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Automated customer feedback uncovers new business

Jul 1, 2010 12:00 AM

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The Print Shop (Wisconsin Rapids, WI) competes with 12 other area printers. The region was hit hard in 2008 when the two local paper companies were sold, resulting in the closure of one mill and downsizing of the other, and the loss of more than 1,000 jobs. One of those companies was The Print Shop's largest customer.

In 2008, owner Warren Miller tried competing with online printers, but he concluded, “Going head-to-head with online printers was impossible with our business model. The prices were rock bottom.” He learned from the experience and the firm is adapting. “Digital is here to stay and we are embracing digital printing to service the local area and provide value-added services,” he says. The Print Shop also expanded into graphic design as a growth area that complemented print.

While it was inevitable that volumes would go down during the recession, Miller wanted to leverage technology to benchmark performance, stay close to his customers, and make sure he optimizes opportunities with existing customers. With hundreds of customers, it is hard to stay connected.

In April 2009, Miller brought in Howie Fenton, NAPL's senior print consultant, to help him adapt the business for the future. Fenton recommended setting up a continuous customer feedback process to ensure a strong foundation for retaining customers and preserving revenues as competition scrambled to address the weak economy. An ongoing survey solution would keep communication lines open in a proactive way while not adding another responsibility to Miller's team.

The solution: The Print Shop automates customer feedback and lead generation by leveraging Printers Software, its business management software. All order information, including the buyer's e-mail address, is in the software's database. An automated shipment reporting process takes less than 3 min./month to run. The survey process includes alerting Miller if a customer's loyalty is slipping and delivering leads by uncovering printing services bought from competitors. In addition, to address survey burn-out, the process is set up so that no customer is surveyed more often than every 90 days.

The results: The feedback reveals strong loyalty and opportunities to close new business. Two referrals turned into new accounts.

Leverage your estimating and production system to implement an effective feedback process. You probably already have the tools in-house to automate the process, and a well designed survey process yields selling opportunities with existing customers and complements selling efforts.

Michael Casey is president and founder of Survey Advantage ( He is a strategic partner with NAPL supporting its consulting and research practices, he integrates project surveying with MIS systems and he is an approved supplier for several franchise networks.