So Who’s the Customer, anyway?

Being a print consultant for North America’s largest independent print optimization consulting firm is great.  I love it!!  I get to see and measure the results of print technology and service decisions made that range from brilliant and magnificent to “right-off-the charts” insane.  I usually get reminded by someone that those people are all smart individuals and employees of big successful companies.  How can they make really, really bad print based decisions?  Maybe I am exaggerating a bit?

Sorry to report that I am not exaggerating.  After 18 years as the President of POG Consulting, I could tell you stories that would cause you to gasp in disbelief, shake your head and roll your eyes.  Maybe the POG team will allow me to share some of those in a future blog.  Let them know if you are interested.  This blog is about, why bad decisions happen, versus what happens after they are made.

Customer’s simply forget they are the customer.  If you buy a house or a car, you know what you want and need and how much you can spend.  If you buy a cell phone, you usually know what you want and expect it to do that for you.  You tell the sales person what it is you are looking for, establish expectations and make an informed decision.  Seems pretty straight forward … and it usually is.  You never forget that you are the customer.  Most times, you are never too shy to state what it is you want.  So why is it that over and over again, I hear senior managers in large companies tell me that the print vendor wants this, or the print supplier needs that, or … my favorite is … “no, they will not let us do that because …”.   While listening, I can’t help but wonder, who exactly is the customer in this situation?

My professional response goes something like this … “Do you know what you need?  Do you know what you spend today and what your targets are?  Like a house, car or cell phone, can you quickly recognize a good deal from a bad one?  What technology are you considering?  How many?”   They just don’t know.  OK.  OK.  So printing is a pain in the neck, fragmented, messy and complicated.  In some cases it can be all of that and more.  But regardless of what condition your print environment is in, you need to remember that you are the customer and you always need to be a good customer.

A good customer knows what to ask for and how to ask.  The good sales representatives from print manufacturers and value-added resellers can quickly determine if you know how to be a customer or not, and then if you are going to be a well-informed good customer or not.   They are more than happy to tell you and teach you how to be the customer they want you to be.  Don’t have any print terms and conditions of your own?  No problem, just use mine.  Not sure what you need.  Let me tell you want you want.

The “off-the-charts” insane decisions are made by good people who have simply forgotten how to be print technology customers.  If those people bought print solutions like they do houses, cars and cell phones, there would be fewer crazy print stories to share.  Come to think of it, my team would have less to talk about, analyze and fix.  Interesting.  Oh well, I best get back to work.  We have lots to do!!