Photo: Margaret Stranks (used with permission)
I’m investigating new print suppliers for my ball photography now. Any suggestions in the comments are welcome. For a long time I have used the same lab for printing such photos, but this year their customer service has let them down.
First let me tell you about my process; a customer (you hopefully) places an order for prints on my website. For ball photos, which I upload to the website unedited, I then have to edit the photos before ordering prints. That may take a couple of days, depending on how busy I am. I then order the prints online with my favourite photo lab. Normally printing and dispatch happen within 24hrs, but lets call it 48hrs to be on the safe side. They send them first class to me (+24hrs), and check the prints and send them first class to you (+ 24 to 36hrs depending on my diary).
So at the worst I hope to have prints with the customer within 7 or 8 days.
At this point I have to mention Royal Mail, and I’ll try not to go off on one. Why does “Special Delivery” exist? Is it for really urgent post? Isn’t that what should distinguish first and second class? OK, so there might be really really urgent post, but first class should be 24hr turn around. Perhaps it is for that added peace of mind that it will be delivered? Surely all post should be delivered! Enough said. I look forward to Royal Mail being sold off to a private company and the postal service being properly opened up to competition. Hopefully then, post should work as it should.
So back to my print supply problems. Winter balls are tricky because they are near Christmas. Customers want their photos for their Gran for Christmas, and want quick turnarounds. Royal Mail don’t seem to care. First order gets “lost in the post”. Subsequent print orders arrive, so I contact the lab who say words to the effect of “You’ll have to re-order them then”. I really expect better service, and even their website suggests I will get better service than that. Because I am a business, the distance selling regulations do not apply in this case. But this lab also deals with consumers for which they would. They have now lost a long term customer, once I find another decent lab.
A few weeks back, another photo lab phoned me up one a new marketing campaign, with enticing offers asking me to give them a try. Given that I was now looking, I thought why not, and reordered with them. I paid extra for “Special Delivery”, since I’m now behind on my own turn around schedule. Half the prints didn’t show, a few days late. Not sent special delivery. I phone them up. The sent two packages. Neither special delivery. How can RM lose the post twice. Perhaps it was the snow hiding the post van from the postie? Top customer service this time, they will reprint and send immediately. A few days later the prints show up. Still not special delivery!
I can now finally dispatch my order to my customer 17 days after they first placed the order. I guess with the snow and Royal Mail’s efficiency, there is no chance the customer will get their prints before Christmas 🙁
So I am now looking for a new print lab. One that sends prints by the postage method I specify. One that prints reliably. One that fixes issues if they arrive in a gracious and efficient manner. Suggestions are welcome in the comments.
I’m not going to name the two labs who have let me down. I figured you’d guess the postal service so no point hiding that one. But I will give a big shout out to a couple of other companies. Loxley Colour have always given me top prints and excellent customer service. They are a bit too pricey to be economic for ball photography, but are a really top lab. Photobox are a top consumer print lab. They too have given me top customer service, but unfortunately I found their quality too variable to use for professional work – hence my checking of all prints I send out.
This experience has also made me think about my own customer service. I hope I live up to your expectations. If I don’t, please tell me politely and we can work something out.