Ask the Difficult Questions

Customer Filling Out Feedback FormEach of us in life has what we would call our “harshest critic.” It may be a spouse or a painfully honest friend — the kind of person who could honestly answer, “Does this look good on me?” From a business standpoint, this person might be your most persnickety customer — not unreasonable, but also very hard to please. Despite the ongoing challenge of serving this person, it is important to consider that he/she may be deeply valuable to your business. The suggestions outlined here may not be for the faint of heart, because the truth can hurt. But strong, constructive criticism is invaluable for any business seeking to grow.

How Are We Doing?

Call up that customer we just spoke of, and ask them upfront, “How are we doing?” Don’t take “fine,” “okay,” or “pretty good” as answers. Ask questions. Get answers. Here are a few conversation starters:

  • Let’s talk about the last job we did for you…
  • What could we have done differently?
  • If you had us do the order again, would you want it done the same way?
  • Is there anything you want from us as a print provider that we don’t provide?

How the customer answers can give you important insight not only into the quality of the work you’re doing, but also how your company is perceived in general. Ask follow-ups, like “How could we do what we do better?"

Print Quality?

Ask about the quality of the work you do for your customer upfront. For instance, if you’re printing for a client that uses a brand color outside of the CMYK gamut, ask if they’re happy with the closest color you can meet. While you may not want to ask that question (because you may be afraid to learn the answer), you may find the resulting discussion can build trust between you and your customer — you have a chance to educate them and perhaps relieve any underlying uncertainty they may have about your company’s capabilities.

Another strategy is to engage your most particular customer (in terms of print quality) by using one of their graphic files as a baseline for equipment comparison, and let them know you’re doing so. Having a discussion that starts with, “We’re looking at a new wide-format machine, and want to be sure the output is acceptable.” Again, build trust — let them know that you know who ultimately pays the bills. Their happiness may result in your increased prosperity.

Sales & Marketing

Have a discussion with your most honest customers – the one with which you have a long-term relationship – to see if your sales and marketing approaches really match your company as it is. Is your company as innovative as it purports itself to be: "Do we really provide world-class customer service?"; "Did you think about us differently once you got to know us?" In some cases, the responses may challenge you to match perception with reality, by either adjusting the company to match its marketing identity (or the other way around).