But often such jobs are unprofitable, devalue the work provided and make it more difficult to build strong, lasting relationships with customers.
In a bid to stand out on factors other than price, many printers periodically invest in new kit to bolster their services or to offer something unique, while others pride themselves on their high quality.
Arguably still one of the biggest ways to rise above the competition, though, is by providing exceptional customer service.
54% of respondents to a recent Printweek poll that asked, ‘Is great customer service the key differentiator for your business?’, answered ‘Yes, we always strive to go above and beyond’. 27% said service is no longer a point of difference, but is simply expected, while 19% replied ‘No, price and product are king’.
In conjunction with The Institute of Customer Service (ICS), Adare SEC recently launched its first client satisfaction survey, which benchmarked its performance against the data collected by the UK Customer Satisfaction Index (UKCSI) conducted by The ICS.
Out of a possible 100, it scored a Customer Satisfaction Index score of 82.4 in the overall survey, which exceeded both the all-sector average of 77.1 and the banks and building societies sector, which scored 79.7 in the July 2019 UKCSI.
“It’s easy for organisations to guess what their customers need, or what customer service looks like, but it was important for us to take a step outside our industry to see how we compare when we look at other markets because that gives us insight into the ways that we could improve,” explains Adare SEC customer service director Amanda Taylor.
She says having a client-centric culture “is something that we drive within the business across all our colleagues”.
“Customers want a personal relationship, they want individual attention, and they like to know that we understand their requirements and that we learned from past interactions, that we know what their preferences are. It’s about delivering on promises, and openness and transparency is key as well.”
Taylor also stresses the importance of achieving continuous improvement in customer satisfaction.
“One of our key drivers is to get insight from customers and use that as a catalyst for change and make sure that we’re putting improvements in based on customer feedback, not just what we think our customers want from us now and in the future.”
Jo Causon, chief executive of The Institute of Customer Service, says the body’s research has proven the link between customer satisfaction and the financial performance of businesses.
“Those organisations that have higher levels of customer satisfaction in the longer term have the equivalent of a 10% higher level of profitability when they’re above average over a five to eight-year period.
“They also have higher levels of productivity; it stands to reason that if you are delivering better customer service, you’re spending less time sorting out things that went wrong. And levels of employee engagement will be higher too.”
Tunbridge Wells-based Fox Group is the reigning Printweek Awards Customer Service Team of the Year winner – an accolade that group sales director Kevin Steele says the business was “over the moon” to receive.
“That’s what means the most to our clients, and to the whole team. It’s a pat on the back for everyone from the receptionist to the cleaner.”
Steele says it’s important that businesses adapt to customers’ evolving requirements in order to thrive.
“Everyone is now used to getting instant information at the touch of a button and we’ve found that our clients’ demands have grown; they want information quickly.
“We can automate as much as possible to get things back to them at speed, but sometimes they want to speak to a person. So great customer service is making sure there is somebody available at the end of the phone, within reason, any time of day.
“It’s about dealing with problems head on and getting stuck in building great relationships with clients, making sure that you’re supporting them through thick and thin. Because not everything goes to plan, but we have to work together as a team.
“We try to get all of our staff at every level to speak directly to clients so they can show off their own areas of expertise, and I think that’s what gives great strength and depth.”
ADH Consultants managing director Andrew Horn believes that great service comes down to how a business deals with a problem when it arises.
“Are they engaged with you, and do you feel as a customer that they want to do everything they can to put it right?
“People don’t like breaking bad news to a customer and might think they’ll see if they can get away with it, but those that understand great customer service know that actually the best thing is for their client to know that there may be a problem and that this is what they are doing about it.”
On the price vs service debate, Horn adds: “If you’re buying something online that’s commoditised, such as business cards or flyers, people will buy on price. But within that sector of online portals, you might try a few and then go back to the one that you know you’ll get great service from.
“But once you’ve had bad service from them, next time you’ll go elsewhere. With selling on price you’ve got to think about repeat business.”
The final word goes to Fox Group’s Steele: “Great customer service gives you that little bit of an edge as to why you’re slightly more than your competitors, and a lot of our clients would rather pay that little bit extra to guarantee that nothing’s going to go wrong and know that we’re going to look after them from start to finish.”
In a tough market service can make all the difference
Andrew Bracey & Kerry Bowyer
Foundation and advanced apprenticeship manager; training co-ordinator, BPIF
Great customer service is as important today as it has ever been. Particularly in a very competitive market it can be the difference between keeping and losing a customer. Print is not just about putting ink on paper or substrate anymore, you need to provide an excellent service to maintain your customer base.
With advances in technology, we are now able to produce better quality work, faster which has raised the expectations of our customers. In order to manage this and still deliver a great service we need to know and understand their needs, and this can only be achieved by forming lasting relationships with them.
Members have used our services and Customer Service Workshop to develop and understand an importance of great customer service. This has enabled members to develop strategies to develop their own customer service.
Companies are now employing staff purely to ensure great customer service has been delivered. We never used to ask a customer if they were happy with their product, if they didn’t complain the assumption was ‘they must be happy’ – this is really poor customer service. By asking our customers for feedback on our performance we are demonstrating confidence in our work; if there have been any problems, we need to know about them so we can rectify and improve our service.
Purely selling on price can be a disservice to the industry as it can drag prices down. We all want a bargain but there is a limit as to how low a price can go before it becomes uneconomical to take on the work. Once prices have been lowered it is extremely hard to justify an increase in the future. Customer service and attention to detail can be your USP. It is vital that you keep your promises to customers on quality and delivery.
How important is customer service to your business?
Bridget Petty, commercial director, JPS
“Customer service is paramount to our business. Our clients use our print management services to take all of the headaches away from them and ensure the service is seamless from start to finish. Knowledge and response times are key, and so is ensuring that we cover everything for our clients. It’s not just about following the instructions they ask us to, but also looking a bit deeper and trying to offer something else that they haven’t thought about and trying to cover off things they might have missed as well.”
Simon Biltcliffe, chief executive, Webmart
“To me good customer service goes far beyond doing what customers want in a timely manner to the level that they want. It is about delighting customers and making it literally remarkable. People will then remark on it; they Tweet it, they Insta it and they talk to their friends about it. They are net promoters and you get referrals from it. The reason that people refer people is the way that you predict and anticipate what the customer wants, and the only way you can do that is by getting to know them well.”
Paul Manning, managing director, Rapidity
“I don’t think it’s enough of a differentiator these days to say, ‘we’re really good at customer service’, because everyone says that, but it’s still really important. You can have whatever kit and capabilities you want, but if you can’t have a relationship with your customers and provide the service then it doesn’t mean anything, and you are commoditising it. We don’t want to do that; what we’re working on is making sure that we’re providing a service and not a product.”