“Communication is key”
We’ve all heard this mantra. But how often do we consider how well we’re communicating with our clients and customers? What is it like to be on the other side of our communicative efforts? How highly do we actually value our customer service?
Our studio recently experienced a role reversal, whereby we found ourselves acting as a design client, rather than a producer. We’ve always held communication in pretty high regard, but this encounter made us fully appreciate the value of good communication and customer service.
Here’s a little context. A customer of ours had asked us to be involved with the design of a new card-based product. Together, we fleshed out the idea, designed all the cards and the presentation box, hired a website developer, and registered the company.
We then found ourselves requiring the services of a printing studio, to turn our designs into a tangible product for the new venture.
Now, you’d think this would be a relatively simple affair; we’d send the designs, receive the printed versions a couple of weeks later, and sort out the payment. Simple! Of course, it was anything but, and our encounter with two print companies taught us some valuable lessons about how different approaches to communication can have a profound impact on your experience as a customer.
Print Company A
We were referred to a print company, and to all intents and purposes they seemed like the real deal – great website, good experience, nice product list and they’ve worked with some big clients. We sent them an email, and after some initial correspondence, sent them our requirements and waited for their response. And waited. Then waited some more. Eventually, we decided to chase them for an update about what was going on. We had to chase them a couple of times to receive a response.
They requested the design files, but unfortunately, the lack of communication continued. They didn’t confirm they’d received the illustrations from us, and there was no guidance on the next steps or what the process would be.
So what’s the problem here? “Stop being such pushy peters!”, I hear you say. As customers, we wanted to feel as though our job was important to whoever was dealing with it. We wanted to feel valued. But having to continuously chase people for updates had the opposite effect. We felt as though we were at the bottom of the jobs pile, and the project we’d worked hard on for many months was of no importance at all.
“This is the best you’re gonna get”
Eventually, after some back and forths, our proofs arrived. Full of excitement and trepidation, we opened the envelope…and our hearts sank. They had been printed using the wrong paper stock. When we commented on the poor quality, Print Company A told us in not so many words – ‘you can’t afford what you want for your budget, so this is the best you’re gonna get.’
Furthermore, the quality of the print looked only marginally better than if we’d done it with our office printer, a £30 Argos jobby. We raised this, and were told that they would be using a different printer and cutting method for the final batch – with no further explanation. We were a bit baffled by this, and were left wondering – what is the point in a printing proof, if it’s done with completely different paper and machinery to the end product. Anyone?
The final straw came when we pointed out inconsistencies in the colours, and were told that we’d used bad design practices in our Illustrator files. Now, we’re willing to be wrong, but it was the way this was done which really left a sour taste in the mouth (we later found out that this was also BS, so, ha!).
The customer service wasn’t bad here – it was non-existent.
Print Company B
At this point, we decided to source a quote from a different printing company. Enter Print Company B.
Looking back at our emails, the second piece of correspondence we sent to them contains the words;
‘Thanks for getting back to us so quickly’.
Those first few interactions are so meaningful when speaking to a potential new client. No matter how small your job is, you still want to feel as though your project is important, and the staff at this second company made us feel like valued customers after the very first email.
A positive approach: customer service
What’s more, this positive approach set the tone for the entire printing process. We were offered several viable solutions within our price range. Because of their positive attitude to understanding what we needed, they even managed to upsell us on enhancements to the box itself, which made aspects of the design stand out.
Following this, we were offered a comprehensive quote, including a ‘final proof’ using the same card stock and printer for the actual product. They explained that the final product would require a custom die cutter which costs a considerable amount to make and can’t be changed once created. The advice was to produce a mockup with a digital laser cutter instead. The mockup wouldn’t be as perfect as the end product, but would allow us to test and modify the cutter design if needed.
All of a sudden, the process we’d been through with Print Company A seemed to make sense. The crucial difference was that the first time around, the communication wasn’t sufficient enough for us to understand the process, and it left us feeling cheated.
Always in the loop: communication
We were kept in the loop during the entire process with Print Company B. There were updates at every stage, any cost implications for additional requests or changes to the brief were clear and transparent, and we knew what to expect and when to expect it. We ended up with a high-quality product that was better than expected, it was slightly under budget (!), and we came out of the whole process feeling great.
Here’s the crucial difference between these two companies;
Print Company A either assumed we knew what was going on, or didn’t value us enough to communicate it to us. They gave the impression that they didn’t care about us or the product. And we were always left feeling bewildered and a bit stupid.
In contrast, Print Company B had great communication and excellent customer service. They understood that many of their customers are coming to them with a clean slate, having never been through the printing process before. Confused people are rarely happy people. No matter what experience you have, every customer needs to feel valued and kept informed throughout the process.
It’s not just about great products…
As an animation studio, we’re often working with customers who have no idea of the steps involved, how long the process takes, or what it might cost. It serves us well to learn a few lessons from the other side of the fence.
Our job as designers isn’t just to create nice things; it’s also to provide good communication and excellent customer service. We need to be open, honest, take time to understand our clients’ needs, and keep them informed every step of the way. This ultimately helps people to see value in our work, build trust, and achieve a much better end product. This is what makes people want to come back and use us time and time again.
We’d love to work with you on your next project so get in touch to experience our fabulous customer service!