Advice from Roland — worth checking their blog

The thumbnail version:

  • Roland often offers useful advice for more productive use of your equipment

The full version:

From time to time I remind you to check your suppliers’ websites, not only for the latest news on new technology, but also for tips and advice on getting better productivity out of your existing technology. Roland is one of the sites you should visit regularly.

A recent Roland post addresses step-and-repeat:  “With the popularity of printed patterns for applications like heat transfer vinyl, wall coverings, and wall graphics, it’s a great time to revisit an old favorite – “Step and Repeat.” The effect is taking a single pattern or design and repeating it in a pattern without having to design at full size. Think wallpaper, background logos on a banner creating a watermark effect, or even patterned vehicle wraps.”

The post then includes a detailed step-by-step guide to using the step-and-repeat feature.

This is just one example how an investment of a few minutes could save you hours, and hence, dollars.

Novelty items printed on Roland BT-12

The thumbprint version:

  • Roland D2G for printing novelty fabric items

The full version:

Last October your read here about Roland’s direct-to-garment digital printer, the BT-12. One purpose of the post was to point out that graphics and sign shops were diversifying into fabrics as an additional income stream. Well in a recent post Roland shared some great ideas for items that can be printed by the BT-12.

Among a number of different fabric bags being suggested, the one that caught my eye was a wine bag. I agree with Roland that wine bags present a number of online and direct sales possibilities. They’d be good for personalized items for weddings and other such events, for liquor stores, for wine suppliers, for vineyards, and probably a dozen other ideas if one put some creative thought into it.

If you’re looking for an additional income stream for your shop, a BT-12 would be worth considering. Give Rob or Graham at Stanley’s a call.

 

An industry survey looking for your knowledge (there may be a $100 Amazon gift card in it for you)

The thumbnail version:

  • Share your knowledge of the self-adhesive graphic film market

The full version:

Sign Industry Canada’s website has a link to a survey. They want to hear your opinion of the the self-adhesive graphic film market. They offer the assurance that your responses will be collected anonymously and will only be used for this research.

You may want to consider participating as a contribution to the industry after you’ve satisfied yourself that you’ll have access to the results of the survey—that’s the least you can expect. The possibility of winning a $100 Amazon gift card is nice but shouldn’t be the reason for participating; making a contribution to the betterment of your industry should be the incentive.

A creative OOH campaign

The thumbnail version:

  • A creative OOH campaign can spark other ideas

The full version:

Apparently 58 percent of food produced in Canada ends up being thrown away. Yes, I know . . . disturbing and disgusting! Well, according to an article in Sign Media Canada, Hellman’s Canada has decided to draw attention to this with a pilot project in Peterborough, Ontario.

They’ve undertaken an out-of-home campaign by placing messages on the sides of half of the City’s garbage trucks “suggesting these trucks are Canada’s most popular food truck as it carries away the food that is thrown away by Canadian households to landfills.” A great idea and a clever campaign. But from our perspective, that’s just half the story.

The other half of the story is that the campaign demonstrates a degree of creativity that should arouse the interest of anyone with a creative role in the graphics industry. This is how great ideas are born—when one idea give rise to another. And then that new great idea becomes a money-maker for a graphics shop that sells it to a client.

Give it some thinking time. Maybe this will spark an idea in you.

 

A negative mindset is bad for business

The thumbnail version:

  • It’s easy to adopt a negative mindset when things aren’t going well
  • Shifting to positivity helps weather the troubled times

The full version:

It’s not difficult to lapse into a negative mindset when things are not going well. For instance, the current pandemic has been a real drag for some. The problem with negativity is that your mood affects everyone else around you, particularly if you’re the boss. And a ‘down’ worker is not a productive worker.

A better alternative for all concerned is to maintain an upbeat outlook; to put a spring in your step. But let’s not kid ourselves, doing this is as difficult as it is necessary. So here are some tips I read somewhere but unfortunately I don’t remember where in order to give the originator proper credit:

  • Say “yes” to a challenge. Make it work. Find a solution. Figure it out.
  • Know why you’re doing what you’re doing. Know your purpose.
  • Be on top of your work/life balance. You need a break. Downtime changes perspectives and refreshes.
  • Remove negative influences (people and objects).
  • Work for victories in even small things. Victories invigorate.
  • Look for the company of positive people.
  • Fire the negative customers who exhaust and depress you. Actively seek positively-minded customers.
  • If you suspect that you are clinically depressed, seek professional help.

