Getting inside your customers’ heads

EFI Shows How It’s Done at EFI Connect 2015

Many companies claim to be customer centric, to understand their customers’ needs. And a good number of them take pain to learn what drives their user base. But EFI has turned it into an art form. At EFI Connect I had the opportunity to talk directly to EFI customers as well as hear from a variety of EFI executives and product experts.

I learned that the EFI executive team, roughly 80 managers, spend a minimum of 50% of their time visiting with customers. Pretty impressive. Then CEO Guy Gecht told his audience of 1500 Connect attendees that prior to the user conference, his team identified 10 customers that were unhappy with EFI, really unhappy, he emphasised. After a thorough investigation, his 80-person management team, organised into groups of 10, each with a mission—to develop a game plan to reverse the plight of the “unhappy 10.” The goal of course was to make sure that the cause of the distress—be it procedure or product performance—never happened again to any customer anywhere in the world. Even more impressive.

While what the conference host and its sponsors have to say is an important part of any conference, for me, hearing directly from users is invaluable. Gecht had “fireside” chats with two high profile executives, Thomas Quinlan, CEO of R.R. Donnelley and 3D Systems CEO Avi Reichental. While the latter is not an EFI “user,” his presence was indicative of EFI’s customer focus—it gave customers the opportunity to explore 3D printing as a means of market expansion.

EFI’s COO Mark Olin chatted on stage with two other customers, Mark Tilling of forms, label and digital print provider Standard Register and Chris Calabria of marketing services company Tukaiz, giving the audience insight into a variety of company types.

User Insights

With more than 500 locations around the world, Donnelley is the world’s largest print communications services provider. According to Quinlan, the company is still doing what it did 150 years ago when it was founded—“connecting customers’ audiences through words and images.” The difference today, of course, is how we connect. He sees the communications platform as a synchronised combination of digital and print, with personalisation as an important part of the mix.

Donnelley has become invaluable to its customers by leveraging big data. While marketers understand the importance of data, they have difficulty getting their minds around the task of identifying consumer behaviour, so Donnelley does it for them. Donnelley also produces e-books alongside catalogues, direct mail and websites, perhaps a lesson for today’s printer.

Pointing to EFI’s MIS and eCommerce solutions, Quinlan stressed the importance of an efficient workflow. Quinlan told me that the reason Donnelley added EFI VUTEk to its assortment was to take advantage of in-store promotions, which can easily be synchronised with online advertising.

Donnelley appears to be a projection of what EFI’s Gecht calls the “imaging of things.” Looking beyond traditional print, Donnelley already prints packages and labels and is looking into alternatives such as textiles.

At about 1400 jobs per day, Mark Tilling of Standard Register, is targeting 2000 per day. He too, talked about the indispensable features of EFI MIS systems as he can change his schedule on the fly, pretty important when your daily volume is so high.

Chris Calabria of Tukaiz, offers its customers a wide variety of marketing services. This includes design services, print, cross-media marketing, for which the company uses EFI’s DirectSmile, and they even develop mobile apps.

All three men stressed the importance of getting inside your customer’s heads, understanding the variety of ways they need to communicate with their customers and providing it for them. The message here is that the concept of “print provider” is dying. Marketers need partners who will help them reach their audiences with the right words and images using the appropriate media.

I was unable to stay to hear Gecht’s chat with 3D System’s Reichental. However I took the opportunity to talk to Raymond Yuhasz, a 3D systems regional training specialist. The company believes that printers should consider offering 3D printing. While you cannot produce large volumes, it allows you to enter new markets to offer prototypes and small quantities of unique, personalised items. Sounds a lot like a fit for printers to me.

I also spoke to a number of conference attendees. The general response to EFI Connect was the “amazing amount of valuable information” they gathered, not only from EFI and its sponsors but from other print service providers around the world who had similar issues to solve or insights to share.

There is nothing more uplifting than a room full of people who are all working together toward the same goal. It was the art of customer connection in motion.