Sooner or later we’ll all be sitting around in whatever the new normal is, sharing stories of what we did in the Great Pandemic of 2020. And, depending on our age and predilection for storytelling, we’ll be boring the hell out of our kids, grandkids, and great-grandchildren for several decades. Start lining up your stories now. We’ll have drinks later and we can share!
I spend time in several segments of the print industry, and there are already stories of companies that are stepping up to the challenges faced by their customers and prospects during the COVID-19 pandemic. So far, it’s mostly on the upper end of the print industry with examples to be followed and lessons to be learned.
For example, Crawford Technologies produces and sells software solutions and services that help enterprises improve delivery, storage, and presentment of customer communications. Its founder and CEO, Ernie Crawford, is offering up his company’s services and expertise as a no-charge, 90-day emergency usage of its product(s) to assist companies to produce work that has become problematic due to COVID-19 related challenges and lockdowns. What makes this interesting is that while Crawford can make sure documents of all kinds are ready to print, the company does not provide print services. However, it has customers that do, so Crawford can help companies prepare print files for production at an alternate print center. Crawford and some of his customers are stepping up and saying, “We’re here to help!”
What’s a Dealer to Do?
Most coper/printer dealers probably don’t fall into the essential services category, so you may not have too many lights on right now. Some of your customers may be operating under “employees only” rules, making your service techs unable to make their regularly scheduled service calls as well as break/fix service. You may have figured this out, but if not, look for ways your service techs can access the machines when employees are absent or when fewer employees are around, such as in the evening or early morning. Remember, this whole stay-at-home or lockdown routine is new to everyone, so it’s important that we all—customers included—think outside the box.
Other customers may have staff working from home, some of whom may be frustrated by not having a quality printer, copier or scanner down the hall. This can be an opportunity. Reach out to the person at that company whom you normally talk with about copiers and printers. Ask about the copying, printing, and scanning needs of the temporarily remote workers, then offer up a plan to provide A4 MFPs, paper, and toner to those employees. A customer may push back on purchases, but a short-term lease or rental agreement might be just right and help a customer through a rough spot. Assure customers that an A4 MFP can serve the document needs of most remote employees and can be easily set up by anyone who can operate a laptop. The A4 MFP sitting eight feet from my desk asked only for an internet connection and for the print and scan drivers to be installed.
As you talk with the customer, the important thing is that you show them that you recognize their needs during an awkward time, and you have a solution to a problem. Customers will remember you were there for them, even if they don’t take advantage of your offer. The worst they can do is say no.
Do More, Be More
I’ll say upfront that this next tactic may not work and may even make you figure I’m totally certifiable. But suppose you call up the guy at the company you haven’t been able to crack. You know, the one with 19 copiers and printers that your competitor underbid you on back in 2016. You’ve heard employees there are working from home and know they probably have the same worries and frustrations as your own customers’ remote workers. So you offer the A4 MFP deal to that company, too. It may not work, but it sends a shot across the bow of your competitor and maybe gives a couple of his customers a reason to do business with you the next time their machines are due for replacement. As I said earlier, the worst they can do is say no.
Keep in Touch
Because the business world is quieter than we might like it is more important than ever to keep in touch with customers and prospects. Businesses that maintain their marketing and customer relations activities during a downturn are invariably better positioned when the economy heats up again. This means keeping in touch with customers regularly. Don’t stop putting out your monthly newsletter. And be sure to personalize it if you aren’t already. Craft the content to address current concerns, such as ways of maintaining communication channels, effective workgroup con calls, ways of keeping employees in the loop on company news, and techniques employees can use to help maintain productivity. Much of this information is readily available online, so be sure to include the links customers can easily share with their employees. Of course, make sure your business name visible on the newsletter so they know you are thinking of them. While you’re staying in touch, plant a seed or two about any new technology you’re aware of that might be a good fit for a customer. For example, a new, faster color printer with better networking capabilities coming soon from your favorite OEM may be the answer to a problem a customer is having.
This Will End
Sooner or later we’ll all be out and about again. There will be new rules and expectations of behavior, which may take some getting used to. But the measure of a company and its people are how they handle a crisis. If you stand up now and maintain your service to your customers and find ways to solve some of the challenges they are facing, you will come out stronger and better able to compete in the new normal. And have better stories to tell.
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