Chin up!

Mentoring

The thumbnail version:

  • SAC’s Mentor of the Year award serves as a reminder
  • Mentoring helps overcome “re-inventing the wheel”

The full version:

A mentor can make all the difference.

I’m a great believer in mentoring. I want to encourage you to be too, either as a mentor or a mentee. An excerpt from my book, Characters Who Can Make or Break Your Small Business, is appropriate here, “In the world of small business, ‘mentor’ describes an experienced and knowledgeable person willing to share his or her knowledge and expertise with a less-experienced and less-knowledgeable business person, the mentee.”

And to round out the picture a bit more, another excerpt from Characters, “The first two qualities a small business mentor must have are obvious: knowledge and experience. They’re so obvious we don’t need to explore them here. The third is not so obvious, but it’s certainly essential.

The third quality stems from a presumption that small business mentoring is free of charge. Those who are experienced must share knowledge with those who are inexperienced. This is how civilization advances. If the sharing can be done without charge, so much the better.”

So, either a mentor or a mentee be (to borrow and mangle an old expression).

2021 BOCSI winners announced

The thumbnail version:

  • The BOCSI winners have been announced
  • Plan to enter next year

The full version:

Every year I urge that you enter your sign shop in Sign Media Canada and the Sign Association of Canada’s Best of Canada’s Sign Industry awards. The exposure would be good for business. Winning would be great for business, and morale, and maybe free beers down at your local.

In addition to the sign company of the year award, the 2021 winners in each of the twelve categories have been announced. There’s a category for every shop, including yours:

  • Out-of-home media
  • Building signage
  • Commercial tenant signs
  • Digital signage
  • Display graphics
  • Fascia signs
  • Free standing signage
  • Illuminated signs
  • Sign systems
  • Vehicle graphics
  • Unique signs

See you in the winners’ list next year?

Promoting your shop

The thumbnail version:

  • An out-of-the-blue email sparks a question
  • What are you doing to promote your store?

The full version:

An email arrived out of the blue in my inbox a few days ago from a sign company I’ve never communicated with. I have no idea how they found my email address. And while I don’t like unsolicited emails, I’m pleased that these guys found me because their email provided an idea for a post for this blog.

That question is this . . . What do you do to promote your shop? I’ve raised this before but this sign company served up a great example of a promotional email. It used Black Friday as the excuse for the promotion by suggesting that they had a variety of signs and banners for creating displays to get your store’s Black Friday message across.

They listed illustrated suggestions that included banners, custom decals, foam core signs, acrylic signs, aluminum signs, wooden signs, and PVC signs.

So what do you do to announce to potential customers what your shop offers? And if you’re not announcing, how do you expect anyone to know?

 

Growing a graphics shop requires hustle (and vehicle wraps)

The thumbnail version:

  • A graphic shop success story
  • Secrets laid bare

The full version:

The Canadian graphics shop that prompted this post is not the point of the post. The point of the post is that explosive growth and bottom-line success can be achieved even in adverse circumstances such as a pandemic.

So, how did this shop do it when most others in the industry were sitting around wringing their hands and wondering when things would return to “normal”? Well, it turns out that it’s about hustle.

As the story goes, in the early stages of the pandemic they laid off staff as incoming business declined. Then, instead of wondering when business would return, they went out and hustled. It paid off. They rounded up business and re-hired the previously laid off staff. So that’s one clue to success in this story. But there is another.

The other clue is that this shop’s success has a lot to do with vehicle wraps which they confirm (and as I have pointed out before) is a growth market. And again, in boasting about their success they were happy to disclose to their competitors (that’s your shop) that it’s all about chrome delete, colour accents, and roof and hood wraps, in loud and bold colours in different vinyl finishes.

So, there you have it. The secrets to growing a successful graphics shop laid bare.

Sadly, a true story about pricing

The thumbnail version:

  • Pricing can make or break your business.

