step-by-step instructions are often sufficient, but webinars or pre-recorded presentations or videos can also work well. Remember, many customers may not be familiar with remote job submission so it is your job, as the print provider, to guide them through the process. Such personalized hand-holding adds value and shows that you care and want their business.

What remote job submission doesn’t eliminate is errors in the files themselves—a challenge to print providers for many years. The study indicated that about three quarters of print providers are supplying customers with tools and support to improve file preparation and job submission. While more than a quarter of print providers report are taking no direct educational actions many are still supporting customers in improving file preparation by auditing customers’ job files, providing preflight check lists, supplying printed guides, and hosting educational sessions.

Then there’s security
Data security is of key importance, with more than half of respondents noting that security certifications and processes are essential aspects of selecting a print provider. For instance, commercial printers reported that a third of customers are requiring protocols involving data storage as well as security compliances and certifications such as HIPAA, ISO, GDPR, and PCI as well as systems and processes that protect personal identification data, along with IT reviews/audits of cloud-based solutions and file storage. This need is only going to become greater as intrusions and breaches grow.

Automatic automation
For nearly half of all print providers, automation is the single most important element in keeping a print provider operating in the black. This is actually not news and is corroborated by respondents to the 2019 NAPCO Research Digital Printing 5.0 study who said double-digit sales growth incorporated higher levels of automation. In that research, in-plants also reported major efficiency gains due to workflow investments, citing improved productivity, decreased turnaround times, and increased customer satisfaction.

In brief, automation can help improve customer experiences while helping meet demands for quality, faster turnaround, color consistency, and real-time job status visibility/connectivity. It all begins with online customer job submission because this feeds the rest of the process.

Are you on board with this?
As this research indicates, print providers that are easy to work with from job quoting and submission through security features, status reports, and completion are more likely to have a solid foundation on which to build a solid customer relationship. There are many opportunities for print providers to help communication buyers improve job submission methods while improving their operation’s workflow and automation.

Print providers that offer job submission tools, support and education about file preparation, preflight check lists, and other print guidelines provide the type of support that encourages communication buyers rely on, and that help build stronger relationships. This is especially important as price competition continues to be an ongoing threat. Print providers that research and invest in ways to enhance customer connections can build strong, resilient relationships that are resistant to competition.

Stay tuned for the next steps in the process: The Job Submission Challenge: On-boarding Your Customers.


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