Customer value all year round

With a new year on its way, we are all encouraged to look ahead, and well we should! It is a wonderful time to make lifestyle changes, re-evaluate goals, and make plans for the future. They say that there comes a time in every person’s life when he must stop looking forward at the person he wishes to become, and instead must look back on the person he has become.

This year, at New Years, instead of making loads of goals for the future (All right, I’ll probably make a couple obligatory resolutions), I suggest looking back on your year in business. What did 2007 bring you? Try to stay away from the numbers–that can be done at tax time!–and think qualitatively about this one.

Were your customers truly satisfied? Did your business grow? Did you have any kinks or problems; and, if so, are you satisfied with how you worked through these issues? What can you do in 2008 that would help your business? Are your employees happy? Are you happy? Have you been showing your customers that you value them all year‚Ķor did you whip a few Christmas cards off the press in mid November and hope that would hold you through for another year in the “customer appreciation” category?

During the holiday season, customer appreciation is something that most companies, even if they have not done so all year, tend to think about! Sending out a mass mailing of holiday cards is a nice gesture, and as printers and designers we often take advantage of the opportunity to show off our silver embossing techniques, our cutting edge designs, or our fancy die cutting abilities. It is also a great time to demonstrate to clients an ability to personalize such items.

But what about the rest of the year? How do you show your clients how valued they are on a daily basis? A Christmas card might be a nice gesture, but to really stand out from the competition, you have to show your clients how much you appreciate their business throughout the year. There is so much competition out there that great customer service is vital to separate the successful from the not-so-successful. And one step up from solid customer service is showing your clients just how much you value them.

For some clients, a simple phone call every couple of months from one business owner to another can help ensure that things are running smoothly. Taking a client out for lunch or for a drink helps to develop a strong relationship and shows the value of their business. Go through your work flow patterns and identify any areas that could be improved. Doing “unexpected things at unexpected times” will definitely increase the impact of your efforts. For example, a bottle of wine sent on December 20th will get lost amidst a growing pile of gifts, while a bottle of wine sent in the middle of March with a hand written note that says “Thanks for all the business recently!” will really make your client take notice of you.

Another time to show the value of your client is during a–real or perceived–emergency. They need the artwork an hour ago. The cards were to be delivered last week. In these situations, you are able to show how much you care by going beyond the call of duty and helping your client out, whether that means working overtime, making a quick in-person delivery, or pulling yourself away from another project to focus on the client in need. The client will remember how you helped pull through and it will encourage them to stick with you, as they know how you really “step up to bat” when necessary.

All of this, of course, is not to say that a bottle of wine will go unappreciated over the holidays! After all, between the added deadline pressures, the increased social obligations, and the family get togethers, I think we could all use a glass…or two! Enjoy the Season!