The full version:

Av few posts ago I discussed the importance of pricing. To further reinforce the point, here is a true story (only the names have been changed) told in excerpts from my book, Characters Who Can Make or Break Your Business. It’s about a textile screen shop, but is equally applicable to a sign shop.

To set the scene . . . Greg had resigned from a large shop, Nordic, to start his own operation, taking one of his former boss’s biggest customers with him. This big customer was going to be Greg’s only customer.

“I visited Greg’s new business about a month after he started up. He proudly gave me the grand tour, boasting, ‘It’s so totally cool that I’ve created this happening place.'”

To paraphrase for a moment before returning to the excerpts . . . He was busy, with three or four employees churning out Tees on a big, brand newly-leased automatic press. It sure had all the signs of being, as Greg put it, a “happening place.”

“Greg was very pleased with himself for having ‘stuck it to Nordic.’ When I asked whether he’d managed to negotiate a good price with the customer he said that he’d only had to give them a slightly better price than Nordic was charging.

Consulting an accountant could have prevented this disaster.

I asked whether an accountant had checked the viability of his pricing and he assured me there was no need for that because if Nordic was making a lot of money at those prices, then he would too.

I had not been invited to offer business advice and when I sensed that I might be crossing a line I refrained from sharing my immediate thoughts—You did what? You just assumed that Nordic was making money at that price? You didn’t take into account your own overhead structure and cash flow commitments? You didn’t consider Nordic’s economies of scale? You plunged into this after undercutting Nordic’s already low price and without any understanding of how that price was calculated?”

Jumping ahead to the last excerpt . . . “Six months later we received a package from a firm of trustees in bankruptcy and wrote of Greg’s bad debt . . . ”

I don’t think this pricing story needs any more explanation.

E-commerce business? You must have great graphics.

The thumbnail version:

  • COVID has boosted online business
  • It’s competitive—you have to do it right
  • Sharp, attractive images are essential

The full version:

Online business got a boost from COVID. And now that it is in full flight, online is going to remain a significant part of the future of commerce. This is good news for small businesses, particularly those selling digital (non-physical) products and services such as artwork, e-books, design services, website development etc. (you get the picture). Now technology makes it possible for them to compete with larger businesses on a more level playing field.

Man, that stuff doesn’t look so good . . .

But all of that said, the small businesses still have make sure that they match their larger, better-resourced competitors in confidence-boosting appearance. One way to do this is to have sharp imagery in all online platforms, particularly websites. It’s not an option. Anything less than excellent graphics and imagery is going to cause potential customers to hesitate. It’s just the fickleness of human nature and there is no way around it.

This is not as onerous as it might sound but you will have to make some investments in equipment and photo editing software if you’re not going to hire a photographer.

So why the necessity to address this topic on a blog for a graphics industry? Because even this industry has its share of shops posting sub-standard images online. Don’t let your shop be one of those.

Setting the right price for your products

The thumbnail version:

  • Pricing right can ensure that you survive and thrive
  • BDC has useful material to help you.

The full version:

The Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) publishes a lot of useful material for business owners. I encourage you to sign up to receive their free material by email. One such publication is titled “7 steps to setting the right price for your products or services.” It is full of useful advice on a topic on which most small business owners can use some advice.

Setting the right price — you have homework to do.

I’m always horrified when I hear that a business owner has set prices only according to what the competition charges. You can’t do this because, for one thing, the competition’s cost structure is likely very different from yours and cost is a key element in setting prices.

The BDC article discusses the topic under these seven steps (with examples):

  1. Calculate your direct costs
  2. Calculate your cost of goods sold  (cost of sales)
  3. Calculate your break-even point
  4. Determine your markup
  5. Know what the market will bear
  6. Scan the competition
  7. Revisit your prices regularly

Get the BDC article. Then do your homework.

Join an industry association

The thumbnail version:

  • No sign shop is an island
  • Join an industry association

The full version:

Just after Sign Manufacturing Day is a good time to address this topic again.

No shop should try to exist as an island.

If your shop is not  a member of an industry association you run the risk of being out of touch with developments in the industry. And aside from keeping in touch and being inspired by developments as and when they occur in today’s rapidly-changing environment, there are also of course all kinds of facilities to be enjoyed and contacts to be made.

