Ditch the dysfunctional

Jo Francis
Friday, May 22, 2020

Jo Francis urges print bosses to cast a critical eye on their customer lists.

Two people have mentioned “green shoots” to me this week. Two! At the present time, I’ll take that.

There’s also been a definite uptick in print firms promoting ‘back to work’ packages as companies gear up for Covid-secure working.

This may be one-off business, but it’s business and good to see.

It will also be super-interesting to see how the new product category of masks and face coverings develops. Be it washable or disposable, it looks like we’re going to be needing A LOT of them.

The other thing that’s been something of a hot topic with my contacts during lockdown is customers.

Some customers have behaved impeccably during the coronacrisis, others not so much. It really is bringing out the best and worst in both people and firms. 

The hiatus has given print bosses a valuable opportunity to re-evaluate some of these customer relationships and decide who they wish to do business with in the future, and on what terms.

Consider, for example, the supposedly blue-chip customer that appears to be a great name to have as a client.

Unfortunately, they are a nightmare to deal with, meet none of the deadlines on their side detailed in the original contract, yet expect their print supplier to jump through every possible hoop and hit every single SLA despite their own dysfunction.

This same blue-chip is also now asking for extended payment terms. Oh, and the margins are rubbish anyway.

Would their printer be better off dealing with, say, four or five other customers instead? Certainly.

Are they planning to ditch the big name and do that? Yes.

Another contact told me this week that he’d simply declined to participate in a tender for a massive supply contract for these very reasons.

Per the adage “never let a good crisis go to waste”, I hope print bosses are using this period to determine which customers they want to “consciously uncouple” from, which are worth coveting, and what future business is worth pursuing.

There’s no doubt that the industry that emerges from this crisis is going to be a different shape to the one we knew before. There will be fewer players. And those players should be choosy about who they deal with.

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