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Finding the Value in 'Value Add'

Offer unique services that will benefit clients.

Often we hear the phrase "value-added service" batted around the business world and we strive to adopt some level of excellence along these lines to give ourselves an edge in the competitive environment. But what exactly is "value-added service?" And are you providing it to your customers?

Simply put, the key to this concept is offering something to your clients that your competitors do not. This concept can be a little tricky. For example, you may believe that you are providing a value-added service with low pricing combined with quick turnarounds. The problem is, in today’s business climate, many of your competitors are consistently willing to do the same thing. Therefore, you aren’t really offering your customer anything special, you are just trying to compete. So let’s examine a couple of ideas that may help you create some unique services your business can give to your customers.

Unique spins for your clients

Here’s a simple example of one such service. For several years now, our company has provided pick-up and delivery services to customers within about a 40-mile radius of our business. Of course this is hardly unique, except that when we originally decided to offer this service, we decided to do it for free. Most of our competitors offer this service to their customers, but in our marketplace no one else does it for free. Now, offering this same service for free may not be feasible for your business, but the point here is that you can take a basic service that everyone may offer and put your own spin on it-making it unique to your customers.

Another idea to consider is to provide your customers with specialized education that's relevant to the production processes you run. Many of us share the same struggle of constantly receiving files that are nowhere close to being ready for production. Most of us just complain and go to work fixing the files so they can eventually get to production, perhaps taking hours of precious digital time to complete. In fact, these types of clients may be so well known among our production teams that you hear an audible groan when one of their jobs comes in the door.

Instead of constantly battling through these issues, however, you could take a proactive approach to fixing the problem: Invite them to participate in a digital workshop or seminar hosted by the personnel in your digital department. This can be done on a more informal basis, one-on-one, or you can host a classroom type setting where several of your important clients could be invited.

A few months ago, this approach helped our company through a difficult situation with one of our largest customers. This customer’s files continually came in way oversized, creating havoc in our digital department every time. Finally, we invited their lead designer to Salt Lake City for the day to discuss how we can provide better service and become more efficient in our processes.

It turned out to be a very productive day for both parties: He had a few requests for us to change some of our procedures to make things easier on their end, and we took advantage of the opportunity to educate him on how his files can be built to suit our production processes while maintaining the quality he is used to receiving from our shop. While the procedural accomplishments of this particular visit were very worthwhile, the best result was the opportunity to strengthen our ties with this client by providing him a value-added service. We now feel confident that his commitment to us as a vendor is as strong as any we have.

Find your unique selling points

Utilizing modern technology and software is another way to help cement those relationships with your clients. Nowadays, several software solutions exist that can provide your customers with instantaneous feedback on the status of their job. In the graphics world of quick turn times and critical deadlines, this type of value-added service can by very appealing to your clients. You can provide them with something as simple as e-mail updates of the job status, or you can utilize a more elaborate system combining on-line proofing with a browser-based interface that allows the client to log onto your system and track the status of a job throughout the shop. The system also can include electronic invoicing and may even utilize electronic payment capabilities.

Realistically, bringing this kind of technology in-house opens up many opportunities to provide your customers with unique services-services that your competitors may not be using. Let’s face it, several low-price leaders are out there, ready to take business away from your company. And, many of your competitors are willing to meet the demanding turn-time requests your client asks for, even if those requests may seem rather unreasonable.

Look at your business and identify the characteristics that create unique selling points to your customers. Then capitalize on those by implementing systems around them that will service your clients more effectively.

Fit your strengths

Time and time again, we all read surveys that tell us price is not the number-one criteria (or even number two or three) our customers use when making buying decisions. Yet, over and over we find ourselves focusing on price to get the job. Instead, get creative and find the value-added services that fit your strengths; in return, you'll undoubtedly receive an increase in customer loyalty and commitment.

Marty McGhie (marty@ferraricolor.com) is VP finance/operations of Ferrari Color, a digital-imaging center with Salt Lake City, San Francisco, and Sacramento locations.

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