In Canada, The Sign Association of Canada is a good option. Membership includes a number of resources of benefit to your shop. For instance, one such resource (among others) is Sign Media Canada’s Job Board where employers looking to fill a vacancy or employees looking for a job can meet.

Just as John Donne made the point in his 1624 poem that no man is an island but part of a greater society with which he needs to interact in order to thrive, so it can be said that no sign shop is an island but part of an industry with which it needs to interact in order to thrive.

Join an association.

Focus—a business strategy worth considering

The thumbnail version:

  • Focus is a legitimate business strategy
  • Focus allows you to become the best in your field

The full version:

A week ago I wrote about an interesting article on the Roland blog about a printer who had found a niche market—printed slate plaques. One of the aspects of the article dealt with narrowing the product focus.

Here is what the shop owner said: “The problem is not only selling something but promoting something. If I were to do house signs but also bumper stickers and t-shirts, I’d have to promote each one separately and compete with other companies in a dozen different markets. With our market it’s just ‘house signs’ so we maybe have fifty keywords that we use, we are spending less on advertising, competing with fewer companies, and ours is unique—no one personalizes in the same way we do.”

This might of course change now that what should be secret competitive advantages have been laid bare for all to see, but we’ve dealt with that aspect in the earlier post. The message in this post is that focus is a legitimate business strategy and may be something for you to consider.

 

 

Sign Manufacturing Day — mark it down to participate next year

The thumbnail version:

  • Sign Manufacturing Day is designed to expose the industry to potential employees (and customers)
  • Plan ahead to participate next year.

The full version:

Future employees at Sign Manufacturing Day.

Sign Manufacturing Day is an annual event that exposes shops to students who could potentially consider a career in the industry. This year it was on the 1st of October just ten days ago. The idea is that participating shops give groups of students shop tours. Apparently COVID did not stop some shops, they simply conducted virtual tours.

Now would be a good time to get your shop in on this event for 2022. Not only is participation in anything like this good exposure for your shop but it could give you access to up and coming talent.

Sign Manufacturing Day is organized by the Sign Association of Canada. Contact them and get your shop involved.

Raising questions

The thumbnail version:

  • A report about finding a market niche
  • Also about product focus
  • But it raises questions

The full version:

An article (interview) on the Roland blog today tells the story behind a printer that found a market niche. It also makes a good case for how a small business can do well by narrowing its product focus, in this particular case, to one item—printed slate plaques.

Don’t give away your product and business secrets!

The article by Ben Fellowes is well worth reading from a small business strategy perspective. I’m not going to enlarge on it here because I couldn’t address it properly in a limited post—you should read the full article for the details.

But in addition to the interesting topic, there’s another aspect to the article that’s a bit puzzling. It raises questions . . . Why, if you have found a niche with very little competition, would you brag about it in a magazine article that targets your competitors? And why would you disclose exactly how to make the product and who your target customers are? In short, why would you give away your competitive advantage for the sake of a bit of publicity? Vanity?

I think there’s a lesson to be learnt here. If you build a great product that fills a niche market with no competition, shut up  and milk it for all it’s worth. Don’t invite competition, and definitely don’t tell them how you make and market the product.

Branding opportunities for your customers are business opportunities for you

The thumbnail version:

  • Business opportunities mostly have to be created proactively
  • Promoting an opportunity to your customer can create an opportunity for you.

The full version:

Get the customer excited about window, wall, and floor wrap designs

A recent ad by a major film manufacturer pointed out something you’ve probably seen before on this blog. Showing your customers opportunities they can take advantage of using your products, creates opportunities for you; this is good business sense.

The ad was pointing out that windows, walls, and floors are branding opportunities for your customers that can make them stand out in a memorable way. A lot of organizations pretty much look the same when you walk through their doors; well-chosen wraps can take them from “boring to bold,” as the ad suggests.  It’s hard to argue with that.

But this is not a business opportunity that’s going to fall into your lap. You’ll have to go out and make it happen by showing your customers how they can stand out from the competition with some well-placed wraps on their windows, walls and floors.

Kraken takes down a London bus

The thumbnail version:

  • Some vehicle wraps are a lot more effective than others.
  • The good ones should serve as design inspiration.

