Fine-Tuning Your PrintShop Workflow: Tips for Handling Late Deliveries

Business customers report that one of the main reasons they will change vendors is because of unreliable deliveries. While many companies hesitate to change service providers, they can’t afford to remain loyal to a supplier that doesn’t deliver needed products on time. You can minimize the risk of late deliveries by using a good print-management information system (Print MIS) to organize your print shop workflow.

In the process of implementing a Print MIS, you will develop the strong production processes, inter-departmental communications, and real-time data you need to anticipate when a customer might not get a job delivered by the required deadline. Then, you can either take steps to avoid the delay or let the customer know in advance why the job might be late.

A good Print MIS enables to you to provide realistic estimates of when a complex, multi-part job can be delivered. It also lets everyone in your shop see when every in-process job has been promised to a customer. If necessary, you can rearrange the sequence of jobs in production or route some jobs to a trusted outsourcing partner.

You can also track the status of purchase orders and hold your vendors accountable if they are late in delivering the supplies you need to complete a certain job  If data shows that the vendor is routinely late in delivering needed supplies, you can remove that vendor from your preferred supplier's list and find a new supplier.

Many businesses understand that sometimes, a late delivery will be unavoidable. How you handle such delivery issues will determine whether the customer stays loyal or takes their business elsewhere.

Here are a few suggestions:

Inform the customer. Be proactive. Let a customer know well in advance if a job might be late, so they can choose to cancel an order, accept a partial delivery, or adjust the deadline.

The worst thing that can happen is if your customer uses the job-status-tracking capabilities in a Print MIS to discover on their own that the job is likely to be late. Your customer service team needs to remain alert to potential delays and inform the buyer promptly.

Accept responsibility. Be honest and transparent about the reason for the delay. When you try to shift blame, customers suspect you can’t manage your business very well. Explain what caused the late delivery and what steps you are taking to prevent the problem in the future.

Rebuild trust. Allow the customer to vent, and take note of their concerns. Outline the steps you will take to resolve the situation and offer a discount as a gesture of apology Follow-up with a gift certificate or discount on a future purchase.

When customers have a positive experience after lodging a complaint about bad service, they are more likely to stay loyal to your company.

Plan ahead. The more data you collect about how long it takes to print and finish specific types of jobs, the more accurately you can schedule your work.

If you routinely experience a surge of orders each spring and fall, add extra capacity or make arrangements to outsource a portion of the work. Or, encourage regular customers to place orders early or allow longer lead times.

Keep meticulous shipping instructions. Accidentally entering the wrong address or shipping instructions can cause delivery delays that are beyond your control to fix.  Mistakes can happen not only if job data is entered incorrectly during various stages of production, but also when the customer requests a change in the instructions. A good Print MIS reduces the need to re-enter delivery data multiple times. It also enables every department to see when the customer has requested a change in the delivery instructions.

Have contingency plans. Use the Print MIS to store data about alternative suppliers or delivery services that can expedite the resolution of issues that might cause delays.

Say no to unrealistic turnaround times. If you do quality work at reasonable prices and offer reliable services, your customer could respect you more if you turn down a job because you can’t meet their requested deadline. Explain why you are turning down the job, and propose a more realistic deadline. A Print MIS can help you determine a more realistic deadline by taking into account all of the other work that is already scheduled to go through your prepress, production, and finishing departments. As customer expectations rise and your shop handles a higher volume of short-run, fast-turnaround work, the risk of missing deadlines increases too. A good Print MIS that can be used by every department in your shop can help you reduce that risk. For a demonstration of Ordant’s easy-to-use estimating and order management system, visit

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