BY NICK MEADOR
"The customer is king." Even in the 1990s it was common knowledge that "the customer is always right." In the Internet Age, that is true x1000.
In mid-March I had one of the most disappointing customer service experiences I've had in a long time. It happened at a print shop in Royal Oak, Michigan, just outside of Detroit.
I ordered 500 4x6" flyers for an upcoming event. When I picked them up they looked distorted, but "staff member #1" told me that they check all files before printing.
I tried to brush it off and walked outside. But after scanning the flyers again I couldn't shake the sense that they looked "off." So I decided to go back in and ask for more information.
That was when I realized I had sent an image file at the wrong proportions. At this point staff member #1 changed her previous statement and said they simply run whatever file they receive.
Then staff member #2 told me they would recycle the first batch and re-print the flyers. I didn't want to waste all that material (even recycling it), but I appreciated the offer.
But he followed by saying, "Actually I'm being nice to you. We should really split the cost." It wasn't that I disagreed, but his tone of voice said something much different. It was anything but nice.
He said, "Look, I really don't understand what we did wrong" in a tone that implied I was trying to take advantage of them, when I had simply walked back in the store to find out what happened.
Maybe he felt embarrassed for not checking to make sure an image file was the same size as the stock paper before printing 500 copies of it. But he clearly lacked self-awareness about his inner state.
He went on to say that the flyers didn't look that bad – that if they were really bad they wouldn't have even shown them to me in the first place.
It's not possible to replicate the subtleties of his tone, posture, and gestures here, but I walked out of the store feeling physically rattled. I had spent a lot of time creating the flyer and I already regretted sending the wrong size file. All they had to do was apologize for not checking the file and I probably would have continued using their store in the future, just being more careful about the files I send.
I waited a couple of days to get clear on the situation, in the meanwhile noticing that their website boasted a 100% money-back customer satisfaction guarantee.
I wrote a message explaining my dissatisfaction without issuing any blame or judgment. I said I'm an independent event producer, not a graphic designer, and I really need my files checked before going to print. I asked if they would at least be willing to offer a discount on a future order.
They didn't tell me "no." In fact, I didn't even receive a response.
So even though I would prefer to work with a local printer, I won't be using their services again. And not only will I be printing a TON of flyer, posters, stickers and more in the coming time, but if anyone asks for a printer suggestion I'm going to dissuade them from using that shop.
I'm not sure what's going on in the independent printing industry, but this is actually the second poor customer service experience I've had with a print shop this year. THERE IS NO EXCUSE FOR THIS KIND OF CUSTOMER SERVICE IN 2017.
It doesn't matter what the company thinks of their own customer service. All that matters is what the customer thinks!
It doesn't matter if it's a small business worried about material costs. Unless there's an investment in compassionate communication and emotional intelligence skills, customer service—and therefore business success—is going to suffer.
This shop could have met my needs without a free re-print, simply by empathizing with my experience and taking my side psychologically. But now they've lost a customer, and possibly more—since all of us in the Inernet Age (or social media age) have the power to sway the buying behavior of other customers.
As I grow the Inner Waymark business and everything connected to it (Soul Lift Cacao, Vibrant Dawn, Maya Eterna, etc.), this is paramount in the philosophy underpinning my workshops, coaching sessions, vending, and other services.
This extends from my very philosophy about life, which I can't fully put into words yet (wait for that book in 2037... haha), but which I hope will emanate from everything I do.
And as a customer, I'm going to take my business to places that inspire a bubbly feeling with how they treat me. I've literally had customer services at Chipotle that trounce on what these print shops are doing.
It doesn't matter if someone is selling stickers or burritos or manila folders or clown shoes. A provider of a product and/or service actually has the power to brighten or darken someone's life experience.
And those who brighten it are more likely to make bank. Not to mention the businessperson will probably lighten their own experience and have more fun in life.
Guess which way I'm choosing.
I realize there's no way to satisfy 100% of people 100% of the time. But if I ever make your experience with an Inner Waymark product or service even worse through my actions or communication, please call me out! You can reach me through our Contact page.
(p.s. - I'm happy to share the name of the print shop[s] with anyone who wants to know, but at the end of writing this I decided it was besides the point of what I needed to express.)