The full version:

The Kraken is perhaps the most famous mythical representation of the octopus. It’s a legendary, giant sea monster that is said by some to be more of a squid than an octopus. The legend has apparently been traced to Scandinavian folklore that holds that the Kraken lives in the deep ocean off the coast of Norway  and Greenland and has been known to terrorize sailors.

Well, now it’s terrorizing Londoners as a vehicle wrap. This wrap has to be one of the most extensive and effective ever. The bus actually looks like it is being crushed. Sometimes one sees clever and artistically-appealing vehicle wraps but five minutes later the name of the product or service being promoted has been forgotten—which of course defeats the purpose of spending on the wrap in the first place.

But after seeing this bus, who is going to forget The Kraken Black Spiced Rum?

A bit of technical information was offered by the person that posted this image on LinkedIn: “Using a mix of one-way film on the windows and vehicle wrapping films on the front and sides, a fleet of 5 branded buses were printed and installed within three days leading to one of the most memorable wraps I’ve ever seen.”

Hopefully it will serve to inspire great vehicle wraps here.

You can see more of this project at this link.

The dangerous game of price-cutting

The thumbnail version:

  • Your market may impose pricing pressure
  • Mismanaged price cutting can be a downward spiral

The full version:

Simon Sinek in his book, Start with Why, raises some interesting issues relative to price cutting. Here are some excerpts that should be considered in the context of the market in which your shop operates:

How do I get out of this downward pricing spiral?

“Many companies are reluctant to play the price game, but they do so because they know it is effective. So effective, in fact, that the temptation can sometimes be overwhelming.”

“Playing the price game, however, can come at tremendous cost and can create a significant dilemma for the company.”

“Once buyers get used to paying a lower-than-average price for a product or service, it is very hard to get them to pay more.”

“And the sellers, facing overwhelming pressure to push prices lower in order to compete, find their margins cut slimmer and slimmer. This only drives a need to sell more to compensate. And the quickest way to do that is price again. And so the downward spiral of price addiction kicks in.”

What all of this confirms is that price cutting should only be considered with the big picture in mind. It should never be a spur-of-the-moment knee-jerk reaction to a competitor. That would be playing a dangerous game with no end in sight.

Everyone in the shop is in sales

The thumbnail version:

  • Promoting sales is not the job of just the person with “sales” in his or her title.
  • Sales is a team game.

The full version:

Everyone in the shop is on the sales team

Since the objective of the shop is to make sales, and everyone is there to help further the objective, it follows that everyone is responsible for sales.

This doesn’t mean that Roger who operates the Roland now gets the title “salesman” but Roger needs to know that he doesn’t operate in a vacuum because everything he does has an impact on sales. The quality of his work will influence customers’ future buying decisions. Also, if he gets to talk to a customer about a job, how he conducts himself will matter to the customer and will have an influence on future sales.

The same goes for Bonnie in bookkeeping. If she doesn’t handle customers politely and helpfully, she will have a negative impact on future sales. In fact, if she’s a joy to interact with and makes a good impression on customers, she could have a positive impact on future sales.

Sales aren’t just the business of the the “sales guy.” And to drive this point home, some recognition or reward for everyone based on the sales numbers is a good idea. It says, “We’re all on the sales team and we are rewarded for results.”

Designing pole banners

The thumbnail version:

  • Pole banners can be effective for promoting a message
  • The have to be designed to catch attention

The full version:

If a customer inquires about pole banner designing and printing, you’re obviously going to want them to go away so satisfied that not only will they become return customers but that they will also become-word-of-mouth ambassadors for your shop.

Pole banner designers highlight four key aspects to effective design:

  1. The banner must have a focal point that quickly conveys the message to passers by.
  2. The design and any wording used must flow. Viewer’s eyes should flow from one section to another without stutters.
  3. Colour psychology applies in pole banner design as much as it does in any other banner or sign design. The use of background, base, and accent colours will contribute to visual flow.
  4. The banner must be designed to grab attention; it cannot be ordinary. Attention-grabbing fonts, phrases, and images are key.

An eye-catching pole banner by mrprinter.ca . . .

