Successful commercial printers and print/mail service providers take the time to conduct regular planning meetings with their largest clients. These meetings may be called quarterly business reviews, account reviews, executive business reviews, or planning meetings. At these meetings, senior level people from the client and the vendor attend. There is a structured agenda with a focus on the services, value, and metrics for print/mail services. The agenda typically includes results accomplished with print projects and has discussion time to define goals for the next 90 days.
Your production and client service teams are busy every day. They are doing the work of managing tasks and logistics to get jobs out the door. Planning a quarterly client meeting takes effort from multiple people. Yet the most successful companies have a commitment to conducting regular planning meetings with clients.
What can in-plant managers learn from this planning meeting best practice?
Manage your accounts like you could lose them. Yes, it may be true that many print jobs that are printed in your shop are not likely to go out to bid. But we have all learned that business can change very quickly.
Conducting quarterly planning meetings means a series of additional tasks. Your team will have to define and quantify the work they do, and then assess the results your team provides for your customers. The opportunity to conduct these meetings will elevate the importance of the work your shop is doing and the value you provide to your customers, their departments, and your entire organization.
Why do it?
Your team has experience in communicating with customers about specific jobs, and production requirements. These planning meetings are different. They are not about specific jobs. The purpose of a planning meeting is to foster the relationship between your print team and your customer’s key decision makers. The meeting will focus on discussing the business impact of the services the in-plant has provided so you can get clarity and alignment on the following topics:
- Remind your customer of what went well
- Share specifics about what was accomplished
- What results did print/mail enable?
- What could be better?
- What new projects are being planned?
- Ask for referrals to other contacts
- Be seen as a resource
- Let them know they and their jobs matter
A structured agenda
Create an agenda and send it to all attending participants before the meeting. This will help people stay on topic. It also will give your customer time to prepare their questions, concerns and come prepared to share about changes they anticipate. A planning meeting allows your team the opportunity to highlight the benefits of printing and mailing services provides to your organization. Thus, reinforcing your value to the customer.
The agenda typically includes the following discussion items:
- Update on team members roles (if applicable)
- Metrics for services provided
- Performance review
- Business review
- New services
- Goal setting
Are there new members of your team that are interacting with your customer? Have you restructured key roles? This is the place to provide a formal introduction for new team members, their skills and new responsibilities. Defining roles and responsibilities reinforce the importance of communications and expectations of everyone’s role in the process.
An overview of metrics might include reporting on number of jobs, pieces mailed, on-time mailing, number of service requests and new programming projects. Review the performance of your entire team – production and customer service.
Asking your client about their business needs and expected changes for the next 3-6 months allow you to jointly define goals. This meeting is also the perfect time to introduce new or enhanced services that your customers may be unaware of.
Planning meetings create an open dialog around what is working, what needs improvement and what will be changing. Taking the time to have these conversations demonstrate your commitment to your customers’ and organization’s overall goals and what the in-plant is doing to enable them.
Whether you have customer planning meetings, quarterly or two or three times a year, they are foundational to creating a positive customer experience and demonstrating value to your organization. Don’t let the daily busyness of production push these meetings down your priority list. Adopting industry best practices will elevate your team and provide insights to serve your customers better.
Lois Ritarossi, CMC®, is the President of High Rock Strategies, a consulting firm focused on sales and marketing strategies, and business growth for firms in the print, mail and communication sectors. Lois brings her clients a cross functional skill set and strategic thinking with disciplines in business strategy, sales process, sales training, marketing, software implementation, inkjet transformation and workflow optimization. Lois has enabled clients to successfully launch new products and services with integrated sales and marketing strategies, and enabled sales teams to effectively win new business. You can reach Lois at https://www.highrockstrategies.com/ or Lritarossi@highrockstrategies.com