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Industry suppliers must do better, say customers in PrintCity survey

Press release from the issuing company

Customers in the graphic arts industry say their suppliers need to improve communication skills, technical support and specialist technical knowledge, according to the responses to PrintCity’s worldwide survey into supplier/customer relationships. The results send out a clear message to industry suppliers: sharpen up, or pay the price. The onus is therefore on industry suppliers to look at how they interact with customers, to see where improvements can be made in communication and service, and to see where competitive advantage might still be gained. The survey asked whether customers felt their suppliers initiated enough constructive dialogue with them. Seventy per cent of the respondents who stated an opinion felt there was room for improvement, with only 25% stating “yes, definitely”. Smaller companies (up to 20 staff) and postpress houses were the least impressed with their suppliers’ levels of dialogue, with only 16% and 18% respectively stating “yes”. It also asked whether respondents felt suppliers were good at listening to their problems and dealing with them. Only 5% said suppliers were “very effective” at this, 39% “quite effective”, and 34% said either “inefficient” or “very inefficient”. Again, smaller companies were the least complimentary towards their suppliers in this regard. Asked in what ways suppliers could most help their business succeed, and what areas of service most needed improvement, 32% and 25% respectively named technical support, with integration of products and information on market trends also registering many votes. On the subject of the level of specialist technical knowledge amongst suppliers, only 2% said it was “excellent”, 45% “generally good”, and 28% “adequate”, leaving one in 10 to state that the technical knowledge was either “generally not good” or “poor”. The pattern of smaller companies being less impressed than bigger companies was repeated in this aspect. PrintCity asked if the customers felt the service was better than 10 years ago. Thirty per cent disagreed, while 42% felt service had improved. And there was a sting in the tail for the trade press also. While 85% of respondents said they read trade magazines at least some of the time, one in three said these were “only a little effective” at keeping them up to date, with 53% saying trade magazines were “quite effective”. The survey was carried out in hard copy form and online in five European languages. It drew participation from more than 2,000 people, with respondents from as far afield as China, Japan, Nigeria, and the USA. Results will be circulated within PrintCity member companies for their own internal evaluation. Rainer Kuhn, Managing Director of PrintCity, said the results were a wake-up call for many graphic arts industry suppliers. He added: “Suppliers that ignore these findings do so at their peril. Our own dialogue with customers led us to believe that there was a great deal of room for improvement from the suppliers’ side – and the survey has only strengthened that conviction. The customers have spoken, now the suppliers must take a long, hard look at themselves. PrintCity members are committed to improving the productivity and profitability of customers.” Other survey findings were: • 90% of respondents said User Groups were useful • 46% of Sheetfed printers said suppliers were inefficient or very inefficient at listening to problems and dealing with them • 41% of those who said that one sector offered a better service than all others picked prepress ahead of paper/consumables, press, postpress, dealers and ancillary • 57% of respondents said the proportion of their work printed on digital presses will increase over the next five years • More colour (23%), shorter run lengths (18%) and digital printing (16%) were areas where customers are expecting the biggest shifts in customer demand • 34% said that the issue of adverse economic conditions was the one most negatively affecting the industry, followed by over-capacity (20%)