Caring for vinyl banners

The thumbnail version:

  • Value-added features can consolidate customer relationships
  • Information on proper care of vinyl banners is an example of added value

The full version:

Vinyl banners are said to last between two to twelve years. The vast difference between the two ends of the scale has much to do with proper care. If you make a point of advising customers on the proper care of their just-bought vinyl banner, it will be appreciated as a gesture of goodwill. It’s the kind of value-added element that helps consolidate customer relationships.

Some of your advice for your vinyl banner customer could include:

  • Wrinkles can be made to disappear by about 30 minutes of sun exposure.
  • Banners should be rolled for transport, not folded.
  • Clean banners with a mild solution of soapy water, not with harsh chemicals.
  • Don’t store banners when they are wet or dirty.
  • Banners should be stored in a dry, cool place.

Advice given one-on-one would be good. But why not take it a step further . . . Why not hand over over a well-designed printed pamphlet with, say, installation and care instructions that could also serve as a promotional item. Why not include all your major products?

For example, a tri-fold pamphlet something like this . . .

Prompt responses vs. uninterrupted work

The thumbnail version:

  • Promptly responding to customers is important
  • Uninterrupted work time is also important
  • Balance is important

The full version:

I’ve often urged small business owners, including sign shops, to respond promptly to customers and prospective customers. To a customer or prospective customer (most of whom are impatient nowadays) an unduly delayed response is a prompt to take their business elsewhere.

But that said, there is also the problem of getting work done if you’re constantly interrupted to immediately respond to every phone call or email. This is  a particularly acute problem for one-person shops or shops with staff but where the owner is the only person capable of dealing with most customer inquiries.

These two conflicting demands have to be balanced. There are ways to work out a solution to balance customer impatience with your need for uninterrupted time to get work done. There could be many ways to do this in a manner that suits your shop’s circumstances; here are just a few to consider:

  • Using a phone-answering service and setting times at certain intervals during the day to collect and return calls.
  • An out-of-office message on your email that assures the other party that you will respond within “x” hours (and “x” shouldn’t be more than a few hours).
  • Using the time between scheduled customer responses to concentrate on getting work done.

Customers will generally accept a promised response within a reasonable time and you’ll have stretches of uninterrupted work—something that’s essential if you are to be productive.

The shop-diversification trend continues

The thumbnail version:

  • Competition is the challenge
  • Diversification looks like an answer

The full version:

Diversification is still trending . . .

This is not the first time you’d have seen this topic raised here. And it likely won’t be the last because a lot of industry writing (magazine articles and blogs) repeatedly refers to what seems to be a trend.

The signs have been there for some time and if you don’t pay any attention to the diversification trend you may be sabotaging the future of your shop.

As Lisa Cross, Eve Padula, and Steve Urmano point out in their article, “New Avenues for Revenue Surfacing for Graphics Providers”, in Sign Media Canada’s magazine, “Increased competition has many firms looking to offer new products and services to bolster business from current customers while also attracting new ones, according to an ISA report.”

You have homework to do!

Sign industry trends that should not be ignored

The thumbnail version:

  • Feedback from the industry can be very useful
  • This kind of information can influence your planning

The full version:

Survey results can teach us a lot about the industry.

Sign Media Canada reported on a Keypoint Intelligence—InfoTrends survey of over 300 companies in the sign industry. Some of the results are worth taking note of if you’re interested in where the industry is right now and where it is headed.

For instance, how does your experience square with these answers:

  Is wide printing format increasing for your shop?:

  • Yes: 69%
  • Staying the same: 28%
  • Decreasing: 3%

What do you regard as your highly profitable applications?:

  • Banners: 55%
  • Vehicle graphics: 53%
  • Signs: 51%
  • Wallpaper/interiors: 49%
  • Window graphics: 48%
  • Textiles for soft signage: 39%
  • Backlit displays: 37%
  • Industrial products: 37%
  • Floor graphics: 33%
  • Sports Apparel: 27%

Are customer demands for quicker turnaround increasing?:

  • Yes: 79%
  • Staying the same: 19%
  • Decreasing or don’t know: 2%

This the kind of information that should shape your planning and perhaps even your business model.

