Repeat customers are precious commodities for any manufacturer, and they can only be obtained through excellent service. Ensuring customer satisfaction with your output entails good communication – a lot of it. What are some of the best practices for customer communication that you can apply in your own 3D printing business? Tom Hazzard and Tracy Hazzard enumerate some of these in this segment. From soft skills to software, there are many things you can do out there to interact with your customers better and give them the excellent service they deserve.
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What Are Some Best Practices For Communicating With 3DP Customers?
This is our Ask Us Anything segment.
The Ask Us Anything is getting bigger and wider in terms of the subject matter. I like it because they’re going far and wide into different subjects and areas of 3D printing and business-related 3D printing issues.
They’re getting broader. That’s great. We’re getting a broader audience and we’ve been hearing from you and we love it, so please keep it up. You can email us, tweet us, and however you want to reach us @HazzDesign.
The podcast is located on WTFFFPodcast.com and also at 3DStartPoint.com. There’s a lot of positive changes to come in the future for you in the 3D printing community. We got a question from someone who’s in a 3D print business where they’re doing 3D printed design work for other companies. The question is, “What are some communication best practices for how to interact with your customers?”
It’s a good question for designers in general and not just 3D print designers, but it’s hard to communicate design. They hired you because they don’t speak the language of design.
Some customers don’t need a lot of runways, they take off quickly and they are happy looking at sketches. They want to see things early. Others, if you show them a sketch, they think, “What are you doing? Why are you showing me this? That’s not a design.”
My number one rule is consistent and constant. Those are the two rules I go by, in general. In other words, if you’re going to communicate on Mondays, you always communicate on Mondays because the minute they don’t hear from you, they think something’s wrong. You make it constant because the design process takes the time the design process takes. You can always speed up inspiration, the amount of work it takes to get through the drawing, and the hours that it takes, and it’s difficult.
Creating that design in CAD to be 3D printed is also not a straightforward process. That can take your time as well.
If you can find a way to touch base, ask questions. Have something to talk about at least once a week, maybe even more often than that. It depends on what it is. It helps to keep your client happy because if there was a red flag, you’d be raising it, which you must do. If you have a problem, you must raise it as fast and as quickly as possible. If you don’t and it’s taking a lot of time, then what you need to do is keep them informed and keep them feel that the work is ongoing because there are no stages where you can show them a lot.
When you’re ready to show them something, you want to communicate and have a dialogue back and forth. We found email is not always the best way to do it.
We employ a product called Basecamp and it’s about $50 a month for the professional version. That gets you a lot of file space, which files can be big and we put videos up and other things like that if we need to. There’s a lot of storage there. We set it up. There are a timeline and a calendar. They watch it, there are milestones, and everybody gets email alerts. The nice part about it is that communication is all in one place. There are a lot of things that aren’t great about it. There’s no interaction on the drawings, nothing is secure, and everything is downloadable.
There are some pros and cons. To me, the best thing about it is everything that’s communicated on a project is in one place and you can set up different projects for different purposes. You could do one for each client.Great customer service makes a huge difference in repeat purchase, and it starts with good communication. Click To Tweet
We have a Basecamp for Hazz Design as a total and then each one of our clients has their projects set up. Each one of those projects has its calendar set up and that’s all that that client can see.
We even have one set up for WTFFF?! for our editorial calendar and the guests.
It helps, especially when you have a bunch of independent contractors in. I do that with our clients as well. If they’ve got a graphic designer who’s working with us on a project or something, eventually, we’re going to need the branding to do packaging or something. We invite them on the project, although they only have visibility of everything, at least it’s a place for them to send us files, us to ask them questions, or to notify them if a date moves and we need packaging sooner or later. It’s a good way to communicate with other people in the process and not have your client have to get in the middle of it. They love it. It creates a better team environment and they feel involved in the process, so that’s good.
It’s a good communication tool, but it has its drawbacks. Others have noticed that and created other products that are more detailed and comprehensive in terms of customer interaction. One of them is our guest on one of our episodes. If this subject is a particular interest to you, it’s only a portion of what we’re talking about in that interview. There’s a company called MakerOS who has created a robust system that has a lot of capabilities. It has all kinds of security, privacy, and different permissions you can set up for all different aspects of communicating with your customer. Even in terms of getting quotes from subcontractors you have, you put it all in one place. It looks like it’s your company. When you’re interacting with your customers, they can do it and it’s white-labeled and branded as your company. You have your interface.
There’s also MyLocal3D Printing, which is Bobby Lin‘s company and we talked to him early on in our podcast series so you can find it. He has an interesting system because he was a computer graphics animator and a videographer, too. He has dealt with issues with how to build clients, handle these things, and show progress reports. That’s an important thing along there, especially if you’re getting milestone payments, which some people do. In other words, you finish the CAD portion of your project, you get paid a section, you finish the prototype portion where you’ve printed it out and then you get paid a section. He’s facilitated that, which was a great tool as well. It kept escrow funds of the client money so that was an interesting concept as well.
There were some differences between the two, the MyLocal3D Printing and the MakerOS. They’re each trying to get at some of the same thing, which is, how are businesses going to interact and communicate with each other to help service their customers? The great part is you have lots of subcontractors you can tie in together to one process and be involved. Whoever is the touchpoint to the customer, it appears as though it is your entire system and website that’s servicing them. That’s great for branding, communication, and giving your customer confidence.
I hope we’ve answered your question. It’s great that you’re asking this question. That’s a good sign that you’re a good communicator already. I have high hopes that you’re going to be able to communicate well with your clients. To be honest with you, servicing the clients is almost as important as the output. As long as your output is good, great service makes a huge difference in you, getting the project the next time. I have had some fabulous creatives involved in our process, whether it’s a graphic designer, video, or whatever. They do a great job, but they don’t communicate or they don’t deliver on time or any of that. It’s as big a problem as getting poor work.
It’s always harder to get new clients than to keep the ones you have happy.
If you or anyone else has more questions regarding design, 3D print design, 3D printing, or anything WTFFF?!
Anything business that’s 3D printing-related as well.
Make sure you shoot them our way. Hopefully, we’ll get through this archive of questions we’ve got.
Thank you for reading, everybody.
- @HazzDesign – Twitter
- MyLocal3D Printing
- Bobby Lin – Past episode
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