Commentary & Analysis
Do You Train Your Customers?
By John Giles My suggestion was blunt:
By WhatTheyThink Staff
Published: April 19, 2004
By John Giles My suggestion was blunt: Tell your boss that if a printer can't handle PDF files or offer you any information about their digital standards, they should find another printer because that lack of knowledge is going to cost you money. April 19, 2004 -- A printing buyer client recently contacted me with a problem. His boss, because of company politics, had required him to use another printer. The print buyer had been submitting his files as PDF files to his former printer with no problems. The problem was that the new printer told the buyer he didn't work with PDF files and would require the native files. The buyer sent the native files but the printer reported he had problems with those files too. The job was delayed, the price was increased, and the customer wasn't happy with the final product. The print buyer wanted me to find out what arguments I might suggest to get his boss to return to the other printer. The quality problem, the missed deadline and increased price should speak for themselves, but the buyer was worried that was not enough. My suggestion was blunt: Tell your boss that if a printer can't handle PDF files or offer you any information about their digital standards, they should find another printer because that lack of knowledge is going to cost you money. I amazed at the number of printers who don't handle PDF files or, if they handle native files, offer no information about the digital standards the company uses. The number of customers who want to create their own files continues to grow. The number of PDF files coming from customers is increasing. Why aren't more printers proactive with their customers and adapt their businesses to the ways their customers work? Anytime a printing company hasn't tried to educate the customer about the digital standards, there is an opportunity for a competitor to make the buyer think he is paying too much. A veteran printing salesperson offered me his thinking on the subject about dealing with a customer-created file. 'I just take the file and let my prepress department handle it," he said. "I don't think that a customer has to tell me anything about the file. If there are problems, the prepress guys will fix the file and I'll charge the customer for the extra work. I look at it as an AA (author alteration) to the original file." Even though I usually criticize printing companies that will fix a file without telling the customer about it and not charge for the extra time, this other policy could be just as bad because we aren't communicating with the customer. It may not be a bad philosophy if the salesperson has a good relationship with the customer, but the salesperson is leaving himself open to a competitor stealing his customer by planting the idea that the price might be higher because the printer has no digital standards. Could the price of printing be lower if the customer was preparing the file properly? Is the salesperson telling the customer about problems so he can avoid them (and the higher price) next time? Would a little digital knowledge from the salesperson help lower the overall price? Anytime a printing company hasn't tried to educate the customer about the digital standards, there is an opportunity for a competitor to make the buyer think he is paying too much. Training customers isn't that difficult. Printed material on the proper ways to prepare files can be created and given to the customer. The same information can be posted on the company's web site for easy access. The sales staff can be trained to ask the proper questions and answer the frequently asked questions about digital file preparation. Several printers are offering regularly scheduled training seminars for customers where they review the digital standards and answer specific questions about creating files. Some have gone as far as to use online web-based (webinars) training sources to reach customers. As a consultant to printing buyers, my advice is to avoid printers who have no digital standards. They are probably charging you more to fix the files instead of telling you what is wrong with them. As a printing salesperson, I would be pointing out the differences between someone who wants to help the customer create the best possible file and the printer who wants to keep the process secret. It's a new world out there and printing sales people need to add a few more tools to their bag of tricks. The most important tool today is the digital knowledge the customer needs to properly prepare a file. If the salesperson doesn't have the knowledge to offer, the customer will get it--from a competitor.