I started binge watching “The Office” around the time I started working for Dual Print & Mail, and in a way it complemented my training (or maybe I’m just trying to justify all the hours I spent in front of the TV. Who’s to say?)
In any case, as one might expect, the paper industry isn’t too different from the printing industry. We’re both trying to accomplish the same goal: leverage the value of paper and print in an increasingly paperless world.
To that point, here are three things I picked up on while binge watching “The Office”.
Print and paper are perceived as commodities.
(But they’re not.)
Stanley’s Daughter: Why doesn’t the saw mill just sell paper directly to people?
Michael: You are describing Office Depot, and they’re kind of running us out of business.
Dwight: We have better service than they do!
Because of their business models, places like Staples and Office Depot are able to sell paper at very low costs, leading one to believe that the paper industry is a commodity market where the only differentiator is price. However, companies like the fictional Dunder-Mifflin find another way to differentiate themselves: their customer service. In a similar way, printing companies set themselves apart from competitors by their ability to focus on their own target audience and the value proposition and product offerings they are able to provide for them.
Along those same lines…
Your biggest asset is the level of service you provide.
Dwight: [Uses customer’s office phone to make a call]
Recording answers phone call: Please keep holding, your call is very important to us.
Dwight to customer: That’s one of the ‘Big guys.’ Been on hold this whole time.
Jim to customer: [Uses own cell phone to make a call while office phone is still on hold] And this is Dunder-Mifflin.
Kelly answers phone call: [Immediately picks up] Dunder-Mifflin customer service, this is Kelly.
Jim to Kelly: Hey, Kelly, it’s Jim.
Kelly to Jim: Oh my god, Jim. How are you? I wanted to tell you … .
Jim: [Hangs up cell phone]
Dwight: [Hangs up office phone]
Jim and Dwight get this sale because the customer now knows he’ll receive better, more personal customer service if they go with Dunder-Mifflin. In that same way, printers who have a dedicated and responsive customer service team stand out among those that don’t.
Every customer is your most important customer.
Michael: Mrs. Allen is our most important client… because every client is our most important client.
When Michael Scott finds out there was a quality control issue with some of the paper they sold, he reaches out to his customers to apologize. It doesn’t matter to him that Mrs. Allen is a smaller client, because to him all clients are important. It’s the same for printers: no matter the size or scope of the project, printing companies treat every project as the most important project, and do what it takes to get them done right.
The Bottom Line – In a marketplace where the products are perceived as commodities, what truly differentiates paper and printing companies from competitors is how well they understand their customers, and the different products, capabilities, and customer service they can offer that their competitors cannot.