How to Stop Losing Customers in Your In-plant
There are some surprising reasons a printing business (or an in-plant) might lose a client. If you’ve been around the printing industry for any time, you know all about the common yet fatal customer service problems such as missed deadlines, printing errors or finishing mistakes.
However, recent research from Pitney Bowes details some reasons that might sneak up on you. Aside from poor customer service, the next most cited reason for switching a supplier is poor communication. In a survey of 1000 business managers around the world, 14.8% switched their Print Services provider within the past 12 months.
Their reasons might be surprising, especially for printers who focus on the popular customer service issues:
- In the USA 28.9% say their reason for switching is that the supplier is “Not in touch”
- 23.3% switched because they’re “not told about updates and developments”
- 25.4% switched because they “don’t ask about customers' needs”
To put it simply, if you don’t talk to your customers, you will lose a significant percentage of them this year. That’s a fact.
The nice management name for this is customer churn, turnover or attrition. As a small business owner, those mild-mannered names bother me because it disguises the severity of the problem. In a sense, it makes it seem acceptable.
Let’s think about this. The purpose of making the sale is to get a customer and to keep that customer for the lifetime of the business. So when we talk about customer churn, we are really talking about a process that works at complete odds with our reason for being in business. That makes it a critical, life-threatening business issue and being somewhat ornery, I call it what it is, losing customers.
It’s generally accepted that the cost of retaining customers is far less than the cost of acquiring customers, hence the need to motivate them to stick around. According to the Pitney Bowes research, even if you lose zero customers to customer service or production problems, you still need to focus on communications or your customer base will erode month by month. It’s my experience that most printers focus on the customer service problems in order to prevent the loss of customers while ignoring the communication issues.
So how, exactly, are we supposed to talk to our customers, to have good communication? Certainly there is no excuse not to communicate with your clients when you consider the media and technology available today. Ideally you should use as many media as possible to communicate with your clients as part of an overall marketing strategy. Clients each have their own unique preferences for communication.
Believe it or not, one of the most powerful resources available to printers is one that I rarely see used in their communications. Ironically (and sadly) it’s the power of print itself that is missing.
Here’s a startling fact to illustrate my point. Our business, Technifold USA, is a supplier to the printing industry. We have more than 18,000 printers in our database, with several thousand of them as customers. I don’t get a single printed newsletter from any of them to communicate with us as a customer or as a potential customer.
Yes, we get some emails, some info kits, occasional postcards and other mailings. But not one printed newsletter reaches my desk!
Heck, I get printed newsletters from CPA’s (we hired one of the fellows that sent a printed version), from my chiropractor (I spend money there year in, year out,) from my church, (regular contributions there too) and from trade associations we belong to (annual dues and sponsorship of numerous events). I think you get the picture, printed communication = money.
One of the key findings in the study is that “Businesses find it difficult to grow without a stable customer base, but the technology is available to enable firms of all sizes to communicate effectively and retain their customers.”
In addition, printers have three substantial advantages over other small businesses and the retail consumer.
- First, the resources for communicating via print are available to them at wholesale cost.
- Second, the first printers to start sending print newsletters, (the early adapters,) will immediately stand out in the crowded, commoditized printing industry.
- Third, the launch of Newsletter Marketing for Printing Companies makes it possible for printers to commit to sending a print newsletter without having to commit more than a few minutes a month in prep time.
Yes, as a printer you should absolutely continue to address those customer service problems that lead to customer retention issues. Yet as the study shows, if you are not communicating regularly with your clients, you will lose as much as 15% or more of your customer base each year. So why wouldn't you use one of the most potent weapons you have, which is the power of print itself.
When he’s not busy helping printers become more profitable with unique bindery equipment accessories, Andre Palko writes on the subject of print finishing at the Bindery Success™ Blog. A print industry veteran of 30+ years as well as founder and President of Technifold USA, Inc., his articles are regularly featured in many print and online trade publications. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.