Don’t Try and Train Your Customers.

My customers won’t send me print-ready PDFs.

My customers won’t use our web-to-print system.

My customers refuse to use our FTP site.

My customers won’t use our proofing software.

Sound familiar?

Your customers don’t work for you, they have full time jobs, and for most people interacting with suppliers is a small part of what they have to do accomplish day. Utilizing your systems, the way you want them to isn’t ever going to be their top priority. Do you want to increase the chances of your customers NOT adopting your systems? Introduce your solution with an opportunity to train you customers how to use them! That will for sure seal the deal, no chance. 

Customers don’t want to be trained, customers want you to make their lives easier, make them look good to their bosses, increase their chances of a promotion or sometimes just to keep their current employment. Sitting through a training on how to interact with your business doesn’t do anything for the customer, except keep them for working on things that are important to them.

Don’t assume the following: “if my customers simply had more knowledge about X, their behavior would change.” Knowledge doesn’t guarantee behavior change. For behavior to change, your customer has to understand “what’s in it for them” in a very simple and straightforward fashion. This means you have to step out of your perspective and step into the perspective of the customer. This is very hard for people. This is really hard for people who are on the receiving end of customer’s files, customer’s mistakes, customers failing to “get it” time and time again.

Changing customer behavior isn’t about training, it’s about selling. You have to sell the customer on a new behavior based on one thing, “how does this make my life easier, better, more efficient, cost less, etc.” Basically you have sell the customer based on what’s in it for them. If there is even a whiff of how it’s better for YOU (the printer), the customer will get skittish and feel like you’re asking them to do more work to make your life easier.

Changing customer behavior is a sales activity, don’t delegate it to your technical team who are naturally not so good at sales. Behavior change is emotional, not factual. Technical people hate that; they want customers to respond logically like computers do. 

The best time to change behavior is to eliminate the need for changing behavior in the first place. Have you ever heard of the phrase, “if you’re in a hole, stop digging?” We work with a lot of printers who are trying to optimize their workflows with their existing customers. While they are putting all this effort into optimization, they bring new customers in and fail to establish the desired behavior from the very beginning, hence they are simply lining up more and more customers to be resistant to change in the future.

Web-to-print is such a great example of this, you should have a clear evaluation of what customers/job types your web-to-print solution is optimal for and when new customers show up, get them on it right from the beginning. Present it like its “how you work” not a choice but the default. We are too insecure in our sales process, simply giving in to every whim of the customer even if it means the relationship will be less effective for both parties. 

Your sales team is constantly trying to find ways to make the customer’s lives easier. If you want to practice on your sales pitch to your customers, try and sell your sales team first. Your sales team has to believe in the idea, if they don’t they will make you out to be the bad guy and they will happily take on the good guy role with the customer. For example, I listened to a very talented pre-press and workflow resource at a printer describe in great detail to a customer how to prepare their files as print-ready PDFs and then how to upload them into their proofing system. The pre-press resource left the room and the sales representative said, “you can just send us native files via e-mail.” URG.

Don’t train, sell. If you have customer facing technology solutions that require training, they have missed the mark. The iPhone comes without a user manual and it might be the most complicated device the general public has ever used. Why did it achieve such wide spread adoption? It is easy to use. Your customer facing solutions have to be 10x easier to use than the systems you use behind the curtains. Most web-to-print solutions fail to understand the importance of the customer facing UI on adoption because they are selling to printers.

Don’t train customers, sell them on how behavior changes are good for them.