When the s*#t hits the fan!

Despite all our efforts, we printers are actually quite human.  And we work in a field that has human involvement with machinery and technology.  And try as hard as we can, sometimes, we mess up.  And you know what, I’ll be the first to admit that I am one of the messer-uppers!  With over 30 years in the print industry, I’ve had my fair share of mistakes.

But what I’ve learned from those mistakes, is that, try as hard was we can, we can still make mistakes.  But what can make or break the printer and the print sales rep, is HOW you handle those mistakes.  So, here are the four things I’ve learned when that print job needs to go into the recycle bin, or the mailing was messed up, or you’re two days late because the press went down.


What? DON’T tell the CLIENT you messed up?  Yes.  As a first, knee-jerk reaction, do NOT tell the client.  Why?  Let’s think about this.  Something happens on press, and in a slight state of panic you decide to go call the client.  But if you call them without any thought or preparation, you’re going to make YOUR problem THEIR problem, with no answers to provide them.  BIG MISTAKE!  You’ll sound totally unsure of yourself and your processes, and that creates a lack of confidence in your client on your capabilities.  No matter how good you are in fixing the problem, making that call without any ideas or solutions is a mistake.


So, before you make that call, find out what happened as best as you can.  Maybe it isn’toops something that can be resolved in 10 minutes.  Maybe you need to do more investigating or having your team do some research into the problem.  But try to determine what happened, and if possible, the reasons.  If you need to make that  quick call, AT LEAST go in with that.  For one thing, it can or will allow your sense of panic to somewhat dissipate, and when you call, you’re now calm, and seem to be in control of the situation.  Your client may not like what has happened, but if you sound calm, they will remain calm as well.


The best bet – the all-time winner in service recovery – would be to have had enough time (maybe even just 30 minutes) to determine what happened and why, to have discussed it with the team, and to have come up with a game plan for service recovery. That way, when you call the client you can advise them of the situation, advise how it happened (and they don’t need a doctoral dissertation on how it went south – just a brief synopsis), and what you and your team are going to do to fix it.  Be honest – if it means they get the job two days late because you have to get paper in and reprint – say so. But be frank and honest.  Clients can smell when you’re giving them a load of bull, so don’t do it.


Finally, if there is a way to help the situation by having your client be part of the solution, then by all means, go for it.  Sometimes this can be as simple as listening to alternatives Happy-Personthey may present.  For example, they may suggest a quick digital print to get them what they need for the trade show.  Or they may say all they need is a partial.  Often, clients can, because of their objectivity, be a part of the solution.  So, let them.  It won’t always happen, but when it does, it further cements them with you and your company, because they are actively involved in fixing the problem.  They don’t want to, but it empowers them.


I’ve had some real bonehead things happen to me in the past.  But I quickly learned that if I gathered my information and came up with a game plan, I could then approach my superiors or my clients, and give them the details.  Usually, they were calm, assured that since I was acknowledging my or our error, and that I had a plan to fix it.  That did build the trust between me and the other parties involved, and we continued to have a long and successful collaboration due to that.

So next time the proverbial s&$t hits the fan, don’t hit the deck running.  Pause, catch your breath, do some research, find the solution and THEN contact the client.  You’ll be glad you did.

Connect with John on Google+Twitter and LinkedIn.


About John Prothero

John Prothero is a print professional with over 30 years experience in the print industry. Starting out as a driver delivering jobs, he worked in bindery, proofing, plating, traditional prepress (camera and stripping), scheduling, job planning, job management, account management and digital job production. His skills also run in the area of blog authorship, social media management, and lead generation and qualification of prospective clients. John is also a contributor to Rhode Island Creative Magazine, a digital publication that highlights the creative spirit of the state of Rhode Island. You can read their online issues at www.ricreativemag.com
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