In the new print economy, service is a true differentiator, and it means far more than delivering on time, on specification.
The FESPA Print Census provides a fascinating snapshot of an industry in flux. Happily, the overriding sentiment is optimistic, with 80% of respondents feeling good about the future of their business. But there’s no doubt that the shifts taking place in print are seismic, and none is more fundamental than our transition out of the manufacturing sector to become a service industry.
Granted, good customer service has always been a factor in success. The best printers have built positive relationships with customers, behaved courteously, and delivered a product which met and even exceeded the customer’s expectations, on time and at an acceptable price.
But in a more dynamic economy, those customer service elements on which printers prided themselves have become hygiene factors, not differentiators. Too often, underneath these claims to customer orientation is still a manufacturing mindset, which calculates output capacity and unit cost, and sells a more or less standard product to the customer, often at the mercy of downward pricing pressure.
Today’s service businesses understand their customer and their creative or commercial drivers and adapt their business practices accordingly.
For a print service provider, maybe that’s by being able to fulfil just-in-time delivery requirements. It almost inevitably involves turning jobs around faster to respond to the client’s need for faster speed to market. Perhaps it entails delivering product to the point of need to remove the burden of storage and transportation from the customer. It could also involve reducing volumes but adding value through versioning or personalisation.
70% of respondents to the Print Census see these customer expectations increasing or staying the same. The customer is definitely king, and the crown isn’t slipping.
What also emerges from the Print Census is that the printers in the FESPA community continue to look to digital technology to help meet their customer’s needs – investment in digital production systems, workflow, automation and web to print are all largely motivated by evolving customer expectations.
Some plan to meet more of their customers’ needs by offering small format print alongside their heritage wide format portfolio. Some are capitalising on technology and materials innovation to diversify, delivering something extraordinary, surprising and effective. Some are listening to clients and respond with premium service elements that extend the value to the customer, beyond print.
Looking ahead, the Census suggests that the most successful printers will be those whose continual dialogue with the customers keeps them one step ahead, to the point where they can anticipate and fulfil a need before the customer has even recognised that it exists.
See and share the FESPA Print Census #SixTrends Infographic.
The FESPA Print Census is a global research project undertaken by FESPA in partnership with Infotrends to understand developments in the wide format, screen and digital print community.
The Print Census was funded through FESPA’s Profit for Purpose programme, which reinvests revenues from FESPA’s global events to support printers worldwide with insights, best practice and networking opportunities. The Census was conducted from May 2014 to April 2015, and surveyed over 1200 respondents in 64 countries, both face-to-face and online.