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14 ProPrint November 2015
How far do you go to satisfy difficult customers?
Is the customer always right?
Romano reports from the big US print show
Show and Tell
he customer is always right. That
doesn’t mean the customer is
always reasonable or should be
kept on the books no matter
Every printer would know about
difficult customers. These are the
ones who can be angry, rude,
indecisive, impatient, intimidating,
talkative and demanding. It is a
challenge dealing with them but
then, that’s what the owner of the
printing business has to do.
The first thing that has to be done
is to take on board their concerns.
That requires skills around active
listening. It means identifying what
the customer is seeking and a
commitment to ensuring that they
have understood the entire situation.
In some customer situations, it
may be appropriate and possible to
negotiate an outcome that is
agreeable to both parties. And there
are cases where it might be necessar y
to set limits with customers in order
to clear up misunderstandings.
It might also mean accepting what
the customer says at face value, even
if you think they are wrong. Put it
this way: if the customer sees you
accept what they are saying and that
you believe in them, they are more
likely to accommodate you. It is the
first rule of respect: you show respect
and the other party will reciprocate.
The whole process might require
you to look at your customer base.
Who are the core customers, the
most valuable ones? What do they
need and how are you addressing
that. Who are the bad customers?
What is their problem and how are
you contributing to that? How much
are they costing your business? What
are the long term implications if the
relationship continues? How often do
these problems occur? Is it something
that the business can control or is it
way outside? Can it be changed?
What impact would that have on the
business? If you were to change
things, would it spill over into other
areas like relationships with other
customers, employee relations and
All important questions to resolve.
The answers will tell you what plan
to put in place.
If the customer is costing you more
than the return they are bringing in,
then it is ok to let them go. The client
has to generate a return, not for one
job, but over the long term. If the
client is creating problems and costs,
it is time to talk to them about
finding somewhere that is a better
fit. As long as you have done the
critical analysis and assessed the cost
on the business, it is the right thing
to do. And yes, if the client is abusive
to staff, you have to show employees
that you are putting them f irst. That
relationship is far more important.
Losing important staff can affect the
business a lot more.
A difficult relationship with clients
is not something you can ignore. If
you do nothing about it, you could
end up ignoring the customers, the
employees and the stakeholders who
are important for the business.
Ignoring the problem could drain
morale prof itability.
Pulling the pin on a diff icult
customer is never easy. But it can be
done if you look at the problem
carefully and assess the impact.
rinting exhibitions are like
roadmaps. They show you
many ways to get where you
want to go. These shows also
provide a gauge as to where the
industry stands. Strong shows reflect
a strong industry.
The American Graph Expo show
just ended in Chicago. It has been an
annual event since 1972 and situated
in the hear t of the US printing
market. Like many trade exhibitions,
it has suffered a decline in exhibitors
and attendees over the last decade.
Even with a number of co-located
events, especially packaging related,
it was the smallest of previous
shows. I have been to ever y one.
However, it was probably just the
right size for attendees to cover.
This edition was especially telling
in that there was only one multi-
colour of fset press running at the
show (Ryobi). The large offset press
makers were there, except for
Heidelberg, but did not bring offset
equipment. Some exhibitors, like
Komori, showed digital presses. The
web division of manroland was there
but not the sheetfed company.
Back in 2010 most of the major
floor space would have been taken
by the offset press makers.
Heidelberg once dominated the
show. Now they are noticeably
among the missing. Komori
announced a merger of sales forces
with Screen to sell sheetfed and roll-
fed inkjet printers. KBA has a press
for packaging materials that employs
The exhibit space that these press
companies previously occupied was
now held by Canon, HP, Konica
Minolta, Ricoh, Screen, Xerox and
other digital printing suppliers. They
have moved from the back of the hall
to the front of the hall. In most cases,
their toner-based systems were
augmented by a range of inkjet-
based printing systems.
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