Donnelley boss on customer care and cock-ups

Jo Francis
Sunday, January 25, 2015

RR Donnelley chief executive Tom Quinlan said the firm was able to survive the 2012 error when it released Google's quarterly earnings early - wiping $20bn off the value of the search giant - because of the brand equity the company had built up in the course of its 150-year history.

Quinlan was talking to EFI chief executive Guy Gecht in a 'fireside chat' at the EFI Connect user conference last week. Quizzed about the highs and lows of his career, he said the moment he heard about the Google blunder was "like an out-of-body-experience".

"To sit in your office and have them talking about it on TV and be thinking 'I wonder who did that?'... talk about out-of-body experiences, that was one of them," Quinlan said.

"The equity we had built up, over that time period before I got here, by my predecessor and their predecessors, allowed us to survive that and go on, and that's something we cherish."

He cited customer service as being a key factor in the firm's longevity. "You can have Six Sigma and great technology, but if you don't take care of the customer you won't have longevity."

In a wide-ranging conversation Quinlan, who joined the near-$11bn turnover print giant in 2004, also gave a positive take on the state of the printing industry in general. "The industry is doing better than most people think we're doing. We're sort of back," he stated.

He cited examples such as the enduring appeal of physical books in the face of e-books, and the fact that US retailer JC Penney had decided to produce printed catalogues again five years after ditching the medium entirely.

"Printing's death has been greatly exaggerated. It's not print or digital, it's print and digital. Print is core to a communications plan," he said.

Separately, Quinlan also said that RR Donnelley had ambitions to become a bigger player in the wide-format print market.

"There's a lot of opportunity for us to go ahead and participate. We want to make big inroads in in-store marketing," Quinlan said. "The workflow is a sort of spaghetti bowl, it's a mix. So if we can make the supply chain easier there, with our footprint, especially in the States,  I think we can make a difference for retailers in costing and efficiency."

He also spoke about the firm's technology partnership with KBA on KBA's RotaJet inkjet web, and said Donnelley now had patent approval for its Apollo inkjet system.

"We probably thought there would be a quicker purchase of those presses than has taken place. But we are seeing more and more interest in them. As people [printers] start to get further financially sound they are looking to go ahead and make purchases.

"I'm hoping as we look at 2015 and 2016 to see more of those presses in the marketplace," Quinlan added. "We're using it, we think it's a cost differentiator. We think the  quality is perfect and it's another advantage for us in the marketplace."

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