April 13, 2011
Getting something printed should be an easy, stress free experience. When you buy a can of coke you know exactly what you are going to get.
There are many different types of coke and everybody has their favourite, if you ordered a diet coke and got a cherry coke you would not be happy, so why do so many online print companies feel it is acceptable to treat their customers like cash cows and run their businesses behind smoke and mirrors?
If something is printed and delivered and the end result is not what the client is expecting whose fault is it? Is it the clients fault for supplying artwork that is not suitable for printing? Or, as I like to think, is it the companies fault for not informing and educating the client that the artwork may not be suitable.
You should be able to receive the finished printed product exactly as you require without any fuss or confusion.
There is a great saying in the print industry that states there is always time for a reprint, no matter how short the lead time simple steps need to be followed to keep consistent quality and the end user, you the customer fully informed.
Sometimes it can seem like a bit of a lottery trying to find a reliable and cost effective print company who can deliver what you want when you need it. There are so many options out there that it can seem a little daunting sometimes.
When you are looking for a printer what are you looking for? Quality, price, lead time, range of products, knowledge in the industry, environmental factors, the list goes on and on but the key factor for me is that your job should be delivered on time, on budget and exactly as you have ordered every time.
There are many factors to consider when using a print company or any company, saving a few pounds today will not guarantee what’s delivered is what you are looking for. In these times of economic hardship surely it is better to look at the bigger picture and support a local company than a corporate giant? One that is just round the corner, knows who you are and what you do rather than just looking at the pound signs over your head. One that can employ local people, and be active in your local community.
In the UK there are over 12,000 print companies all offering varying products and services, how do you know which one to use? How do you know what you are ordering and what is being delivered will be the same?
Each print job produced is bespoke and individual to a customer so needs to have the due care and attention it deserves, can this really be achieved by using an online print company and the production process that they use?
There are many online print companies offering print for bargain basement prices or sometimes offering free items, but how do they do that? Have you ever thought about the environmental or social impacts of this? Do you care or do you just want cheap print?
As an example I am going to give you some details of 3 real online print companies and let you into some of the tricks of the trade that they use to give you a very cheap product.
The first company is a multi-national print company and have a massive online presence. They have many different items for sale and many items for free but what is the true cost of printing in this way?
Firstly all of the work that is printed for the UK market is printed in Holland or Canada and shipped to the UK. So far this year their website is telling me that they have produced over 9 million jobs for their customers,
What is the carbon footprint for these deliveries?
Why do they not have any environmental accreditations on their website?
They state that they recycle their paper and plates but every print company I know of do this, surely being a large multi-national company they should contribute more and look at ways to reduce their impact on the environment.
Where does their paper come from? With no certifying body looking at how they purchase it could come from illegally logged sources? I am not saying it does but where is the transparency and duty of care in the company?
Why can’t you speak to a person in the company, I can’t even see a phone number?
If I have a problem with something I like to talk to somebody not send and email which gives me an automated response that somebody will contact me in due course to fob me off and not give me a useable product.
A couple of exerts from their website to show their level of customer service as follows,
How do we offer such cheap pricing?
“In a word – technology. Graphic design and custom printing have historically been a hands-on, laborious process, for both the supplier and the customer. Proprietary technologies fully automate the manufacturing of printing, as well as the way orders are created and submitted”
Sounds great, but what does it actually mean to you the customer? Bad news I am afraid…
It means that from when you place the order online to when the job is delivered to your door there has been very minimal human interaction with you product.
Who has checked your file to see if it will print well?
Who is looking at the colour of your job?
Who is looking at the trimming or finishing of your job?
The truth is your job will be printed on a large sheet with lots of other jobs and nobody will actually quality check it? Nobody will look at you job and say “I think that would look better if we increased the yellow by 2%” Nobody will look at the trimming and say “if we adjust by 2mm the job will look much better”
The sad fact is that it is all fully automated and nobody cares what is being produced, how it will be finished or when it will be delivered.
By the time your job is delivered and you open the pack to see it is not quite what you wanted it is too late, they have your money and don’t really care about your business. You could email them and let them know how disappointed you are with the job but will anybody really care or do anything about it?
A proof should always be run if you are in doubt of how the job will look. One of the benefits of how DDP work is that the job will be proofed on the machine and on the stock that it will actually be printed on, thus what you see is what the end result will be.
Another online print company that I know is based in the local area but all of their printing is produced in India?
Again what is the carbon footprint of their deliveries?
Where does their paper come from? They display the FSC logo on their website but are not certified which is unethical and illegal to promote this.
Last but not least in my case study is another large company that is UK based and has offices up and down the country, they offer another online print solution, again all jobs are run together on a big sheet at a central processing plant.
How can they guarantee quality?
What is the carbon footprint of their deliveries?
Where is their environmental policy or accreditations?
This company is franchise based and anybody with a bit of cash can buy into the company, yes anybody. You could be a butcher today and the face of a national print company tomorrow! What a scary thought. Again you are herded through the website or you may visit a shop but are tied to the lead times and products offered by unskilled staff members. What happened to customer service, why is it acceptable for this to vanish when you are an online print company?
You cannot gain experience from a manual or a short training programme so why do we put our hopes of a quality job with these companies? Why are we deceived to think that we are ordering from industry experts when in fact we are buying in to a cheap product?
I have worked in the print industry for over 16 years and have seen many changes in the industry. From when I started as a 17 year old apprentice I have learnt a set of skills that take time to develop, I still learn things on a daily basis and absorb as much as possible so I can be the best in my field and give my clients what they need.
Print is an industry that has a steep learning curve and is constantly developing but one thing we cannot replace with the advancement of technology is the fundamental process of guiding a customer though the complex world of print. It is our duty as professionals to do this and not rely on an automated process and blame the customer when things go wrong.
DDP was formed in September 2010 and we have over 50 years experience in the print industry. My father and I who are the partners of the company have both completed apprenticeships in graphic arts and printing. We understand the science and technology that makes print work. Back when my father did his apprenticeship it took 6 years to complete, you do less than that to be a doctor now!
In the last 7 months we have had to reprint 1 job, this was due to human error and was printed on a 350gsm rather than a 400gsm stock, we reprinted and delivered back to the happy customer, no ifs or buts just fixed the problem with no fuss. Can the online companies match a reprint % like this, I think not. We have no robots, no gimmicks just good old fashion service, years of experience and the latest print equipment operated by professionals not a butcher who fancied a change of scenery!
So next time you order a print job ask yourself a couple of questions before going for the cheapest price, buy local and use master craftsmen who cares about what they deliver to you.
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