Andrew Field, CEO of Printing For Less.com knows all about remarkable customer experiences. They post them on the bulletin board for all their employees to see. And, I didn’t see any “yellowed” ones there.
Field launched Printing For Less (PFL) in 1996, though how he got started sounds a little “fishy.” He and a friend were in their waders, already in the river near the entrance to Yellowstone before his friend mentioned that he was losing his printing job. Knowing Field had a background in printing, he suggested Andrew open a printing shop. It didn’t take much thought (or market research) to jump in with both feet.
Twelve years and more than 70,000 customers later, PFL is still the first and leading online commercial printing company in the United States. Located in Livingston, Montana, they provide unmatched technical and customer support and instant online pricing and ordering for its full-range of printed marketing materials.
Known as “America’s print shop” they are building a company that contributes to the community and helps other entrepreneurs succeed. PFL customers are nationwide and mostly small and mid-sized businesses. The “design community” is the largest identifiable segment of their customer base, with manufacturers coming in second.
The cornerstone of their success has to be their Customer Service reputation. In an industry where a lot can go wrong, they have managed to build a very loyal repeat base. And, why are their associates so successful at delivering that kind of service. Training.
PFL’s technical service training program is a 14-week program that has been compared to everything from a semester in college to boot camp. It serves as an intensive proving ground for anyone who will be communicating with customers or moving into management. It’s so important, there’s even a “graduation”! It’s paid off big time!
“I am very proud of our customer service team winning the Stevie Award” says Field. Hailed as “the business world’s Oscar,” the American Business Awards are the only national awards program honoring great performances in business. Nicknamed the “Stevie” for the Greek word “crowned,” the elegant Stevie trophy was designed by the same company that makes the Oscar and the Emmy. Guess which award Field lovingly displays in his office?
Those aren’t the only honors for PFL. Field was named Montana’s Entrepreneur of the Year in 2004. He was recognized by Winning Workplaces and Fortune Small Business as a winner of the 2005 Best Bosses Award for innovative approaches that have created a high-performance workplace. He was a finalist for the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year® in 2007 and 2008. PFL has been on the Inc. 500 for three years and the Inc. 5000 for two years by “providing extreme customer service.”
Other printers have launched websites, but don’t have the high-touch model that PFL deploys with their 3-person “teams.” It gives their customers more than one person to discuss their print job and creates continuity of contact. Their motto is, “You don’t have to be a marketing professional to get professional quality marketing materials.”
Does Field see the irony of selling print over the internet; a delivery mechanism that threatens to challenge print’s relevance?
“Well, I think business cards may never go away. And, if you think about ‘Do Not Call’ Lists, TIVO and the incredibly scattered attention span of people. Internet, blogs and everything, you’d think there’s no one place to go to get to my target market. However, everybody still has a mailbox. Direct mail is still proven to be one of the most cost effective means of customer acquisition,” Field said.
What about the future?
“We’re trying to help small business in America be successful,” Field says. The commercial print industry is $120 billion. According to Field, fifty-percent is being bought by big business, but that still leaves plenty for the 20 million or so-called “small businesses. “We love small business. Small businesses have created almost all of the net new jobs in the last decade. Small businesses come up with all of the innovations. Small businesses and their employees pay most of the taxes. And yet, it’s tough on a small business,” says Field. “You almost always have to wear multiple hats and know how to do multiple things. We deal with a lot of Office Managers.”
By the way, if nothing I have reported convinces you to give them a try, then this will be hard to resist.
They are a dog-friendly workplace. “PFL employees bring their dogs to work on a daily basis, and this is one of the many reasons we have a fun and unique work environment,” says Field.
I wonder if I called to discuss my printing job and all of my associates were away celebrating their recent awards, I might convince Rusty to spell check my work.