Web-to-Print is a Tool for Your Customers

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Web-to-Print is a Tool for Your Customers

Prepress automation, streamlining your customer service department, and reducing the time between inquiry and jobs getting on press – these are common feature requests for web-to-print systems. They are all about you (the printer) – web-to-print isn’t about you! Web-to-print is for your customers!


One of the most important aspects of your business from your customer’s perspective is:

“How easy is it to do business with you?

A web-to-print system is a tool for your customers. It is about making their life easier when dealing with your business. Web-to-print is one of the tools that allows customers to engage with your company in a self-service fashion.

Self-service is a customer preference trend that you cannot afford to ignore.

A report by Steven Van Belleghem called The Real Self-Service Economy showed that 40% of approximately 3,000 consumers prefer self-service to human contact for their future contact with companies, and 70% expect a company website to include a self-service application. This report was done in 2013—I bet the percentage is closer to 70% now.

From the customer support arena we see an even higher preference for self-service options:

  • 79% of customers would rather use self-service than a human assisted support Channel (Forrester).
  • 72% of customers buy only from vendors that can find product (support and documentation) content online (Acquity Group).
  • 33% said they would rather “clean a toilet” than wait for Support (Aspect CX Survey)

We need to change the focus of web-to-print from features benefiting the printer to understanding how web-to-print systems improve the customer experience of doing business with the printer. As the digital generations start to take leadership roles, a printer that relies on an old-school sales representative that wants to meet in person and bring donuts combined with an order entry process that involves 20 emails will be invisible to this generation. If they can’t engage with you online, you don’t exist.

You need both. You need self-service engagement and the personal touch that differentiates you from the template-based, simplified print choices online. You have to have the online engagement in addition to the personal/local touch aspect. Without it, your company is simply too much work to do business with.

Web-to-print has been too narrowly defined in our industry. It can no longer stay in its narrow confines of a business-to-business store that facilitates ordering for only 5% of the printer’s customers. Web-to-print needs to become a tool that all of a printer’s customers can use to do the jobs that can be done by software in a self-service setting.

What jobs can software do for your customers?

  1. Provide customer status about their jobs in progress
  2. Allow the customer to pay online
  3. Let the customer get access to the data about the business they are doing with you (order history, past invoices, copies of packing slips, etc.)
  4. Allow the customer to request a quote
  5. Allow the customer to transfer artwork for a job
  6. Collaborate with your team on a new project
  7. Proofing and approvals of artwork
  8. And so many more…

What will this do to your customer service department? I have one word: liberation. Let’s not talk about replacing customer service people; let’s talk about liberating them from mind-numbing tasks that are better delegated to software, so they can do what they do best—build human relationships, innovate, solve customer challenges, and sell. One more word about customer service: scale. When I ask printers, if their business doubled tomorrow, what part would break? The answer is almost always customer service/order entry.

If you’re shopping for a web-to-print solution, ask yourself what percentage of your “needs” serve you vs. your customers. Have you proactively asked your customers what they want to be able to do online with your business? Do you know what is most painful for your customers?

Differentiation in the print industry has moved from the production floor to the carpeted area of your business. The carpeted area is where the staff sits that facilitates customers’ jobs from initial inquiry into production and then through invoicing. This is the area that is over-staffed with humans and understaffed with software. Your customers prefer to handle things themselves—if you give them the tools to do it. Your people may initially feel threatened by this change, but we’ve witnessed the “liberation” mentioned earlier in this article. Humans feel a lot better about their job when they are using the higher-level skills of engagement, innovation, and relationship building vs. menial tasks.


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