Are printers their own worst enemies? A recent essay in the July issue of Printing Industries of New England’s Printer & Publisher looked at why printers constantly self inflict damage on their businesses. In the essay, industry consultant Jack Epstein took the industry to task about not billing customers for valuable services.
According to Epstein, the industry is its “own worst enemy” when it comes to being treated fairly by customers. “Who else makes custom products under extreme deadlines and doesn’t collect full or partial payments along the way?” asks Epstein. “We are more lackadaisical about getting paid than cobblers, dry cleaners, and the building trades.”
Epstein also believes there is a lack of respect for printing and that printers have low self esteem. They will use any excuse to rationalize away the need to charge for a service. Printers will think they can’t charge because “nobody else charges extra for that” or “we’ll make it up on the next order.” They think giving away a service for free will be “relationship building.” Some don’t add extra charges because they think it will raise quality issues in the minds of customers.
Epstein does have recommendations to help printers. He suggests instant notification to customers whenever specifications change or author alterations occur. He also suggests printers have a clear understanding with customers about which services are included in the base price and those that will incur additional charges. He believes printers should have tighter coordination of effort between estimating and sales.
Epstein argues that a printer’s survival might depend on being able to collect for justified expenses. If he is not willing to charge a fair price and collect the charges, the printer won’t have the cash to stay in business.
Learn to Survive
It is harder to stay in business than it used to be. According to the experts, the nation’s economy has bottomed out. While no one is expecting an immediate turnaround, things should start looking up for all parts of the economy, including printing. We’re not out of the woods yet, but printing companies that continued sales activities should start to see a rebound sooner than their competitors who hunkered down and did nothing.
Printers give the store away when it comes to customer created files. Printers have constantly rationalized about charging for fixing customer files. “Others do it for free” and “It will keep my presses running” are getting to be tired excuses. Finally, this attitude is starting to change, thanks to trade printers.
There are low cost print providers for the trade who use technology to keep their costs down. Many quick and small commercial printers are finding it is less expensive to job out work, especially full-color printing, to these specialty firms. The trade printers have limited their product lines and automated production so they can keep their margins high. This allows them to offer a product at prices that let printers resell for a profit.
With automation comes strict standards as to how files will be accepted. Trade printers don’t deal with problem files. Working on narrow margins, they eliminate issues that will add costs to the job. If a printer submits a bad customer file to a trade printer, the job is either rejected until a good file can be obtained or the printer pays a stiff penalty to have the file corrected. The printer has to pass on the additional charges to the customer or eat them.
Printers are finally waking up to the fact that you can charge for fixing customer files, and that this service has a value. They have to pay trade printers, so why don’t they charge their own customers? The trade printers aren’t fixing files for free, and a commercial printer shouldn’t fix them for free either.