Start Here October '20

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85 S T A R T H E R E 2 0 2 0 PULLING IT TOGETHER With software now an essential ele- ment for running a business in virtually any industry, sources contend it's affected the way producers operate. eCommerce giants like Amazon and (closer to this industry) Custom Ink have also changed the expectations on the customer side. Faster turnaround, higher quality, flex- ibility, and free or cheap shipping all come into play when clients place an order at a shop. "This means keeping customers in the loop on orders, delivering better customer service, being available on many social media channels, automating internal processes, speeding up internal training, and reducing overhead costs," stresses Ackerman. And while it may be tempting to cob together a handful of existing systems to stay on top of all these tasks, Hunt says it's vital that graphics shop owners con- sider the disadvantages of trying to save money instead of investing in a stream- lined program. "Disconnected data, pro- cesses, and systems create inefficiencies," he adds. The result of a shop trying to run multiple applications as a single system, Hunt states, "is often a fragile Frankenstein system that requires a lot of maintenance and effort to administer." McCauley points out that having a fluid system saves a shop time since they don't have to physically check in with every department if everyone's using the same platform. "There is a differ- ence between feeling like production had a good day and knowing production had a good day," he states. "When you have all of your shop's important information at your fingertips, you can make educated decisions based on data not a gut feeling." Taking the time to research the best fit for a shop's needs will, in essence, save them money, time, and headache in the long run. ALL THE RIGHT TOOLS Since all the bells and whistles involved with software are often over- whelming, there are few key compo- nents a shop owner should look for when they're comparing platforms. • Omni-channel support. Platforms that can keep up with customer messages in modern spheres like Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube, as well as traditional methods like phone calls are worth considering. "Leads come from anywhere, and giving a quick response time helps drive cus- tomer satisfaction," Ackerman adds. • Content marketing capabilities. Shops should be able to deliver value through media like videos, blog posts, and social content posts, so custom- ers have a full grasp of what their shop has to offer. "What helps (the customer)?" poses Ackerman. "What are the honest tips you've learned to share? This positions you as an indus- try expert, which creates repeat cus- tomers. Remember, if your customers are also small businesses, they have the same problems you do." • Security. Operating with secure soft- ware is crucial for both business own- ers and their customers. Whichever product they choose, decorators should ensure they go with a busi- ness management software solution that provides protection against fraud and uses secure channels to store customer data. Working with tools that don't offer these protec- tions can put shops at risk for severe financial hardships, especially with scenarios like ransomware attacks. Compromised customer data can cause a rift with existing clients, as well as harm future business oppor- tunities with new accounts.

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