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Mar 1, 2006 12:00 AM
I've had the privilege of facilitating and attending dozens of graphic arts companies’ annual planning meetings. In too many cases, the word “privilege” can be better expressed by the word “anguish.”
My homicidal instincts are elevated when an owner or senior manager suggests that the discussion begin with a definition of “what we do best.” Of course, the answer is likely to be, “Black ink on 40-lb. offset with a two-year production cycle.” The implication is that profit is the result of routine. In truth, profit is the consequence of doing the difficult and extraordinary work that is unlikely to draw the interest of competitors.
Planning meetings too often focus upon:
CSRs can save the day
Within the past five years or so, there has been a growing appreciation of the importance and contributions of an effective customer service representative. The transition isn’t complete. Some companies continue to treat a CSR as someone walking behind the proverbial elephant with a giant shovel. Industry ratio studies report the costs of the customer service function as “General Factory Overhead.”
At print companies in which the culture and operating performance are both to be admired, customer service representatives are the broadcasters and defenders of an honest, “gut-level” customer-oriented culture. These are the individuals who typically have modest authority but are in a position to influence the attitudes and behaviors of salespeople, customers and production personnel. They are in a position to maximize their influence by acting as honest brokers.
An effective CSR can use documented alteration charges as a training tool, communicating steps to avoid incurring the same charge in the future. At companies whose management and performance we admire, customer service representatives are knowledgeable advocates for customers’ needs at production meetings.
If you disagree with the observations and conclusions in this column, I will understand. In any industry this large, exceptions and anomalies abound. I consult with only a small portion of the tens of thousands of the business units. The emergence of the customer service function in successful print companies, however, is a subtle development that shouldn’t be overlooked or ignored.
My point: An effective, well-staffed customer service function, according to the anecdotal evidence, can balance and mitigate internal conflict, as well as provide perceived value to customers.
Dick Gorelick is president of Gorelick & Associates and the Graphic Arts Sales Foundation. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.