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Finding the Right Communication Tools

(February 2012) posted on Mon Feb 06, 2012

Tackling ever-changing communication technologies to better your business.

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By Craig Miller

Our industry benefits from e-mail more than most because we work in a world ruled by measurements – we sell everything by the square foot or square meter. Simply getting the fraction of one dimension wrong can be disastrous. Recently, for example, a sales rep thought she had heard “quarter-inch” while the customer thought he said “an eighth-inch,” so the Lexan prints we were producing didn’t fit in the light. Lesson learned: On any job without a purchase order, it’s a good idea to get the important details written down in an e-mail.

During the course of many jobs, there are occasions where issues arise that require a decision. If your company makes the decision, you own that decision. But if the customer makes the decision and they put it in an e-mail, they own it. Let’s say a photo file is in that gray area of almost not being high-enough resolution; it might be acceptable or it might not. You and your staff are pros, you can make that call. But, no need: PDFs can be e-mailed to the client showing critical elements and how they will print at full size. The customer can then decide if it’s good enough. If they say it’s fine, you can proceed without worry. This kind of documentation can be a lifesaver.

Another example of good e-mail usage: In the past year, we’ve been getting regular e-mails from our textile suppliers, indicating that the price of polyester continues to rise. Since dye sublimation makes up nearly half of our business, textile cost is significant to us. So, in turn, we then sent e-mails to our heaviest dye-sub buyers to set the stage for future price increases in the products they order. Providing these rationales and the e-mail documentation from our suppliers made our inevitable price increases easier for us (and helped lessen resistance from our customers).

E-mail is equally important with your employees. We have 25 employees in a 20,000-square-foot building. It’s certainly easy to talk to people on the intercom or walk to their work area. But internal e-mail allows the sender to document important instructions, critical feedback, and praise. File these e-mails and they become an important historical record for the HR department. These internal e-mails are not a replacement for verbal communication, but they have become an invaluable augmentation.