By Gary Paulin and Mark Lusky
Here is a six-point New Year checklist to help assess what’s working well—and what needs rethinking and/or improvement.
Can you count on your label printer to deliver consistent quality while meeting deadlines and price commitments? Lack of consistency is a big complaint in the industry—one that’s likely to get worse in our harried and hurried work environment.
When checking other printers, look at both the quality and quantity of reviews from a variety of sources where possible. Don’t just rely on reviews posted on the printer’s site, unless they link to such verifiable platforms as Google Reviews. They will provide an historical snapshot, and can serve as a reliable predictor of performance going forward.
To get the best intel, look at enough reviews to see a wide variety of opinions (dozens or better yet, hundreds or more). Look for consistently positive reviews, and drill down to see some of the most-mentioned positive and negative comment. From this, you can usually determine where a company excels and areas needing improvement
Is it easy to order and re-order? For some, this means a digital dashboard handling everything from the initial order through proofing. For others, it’s a dedicated account manager or team that responds rapidly and reliably. There is no right or wrong, only preferences that need to be met.
Another critical part of convenience is fast turnaround. Are you getting the turnaround time you need and want? When unexpected deadlines arise, can you get “extra special” service? If you’re happy with present circumstances, then stay put. If not, shop around. Two trends polarizing customer service are—
companies dedicated to growing bigger at the expense of quality service and support, and companies making an ongoing commitment to quality performance and customer service as they grow. Make sure you’re working with the second category.
3. Capacity and Capabilities
Capacity looks both at how many can be printed as well as how few, and whether or not one printer can handle low to high volume needs. For many product manufacturers, printing 50 at a time affordably is just as important as many thousands or even millions.
Capabilities can run the gamut of sizes, shapes, substrates, inks and special finishes. Oil/water resistant premium labels, maximum durability, variable data/imaging and consecutive numbering/barcode are just some of the higher-level requirements needed by increasing numbers of companies. Also important are fulfillment capabilities—including packaging and shipping. Bottom line, if you need it and aren’t getting it, chances are the capability exists somewhere. Check it out.
4. Clarity and Crispness
Labels should look crisp and clear. This speaks to the quality of the printing itself as well as design and content. While the label printer is responsible for maximizing clarity and crispness of what they’ve been given by a customer, they also should be able to weigh in on potential potholes after being given the artwork to print—offering insights and workarounds that will improve the final product.
Job one is to give you what you need, when you need it and meet any challenges along the way. Automated technology platforms can be great. But, access to a real, live human being who can support, problem-solve and follow up to ensure ongoing satisfaction also is vital. The best customer engagement generally follows from giving companies options to interact in the way(s) they are most comfortable—from high tech to high touch, and everything in between.
6. Counterfeiting Protection
This is a rapidly growing blight on legitimate commerce. Notes a Forbes.com article: “While online marketplace sales volume is up 23 percent from last year, fraudsters are capitalizing on the opportunity. Brand protection company Red Points released a report today which found a 40 percent increase in counterfeits from 2018 to 2019. The report confirms what many branded manufacturers have experienced first-hand recently: knock-off products being sold under their brand name on sites that shoppers trust…This makes it hard for shoppers to know what is real and what is fake. It’s also costing the original brand a pretty penny – both in diverted sales and lost confidence from consumers.”
Emerging technologies being adopted by label printers enable smartphone users to download an app, then click on a small digital ID imprinted on a label to verify product authenticity. Increasingly, these technologies are inspiring consumer confidence about the authenticity of what they buy—in turn reinforcing positive company reputation.
Obviously in all of this, favorable pricing is very important. However, it shouldn’t just be about bottom line—it should be about value. If you’re getting great prices and value, that’s worth its weight in gold. If not, keep looking until you find the pot o’ gold.
About the Authors:
Gary Paulin is Director of Sales and Client Services at Lightning Labels, a Denver-based custom label printer that uses state-of-the-art printing technology to provide affordable, full-color custom labels and custom stickers of all shapes and sizes. Mark Lusky is president of Lusky Enterprises Inc., a marketing communications and content development company. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; 800.544.6323 or 303.481.2304.