By Joe Musgrave of Presstek October 2, 2006 -- In my last column, we talked about the importance of establishing a formal customer service strategy that can deliver consistent, repetitive business results for you and your customers. We talked about the importance of understanding customer requirements, including direct interaction with not only purchasing and procurement, but other departments in the organization, such as marketing, that are the ultimate beneficiaries of the print you manufacture. Then, based on what you learn, we discussed establishing a value-added product/service portfolio that directly addresses those requirements with appropriate investments in technology. And finally, the success of any good customer service strategy is highly dependent on how you sell and market your new capabilities to your customers. This month, I am pleased to share with you some customer stories that demonstrate how companies have taken this advice to heart, ending up with not only happy and loyal customers, but improved revenue and profit performance as well. NeFra Communication Center We have built a colorful, dynamic, comfortable environment that makes our clients part of the business." Neil and Frances Courtright founded NeFra Communication Center ten years ago in York, Pennsylvania, with a vision of being different from other small commercial and quick printers. Neil says, "From Day One, we wanted to provide a total solution for our customers. We are on a busy street in a retail environment, and our customers come to us for their business and personal communications needs. We have always tried to be as current in technology as possible so we could do the best possible job of meeting those customer needs." Frances adds, "To create an environment where you can be creative, your surroundings should be creative as well. We don't just go in the back to print beautiful pieces. We have built a colorful, dynamic, comfortable environment that makes our clients part of the business." Like many printing businesses in today's fast-paced world, NeFra was facing an increased demand for four-color printing with shorter run lengths, tighter timeframes and higher quality requirements than ever before. In order to meet these needs, NeFra replaced a conventional four-color offset press with a DirectPress 5334 DI digital offset press, and customer response has been very positive. Especially for NeFra's retail customers, the press has brought an entirely new level of customer service to the mix. The Courtrights recounted a recent rush job brought in by a design agency--3,000 4/4 rack cards to be produced on 12-point stock: "The customer brought the file in at 10:00 AM on a Wednesday and was willing to pay extra to have us produce 500 the same day on our digital toner-based press with the balance being delivered on Monday. Instead, we had the entire job proofed and printed by 12:30. With drying time, plating and getting up to color on conventional offset, the fastest turnaround we probably could have delivered in the past is two days, and the customer would have incurred the extra cost of the small toner-based run. Needless to say, the customer was delighted with the quality off of the press and amazed at the speed with which we could deliver the job. This is the type of service we pride ourselves on being able to deliver, and the DI press makes it easier than ever before." Kwik Kopy, Scottsdale AZ Tony and Ruby Cordova bought an existing Kwik Kopy Printing Center in Scottsdale, Arizona, five years ago and have nearly doubled the size of the business since then by focusing on exceptional customer service and staying current with technology. Tony Cordova says, "I knew I needed to purchase certain types of equipment to ensure that our business would continue to grow, and a metal CTP solution was one of those. We were feeling a significant amount of competitive pressure to stay current with technology, with ten printing companies in addition to our own located in our immediate vicinity." After significant research, including discussions with customers, the Cordovas installed a chemistry-free Vector TX52 platemaker to replace three different chemistry-based platemaking systems the company was using. With the new system in place, the Cordovas now run a virtually chemistry-free operation, with the only chemicals being one fountain solution, one roller wash and one press wash for the presses. Tony Cordova says, "Now instead of plate chemistry, we are using a water rinse; and the plates are 100 percent recyclable. It doesn't get any better than that from a green perspective. Being this environmentally friendly has also helped us with customers. One of our largest customers is very environmentally sensitive and we are already using soy inks and recycled papers for their work. They are delighted that we have added the device to the mix." Sir Speedy, Asheville NC One of our largest customers is very environmentally sensitive and they are delighted that we have added a DI device to the mix. Gary and Alma Forbes have been operating the Sir Speedy Franchise in Asheville, North Carolina, for 14 years, and have seen many changes in their business. Starting out with conventional one- and two-color offset printing and black & white copying, the pair has evolved its shop to stay current with the market, and has not shied away from investing in new technologies. The Forbes' customers were looking for more four-color printing in shorter runs. After acquiring an HP-Indigo digital press and a Konica Minolta BizHub Pro to address these needs, the Forbes' still found a gap in their production capability in the 2,500 to 10,000 range. By addressing that gap, they believed they would be able to address a significant unmet need in their customer base, thereby improving customer satisfaction and loyalty. The Forbes' acquired a DirectPress 5634 DI digital offset press to address this gap. As luck would have it, the Forbes' largest customer was in the process of switching all of its stationery from two-color to four-color process about the time they were purchasing their new DI press. Gary Forbes says, "While I had been producing some brochures and the business stationery products for this customer, I would have lost that business with their move to process color. The timing was great. We are now running all of that work--and more--on the DI." Forbes has also been able to pursue a wide range of new business. He says, "When we acquired the Indigo, we had begun selling to marketing and design companies. We were getting a significant amount of the work early in the development process for a piece, when run lengths were low. But we were not able to produce the final runs. Now, with the DirectPress, we are getting both the smaller proof runs and the longer final runs of 5,000 to 10,000. The word is spreading, and we are now getting RFQs from people who wouldn't even consider us before." Gearing Up for Better Customer Service These are just three examples among many where enterprising print service providers have closely examined customer needs, augmented their product/service portfolio to address unmet needs, and ensured an effective sales and marketing strategy with existing and potential customers to let them know how these new capabilities can help. The Forbes' are preparing a postcard mailing as well as actively calling and personally visiting inactive accounts. The Cordovas have doubled their business in a few short years by paying attention to both customer needs and staying current with technology--in their case, environmentally friendly technology--to expand presence within existing accounts as well as attract new ones. And the Courtrights, who rely on a significant amount of walk-in business from designers and other creatives, have built a fun and inviting, yet technologically advantaged, environment that draws its designer customers in over and over again. Development of a formal customer service plan need not be a lifelong endeavor. But it does require careful thought and extensive discussions with customers. These three companies have made that happen. And so can you. Joe can be contacted via e-mail at [email protected]