Friday, January 30, 2015

Accommodating, Helpful & Flexible

Successful relationships are built on mutual respect and an understanding that each has a responsibility for making it work. In this month's posts, we describe those responsibilities. We know the burden is on us to show that we can be trusted to deliver your projects on time, exactly as ordered, and at the agreed price. Too many of our competitors can only get two out of three right, so we’re not surprised when a new customer is skeptical.

If you feel like you’ve been working too hard with your current printer or designer, we invite you to try us. We’ve successfully served business people for over 20 years. We’re dependable and we bring value to the relationship. But don’t take our word for it – call us today for a demonstration!

Q&A: Do I have to completely run out of something before I reorder it?

No. We hope you’re smiling because we meant our answer to be tongue-in-cheek. Reorders are best handled routinely, when your remaining supply will last long enough for us to reprint the job in our normal turnaround time. An easy-to-remember rule of thumb allow at least 7 working days from order to delivery. Of course, not every project requires all steps, and we may finish more than one step in a single day (such as packaging, delivery and invoicing). But 7 working days is a good rule-of-thumb.

Once you are a customer, you are entered into our Reorder Reminder System. Our customer service representative, Jason Lauts, will email or call to ask about reordering specific projects according to when they were last produced. This helps us make your job easier by preventing you from ever running out.

Stationery Inventory

Actively managing your inventory of business stationery and forms is a great way to avoid the stress of last minute ordering and to stay within your printing budget.

  • Estimate a 3-6 month supply. We recommend you order enough to last between three and six months. More than a six-month supply could mean that you are tying up money in inventory and, in some cases, running the risk of the printed piece becoming obsolete. Less than a three-month supply and you are foregoing cost savings that result from a longer print run. An easy way to estimate is to ask yourself how many of this item you use in a specific interval (per day, per week, per month).

  • When you order an item, ask to have it included in our Reorder Reminder System. We’ll check your order history, predict when you might be running low, and notify you when it is time to reorder.

  • When reordering, ask us to price additional quantities. Our computerized estimating and pricing system makes it easy to recall a job from history and to produce a current quotation using multiple quantities. Then, you can evaluate the tradeoff between storing an item and the cost savings of a longer print run.
If you need help developing reorder quantities, contact us today.

The Benefits of Establishing a Relationship

If printing services is a budget line item for your business, chances are someone’s in charge of managing that budget by finding a reliable printer– a printer that charges a fair price, is dependable, has expertise in the kind of printing you need, and has the necessary production capability and capacity to complete your projects on time. A business with a regular, recurring need for printing, is wise to develop a relationship with a printer that has the ability, intention and willingness to meet their needs.

The benefits of establishing a relationship

Establishing a relationship with your printer pays big dividends. Besides overall money savings, you’ll get better customer service, more help in exploring production options, consultation on related services like mailing and large format printing, and assistance in marketing and business development. These benefits are in addition to competitive pricing and great print quality – something that we at Creative Characters offer as standard service to all our customers.

The printer’s part of the relationship

To make the relationship work, we have several responsibilities.

  • Dependability. We deliver your printing on time, exactly as ordered, and at the agreed-upon price – every single time. This relieves you of the burden of continually checking on your order and frees you to perform your business tasks.
  • Consistency. We ensure that your company or organization looks good in print. That means consistency across all printed materials, including logo reproduction, typography, design and page layout. Sometimes, we will suggest refreshing or even redesigning an item to achieve consistency, or offset printing an item that was previously digitally printed to improve image quality.
  • Expertise. We know when to take your order without comment and when to use our professional expertise in print production and management to offer alternatives.
  • Trust. We earn and hold your trust by offering you fair pricing, options and suggestions. This includes ways to save money with alternate production methods, materials or volume buying. It also means providing a cost estimate or quotation prior to beginning work; not proceeding with work you have not authorized; and honoring the price quoted so long as the specifications don’t change.
  • Production management. Although this is largely invisible to you, it is essential to our maintaining control of the production process. Printing is custom manufacturing, with each job having its own unique specifications. Each step of the printing process must occur in a specific order and requires an allotted amount of time. We use production standards to determine the time and resource requirements for all jobs; and we use this information to formulate a daily production schedule. Our production manager monitors progress throughout the day to be sure that both the schedule and the quality standards are being met.

The customer’s part of the relationship

Successful relationships are based on mutual responsibilities. Here are the responsibilities for the print customer.

  • Honest communication. Tell us the actual day the job must be in your hands without adding a fudge factor, or give us two due dates: desired in hand date and must-have in hand date. We will deliver on time. Similarly, if we ask whether a budget has been established, be truthful and share the amount or the range. Sometimes we can tell without formally quoting the project that the budget is inadequate. This allows us to shift the conversation to changing specifications so the project can be done within the allotted budget.
  • Complete specifications. Job specifications are the production instructions, so they must be complete and unambiguous. To dispel ambiguity, printers use specific language to write specifications. If you’re interested, we’ll gladly teach you the basics. Job specifications are also the basis for pricing; a failure to be complete could affect the cost.
  • Industry-standard document preparation. Microsoft Word is an industry standard for writing a report, but not for designing a brochure or creating a mailing list. Adobe Illustrator is the industry standard for drawings and illustration, but not for page layout. Photoshop is the industry standard for photo manipulation and color correction, but not for page layout. While many programs can make PDFs, not all can produce an industry-standard PDF that can be used for printing.
  • Proof reading. Proof reading is your responsibility, even when we are preparing the document layout (though we do our level best to produce a proof that is free of typos and misspellings of common words). Only you can proof read for uncommon words such as industry jargon or names, contact information, proper nouns, addresses and phone numbers, etc.
  • Timely submission. When you are providing us with a PDF file, text, photographs, illustrations, mailing list, postage deposit, etc. – we will give you a due date that each element needs to be given to us by. That date is the latest time you can provide this if the job is to remain on schedule. While we might remind you of upcoming due dates, the final responsibility for timely submission rests with you.
  • Respect our pricing. We use a rational basis for determining the price of a job that includes the cost of production materials, labor and equipment; an allowance for overhead; and profit. If you find a lower price somewhere else, it isn’t because we padded our quotation. It is because the specifications were different or the other printer has equipment that is more efficient at manufacturing that particular job. We will work with you on price by changing specifications or production methods, but we won’t automatically price match to a competitor.
  • Prompt payment. For us, the job is not complete until the invoice has been paid. If we have delivered your printing order on time, exactly as ordered, and at the agreed-upon price, show your appreciation by paying within terms. If something we are not aware of was wrong with the job, call it to our attention not by withholding payment, but by giving Marya a call to let her know right away so we can fix the problem.

Loyalty: the relationship reward

If we are successful at building a solid relationship, the reward will be loyalty on both sides. We will be loyal to you by continuing to fulfill our responsibilities to be worthy of your trust. You will be loyal to us by letting us know when there are new opportunities within your company and by recommending us to others.

If you are interested in taking the first steps toward building a relationship and gaining its many benefits, contact Brigid or Marya and we’ll arrange a convenient time and place to meet.