I have been planning to create a business card to use when I meet people in relation to Fitzroyalty and the 10 local news sites, and I prepared the design some time ago. I thought printing the cards would be easy. As Clarkson says, how hard can it be? It should be easy to do it all online: obtain a quote; upload the artwork as a print-ready PDF; pay via credit card; and organise postage or pickup.
I like to do business locally when possible, so I started searching for a printer in the Fitzroy area. This turned into a three week saga of frustration. First, Snap on Budd St in Collingwood. They have a ‘request a quote’ function on their website. I filled in the form and submitted it. Nothing happened. I never received the quote by email.
After a week I looked at the website of Kwik Kopy on Smith St in Fitzroy. No quote function. I moved on to Discount Printing on George St in Fitzroy. Their business card quote form gave me a price of $105, but when I tried to upload my PDF files the uploader failed. Repeatedly. At work on a Windows PC using IE7 and Firefox 3, and at home on an Apple using Firefox 3. Different platforms, different browsers and different networks. It’s not me, it’s you. Fail fail fail.
I decided to start again. I emailed Snap and Kwik Kopy with the specs of the job (500 standard 90mm x 55mm business cards, full colour both sides, laminated, artwork supplied as PDFs with embedded CMYK images and text converted to outlines). Having already been unhappy with Snap, I expected nothing from them. I had not had a bad experience with Kwik. I was merely disappointed that their site was not more helpful. Discount Printing does not list an email address on their site so they did not get a second chance.
Confounding my expectations, Snap emailed back within a day and was ready to take the job. The quote was much higher than Discount Printing, but by now I was so annoyed at how tedious it had become that I wanted to get it over and done with. I tried to upload my files via their site, and it worked first time. I emailed back accepting the quote and organised to pay via credit card when picking up the cards. Easy. Another week went by and Snap phoned me to say the cards were ready to pick up.
I still have not received a return email from Kwik. How can three local small businesses get their customer service so wrong, and how bad can their online tools be? Surely they test them by using them as customers would? Surely they check that their email accounts actually work? No? No fucking idea? I though not.
With so many providers online, I need not have any loyalty to local businesses. That I do is apparently an old fashioned courtesy that is not adequately appreciated. Snap was lucky to get my business after their initial failure, and I am pleased with the cards but I could not honestly recommend the customer service of these businesses.
If buying locally becomes unnecessarily complicated, I’ll give up my preference for it, revert to rational self interest and find someone online who wants to provide the customer service I deserve. This is the challenge that many service industries face in the online era. As a consumer, I have for more choices now than I used to, and you the business owner need to recognise this and try harder to earn my business and my trust.