What do your customers really want from you?

I have talked before about the importance of the customer journey throughout your business. About ensuring that you are asking the right questions to uncover their real needs and wants from you as their supplier. But it isn’t always an easy question to answer. Sometimes we, as print service providers, are really in touch with our customer base and know exactly what each customer needs at any given moment. Sometimes we think we know what they want, but need to check. Sometimes we assume we know and act accordingly. Assumptions can be dangerous. In reality, the only way to find out is to ask them. But that takes time and it takes money, and let’s face it – we are all short of both. Times are tough and the days are often spent firefighting. So – how to improve the situation? Well – maybe one of the manufacturers in the industry might help you. Sound far-fetched? Not any more. Canon will be launching the latest in its series of Insight Reports – The Bigger Picture, at this year’s Johannesburg FESPA Digital Show on July 2/3/4. The Insight Reports were first launched at DRUPA in 2008 and have become a regular feature of major shows since then, with reports issued at DRUPA 2008 & 2012, IPEX 2010, GulfPrint 2013, and now for the very first time, South African specific research here in 2014. This Insight Report is the result of a series of in depth interviews carried out during April this year, here in South Africa, by RS Consulting, an independent market research company. 100 in-depth interviews with professional print buyers – and quite possibly some of them will be your customers. All of the questions are aimed at finding the answers to subjects such as how important is print to their organisation, how do they see the future of print, where do cross channel communications fit within their marketing strategy, and what will they need from their print service providers to see them through? It is research that you need to listen to. No printing company in South Africa can afford to close their ears to customer needs. I get really excited about studies like this. I am as quick as the next person to dismiss some of the figures that research companies come up with. Often I find them disconnected with the real world. They talk in billions of pages and billions of dollars and the figure are so vast I can’t relate to them. But this is different. When the first European research was launched at DRUPA I was lucky enough to be part of the team talking printers and journalists through it at the show. The more I read through the report, the more I realised that there were some real nuggets of information contained within, that could help me change my business for the better. Discussions of value, of pricing, of cross channel marketing and media. Talk of what customers needed printing companies like mine to do better, and where they think we can improve our service. It was required reading for every person in our business – from sales through to production, because there was real solid value contained within it. It changed the content of my sales training sessions with account managers and salespeople. I had always talked to them about adding value to a customer relationship, and here was the absolute proof of that need. Encouraging them to talk to customers in their language, not bogging them down in technical terms. Too many salespeople argue that cost is the only factor in a customer buying decision. The results from this survey proved that this was emphatically not the case – with 47 percent of print buyers across Europe stating that value for money was the most important criteria when selecting which print provider to use for their work. Against only 10 percent of them quoting cost as the most important criterion. It provided real food for thought when considering how we frame our conversations with customers. How do we assess what value means to them? To find out how the South African print buyers answered these questions and more here in South Africa, come to FESPA Digital and find me on the Canon stand. Every day we will be presenting the research findings in a series of seminars. Come along and hear the results for yourselves. All who attend will take a copy of the Report away with them. I will be there talking the results through with anyone who wishes to catch up with me. I look forward to meeting some of you. See you there! -By Jo Lloyd