Educational recordings from ISA

The thumbnail version:

  • ISA is offering Expo educational session recordings
  • Educational sessions by industry experts can benefit your business

The full version:

I have regularly promoted the concept of membership in trade associations. Here in Canada the obvious choice for the sign industry is the Sign Association of Canada. One of the many benefits for Class 1 members is automatic membership in the International Sign Association (ISA).

And this post is about a service offered by ISA—educational session recordings from the recent ISA Sign Expo 2021-Virtual. The recordings cover a wide range of topics pertinent to the industry and is the type of resource that shouldn’t be overlooked.

You can find out  more about it at this link.

Revisiting the skills required for business-saving customer service

The thumbnail version:

  • A bad customer service experience should be a lesson
  • This is a lesson from a major international courier company

The full version:

Over the past three weeks I’ve been dealing with a major international express courier company trying to get answers out of them about an original painting that disappeared en route to an exhibition in New York.

Aside from everything else learned from this experience there was a lesson in how not to handle customer service. The infuriating automated phone-answering voice, the difficulty finding the right person in the right department, the misinformation, the changing and contradictory explanations, an aggressive attitude, failing to make promised return phone calls, failing to keep scheduled telephone meeting commitments, and failing to respond to emails, are just some of the customer service failings of the courier company in question.

And it all followed the key failing—losing a valuable original piece of art entrusted to them for delivery.

Don’t drive your customers crazy!

The lesson from my experience is that you should be making  a pact with yourself to ensure that no customer of your shop is ever left feeling the way I feel about this courier company.

And remember that word of mouth is an effective and inexpensive business builder so you want customers to tell other people about your great customer service. But, word of mouth can also be a devastating business destroyer.

So what does it take from you or a customer service employee (which could be everyone in your shop who interacts with customers at any level) to deliver the type of customer service that keeps customers coming back?

Well, here’s a list of qualities needed for providing great customer service (this is just a list, you need to explore these qualities in more depth):

  • Communication skills
  • Good listening skills
  • A thick skin
  • A willingness to take ownership of customer problems
  • Patience
  • Empathy
  • Politeness (good manners)
  • Product knowledge
  • Adaptability and creativity

What will people say about your shop’s customer service after trying to resolve a product issue?

A show date to note (with caution)

The thumbnail version:

  • Registration is open for the Printing United expo in October
  • COVID may still be a party pooper though

The full version:

The Printing United Expo is scheduled for 6 to 8 October in Orlando, Florida in just over six weeks time. Exhibitors are encouraging attendees to visit them at the show to network, attend educational sessions, and socialize.

While I’ve always maintained that show attendance is essential if you’re going to stay in touch with developments in the industry, now may not be the ideal time to do so. Is everyone just dismissing the COVID threat? And of all places to have the expo—Florida where the COVID numbers are currently the worst in the US. And what about the risk of sitting in a plane for a few hours sharing viruses, one of which could be COVID 19?

Well, in any case, here’s the link at which you can register, but . . .

A reminder from Roland about maintenance

The thumbnail version:

  • Pay attention to the maintenance warning messages
  • Bypassing the warnings has consequences

The full version:

Roland has a money-saving tip for you—pay attention and react to the display warning message system on your Roland DG TrueVIS printer.

If you bypass the “Time for Maintenance” message by hitting the “enter” key, your machine apparently remembers this. If you continue to bypass it, the machine will compensate for the lack of a manual cleaning by doing longer and more frequent internal automatic print head cleanings. This uses more ink and therefore costs you money.

Failing to conduct scheduled manual cleanings can also result in clogged print head nozzles and poor quality prints.

So, pay attention to the “Time for Maintenance” message. It has quality and bottom line benefits.

Signs for the times

The thumbnail version:

  • Businesses re-opening can use banners to welcome customers back
  • Suggesting banners to your customers could boost your bottom line

The full version:

As businesses such as boutiques, pubs, and restaurants reopen and look to put a positive spin on things after the doom-and-gloom of eighteen months of COVID, your shop has an opportunity.

Imagine your favourite pub or restaurant with a banner strung across the front entrance that says. “Welcome back! We missed you.” Wouldn’t that project a positive image? Wouldn’t it make you feel welcome? Of course it would.

Now all you have to do is convince existing and new customers of that too and  you could generate some new business.