by Terry Colosimo, Director of Operations
Before joining Westchester, I was a Production Manager at an academic publisher working with both printing and composition vendors. Though quality and cost were of importance, the vendor’s level of customer service weighed heavy in my decision-making process, and sometimes projects were awarded to a vendor due to the level of care that the customer service representative (CSR) would bring to it. Even though I have not purchased services for quite some time, I still have contact with some of the very first CSRs I was introduced to.
Once I started working here, my responsibilities transitioned from seeking out vendors to ensuring that Westchester’s reputation for quality and service was maintained. Fortunately, this has been an easy task to carry out, in that the representatives we have on our team exhibit the same traits which I sought out when I was on the publisher’s side of the desk.
Ask yourself whether your current editorial or production vendor embodies these qualities:
Responsiveness—responding to a customer in a timely manner would seem to be obvious, but I think we have all experienced that uneasiness that comes while waiting for a response. Many times your representative may not have all the information they need to answer your question, but this should not stop a representative from sending out a quick acknowledgment to let you know that they are looking into your query or working on your request. Once that acknowledgment is made, they should then get back to you in a timely and thorough manner.
Experience—a customer service team should have extensive knowledge in all areas of publishing services. Their combined experience comes from grasping the nuances of client’s production workflow. An experienced CSR knows what to ask if you are uncertain about the particulars of a job. What may be a new product or workflow for you may be familiar to your CSR and they should be able to help navigate the process with you. Not each customer is the same, but what a CSR learns from each customer helps build a knowledge base for each one on the team to use.
Flexibility—because not every client is going to follow the same model and not every one of your own projects is going to be the same, good customer service requires being flexible. You should get reassurance, and not resistance from your CSR that they can handle a time-sensitive or high profile project. Systems should be adaptable enough so that a unique project does not negatively affect the rest of your projects or schedules.
Ownership—you should feel like your CSR fully owns your account and acts on your behalf. A CSR’s responsibility is to make sure that everyone in the organization understands your SOPs; sees that any changes get implemented within each department and cross-trains others so that there is seamless service if they are away. Based on their knowledge and the relationship they have built with you, they should be able to work with you and offer suggestions if needed. Ownership also means acknowledging when mistakes are made and working on getting those resolved to your satisfaction.
Proactive—if a problem does occur, your CSR should be able to determine its cause and how to get it resolved as quickly as possible. They should work with production to determine ways to avoid such situations from happening in the future and give you a sense of confidence that an issue has been thoroughly addressed. And given their experience on your account, they should understand your needs well enough to resolve as much as they can internally before raising a query with you.
These five traits are what I believe set a vendor apart, and propel them into becoming a trusted partner to a publisher. At Westchester, these are far more than a list of desirable qualities – they are key components guiding the approach we take with every project each of our valued clients provides us.
I hope my thoughts about customer service were helpful and informative for you. In my next post, I will share my thoughts with you on the subject of client visits.