The "Old Man's" Internet Rant

Although I fear that I’ll sound like a tech-unsavvy old man pining for the “old days,” I’ll just go ahead and say the following: I don’t always trust online portals made available by vendors. Of course, as I say this, I have a couple of examples — one short, and one rather specific — highlighting the failings of some companies I’ve done business with (or wanted to).

Online Printing Request FormThe first is the “contact us” form found on many company websites. As a purchaser, I’m often wary when a company website offers only this form as a way to reach the company. More often than not, I’ve experienced these forms as a black hole into which I cast my contact information and don’t receive any response in return. In another recent case, I received a call back three weeks later. By then, I’d moved so far past the company that I’d barely remembered my initial outreach.

The solution here is easy (at least in principle). If your company wants customers to contact you online — and if you don’t want them calling you — have someone poised to receive the contact request and reply right away.

The other example concerns a bit of quick printing I had done for a recent family event. The job was quite simple: double-sided color laser printing, legal size with a single fold, and a run of 100. I selected a company with a robust online portal. Surely, I thought, the print-on-demand interface could handle the job, and it could. I uploaded my file, built the job order and was given a price of $305. “Too much,” I said to myself, “This can’t be right.”

I hopped in the car and drove 10 minutes to a brick-and-mortar location for this same company, where a very helpful sales associate quickly set up the job, ran me a proof and quoted a price of $112. An hour later, I picked up the completed job.

There are two opinions I gained from this experience. First, the online portal seems to be for people who are in too much of a hurry — or too seduced by convenience — to care that much about price. Second is that I think working with an actual human was what saved me money, because she was able to make changes to the job by hacking the defaults of the print-on-demand portal.

Our perception of the businesses we work with, or hope to, is vastly important. With the growing move toward online commerce in the printing industry, it will become increasingly important for print buyers and customers to really trust online sales interfaces. If trust cannot be gained, the customers may just move on — perhaps to a company that can work with them to get what they need at a reasonable price.