Can customer charters reduce your print customer costs by 10%?

Posted by Matthew Parker

Don’t you hate it when an evening out does not turn out the way you thought?

My wife and I went out for dinner recently.  We went to a restaurant with an excellent reputation.  We were looking forward to a nice meal before going out to a film.

But the restaurant was busy.  We had to wait ages for our food.  And that meant that we had to eat our food in a hurry so as not miss the film.  We were not impressed.

If only the restaurant had warned us that there was a long wait for food that evening.  We could have made a decision not to have a starter.  Or to eat elsewhere.  But because the restaurant didn’t manage our expectations we felt let down by them.  And we won’t be returning there in a hurry.

Printers also risk losing customers if they don’t manage expectations.  And one of the best ways to manage customer expectations is by using a customer charter.

What is a customer charter?

A customer charter can help cement relationships with print clients

A customer charter can help cement relationships with print clients

A customer charter is a short and simple document.  It outlines what a customer should expect from you.  And it outlines what you expect from the customer.  It’s a great way for both sides to be realistic about how they will work together.

Printers who use customer charters will create stronger partnerships with their customers.  There will be less frustration on both sides, because there will be less misunderstandings.  And the charter will allow the printer to control the customer better.  There will be less time wasted on working out what the other side really wants.  So the printer will be able to handle more accounts with the same staff.

Printers who don’t use customer charters risk having large, unproductive customer service teams.  They will spend unprofitable time trying to manage customer misunderstandings.  And trying to get clients to do things they never realised that they had to do.  They won’t be in control of their customers.  And they risk losing customers who become frustrated because they were expecting something different from what they experienced.

And all these issues could have been avoided if a little time had been spent on creating a customer charter.

Customer charters are easy to write

Remember that these are short documents.  And they should be written in simple language.  You simply need to outline the way you work.  And the way which you want the customer to work.  Here are some of the issues which should be covered in a customer charter:

  • How will you communicate with the customer?
  • How do you expect the customer to communicate with you?
  • Whom should your customer talk to?
  • What service levels do you offer?
  • What are your typical quote turnaround times?
  • What do you require from a customer to start a job?
  • What are your typical job turnaround times?
  • What proofing and approval procedures do you follow?
  • How do you handle deliveries?
  • What is your invoicing and payment procedure?
  • What are your terms of business?
  • Are there any issues that might affect the final invoiced price?

You may have a number of other issues that you need to add to this list.  It will depend on the way you run your business and the type of customers that you have.

When you have created the document, you need to take time to run through it with your customers.  It is vital that they understand everything.  And it is vital that you know that they can work in the way that you want.

What happens if a client isn’t happy with the charter?

That’s fine.  It simply means that you have uncovered a potential misunderstanding before you start working together.  And it is far better that you sort it out now.  You don’t want to have to sort out a problem halfway through a job.

Customer charters can act as an early warning system.

Here’s a great example of how a customer charter helped one printer

This printer had outlined their proof approval system.  It turned out that a new customer had never had to approve proofs before.  They would have left proofs unapproved.  And the printer would have had to chase approval.  If this took too much time the first job might have been delayed.  And that would have probably been the end of the relationship.

But the customer charter prevented things from going wrong.

The printer also explained how they called customers regularly to check that files would be delivered on time.  They also called to confirm delivery and to make sure that the customer was satisfied with the job.  For one customer, this was far too much communication.  But because this was highlighted when they read the customer charter, they raised it with the printer.  The printer reduced their communication to this client.  The charter made sure that they didn’t accidentally annoy their client.

Customer charters can really make a difference in getting a relationship right.  But it is important to remember that sometimes you’ll need other documents as well.

Remember, a customer charter is not a contract

It doesn’t oblige the customer to place work with you.  And it probably won’t stand up in a court of law.  A customer charter is a set of guidelines on how a relationship would run.

Having said that, it is a very effective way to encourage customers to keep to the spirit of an agreement.

Here are three steps to get your customer charter going straight away

  1. Draft out what you’d like to include in your charter
  2. Run it past your customer service teams to make sure that it reflects what you do
  3. Present it to three trusted customers.  Ask for their feedback, and be prepared to change the charter according to their feedback.

Then you can use the charter to have a discussion with clients about exactly what they want.  And exactly what you can provide.  Both sides will go into the relationship understanding the other better.

That way you’ll have happy customers who won’t feel that they have been misled.  Because you don’t want them feeling the way my wife and I did after our restaurant experience.

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