Many print businesses have been forced to contract during the global pandemic. Depending on the market segments you serve, that contraction might have been extreme or incremental. Either way, you have been asked to modify your print business in response to an unplanned and unexpected event.

This is hard, it continues to be hard, and it looks like it’s going to be with us for some time to come.

It is also an opportunity. I have heard more than one print business owner tell me they are using this time to make massive changes in their print business, changes that have been met with strong resistance in the past. During a crisis, there is a natural opening to accepting change because it’s required—and not changing could mean the end of your employment or your business.

How many print business owners have been struggling with the adoption of print software technology for years and now have everyone relying on their Print MIS because they are working from home and can no longer track paper job tickets physically throughout the plant? How many are investing in online ordering because it’s available to their customers 24/7 from the comfort of their home offices?

Use this opportunity to make the changes that under normal circumstances would be met with lots of resistance to change in the form of “but this is how we’ve always done it.” Do you see how silly that statement sounds in the face of a global pandemic? It’s not a very strong position to hold. We haven’t faced a pandemic in our lifetimes so doing things differently now is pretty much expected.

Print businesses who come out the other end of COVID-19 will need to be leaner and, yes, that does equate to less people in front of production. I have been saying this for years on every trade show floor I walked on; observing so many printers looking to shave off minutes from printing and finishing when they have days being wasted in front of the press. The carpeted area of your business (thank you, Cory Sawtzki, for that phrase) is the place where you have the most inefficiencies. Sending 12 emails per customer order is not a process! Spending 3–5 days from initial inquiry to getting the job on press is not efficient.

The number of touchpoints you have with your customer is not customer service—it's a burden unless you’re adding value on every touchpoint. The majority of touchpoints with your customers are administrative and inefficient. That inefficiency takes its toll on your customers and your customer service team. How many printers track the number of touches with their customers? How many printers track the number of days/hours between the initial inquiry from the customer to getting the customer’s job on press? Too few.

When the contraction of COVID-19 is over and you’re rebuilding your print business, look at the carpeted area of your business in terms of real metrics that you can measure and improve upon. Creating efficiencies is not only to lessen labor costs but to deploy labor in a more fulfilling and strategic fashion. When customer service representatives are actually looking for ways to help your customers grow their business and not simply staffing inboxes of unorganized administrative tasks your business and your customer loyalty will improve. Many printers think deploying self-service tools reduces the customer service value; nothing could be further from the truth. Self-service makes your business easier to do business with and frees up your customer service agents for performing true “customer service” in the form of expanding the business your existing customers do with you today.