I was recently working with our finance manager to purchase our holiday cards that would go out to our family, friends, supporters, and clients. During that process, we ordered online from TinyPrints. Next thing you know I found that we were placing orders for additional gifts and that our finance manager was telling other members of the staff to use this site as well for their personal/holiday cards. This peaked my interest because in the print industry, everyone is price competitive and the expectation of technology is either met in its entirety or not at all. In addition, after 5 years of business as a web focused firm, we've established a low amount of loyalty to any particular online printing company since these services are very transactional and we're also usually without a direct rep managing our account.

So why now? What changed?

The answer is simple. A well thought out email in the automated process of ordering. Whether or not our Finance Manager realized this was automated doesn't matter. The email was as follows:

Hi Martha,
This is just a quick little note to let you know that I have completed your order from Tiny Prints and submitted it for printing. As you may know, our designers review each order with care instead of sending them straight from the computer to our presses.

Next, you can look forward to a separate email confirming that your order has been printed, packaged and shipped. Thank you for entrusting Tiny Prints with your special moment. We hope you love the finished product as much as we do!

Best Wishes,
Tiny Prints Production Design Team
1.877.300.9256 x4224
+1.650.209.1341 International

Just a standard message? I don't think so. In this particular instance, an extra 15 minutes in creating this email went a long way for TinyPrints. Take a look at the next competitor to see the difference.

Dear Scott,
Thank you for shopping with <That Other Company>. Your order with invoice number 61212532 is currently being processed. To check your order status, login to My Account with your e-mail address and password. You will receive a tracking number via e-mail once your order has shipped.

If you have any questions or need assistance, please contact us.

<That Other Company> Customer Service

For any person reading these two messages, it's obvious that one company has taken the extra time to mind the details of human interaction more than the other. We can start by the very important personal touches that are present from the very first line. Statements such as "Just a quick little note...", "we review each order with care...", and a special "thank you" as a final sentence from TinyPrints. In addition, what really puts this over the top is that there is not just a "customer service" team thank you with zero information for direct contact. There is a personal signature from a real person with contact information.

If you compare the two emails side by side in the eyes of our Finance Manager, here is the difference:

  • <That Other Company>: Give Me Your Money, We'll Get Back To You Soon. Hope it Works Out.
  • TinyPrints: Thank you for doing business with us. You are valued and appreciated.

The irony of this is that rarely in such an automated processes will my Finance Manager ever have the need to contact this individual over the phone. TinyPrints knows this and instead of excluding it, they prominently provide it to you immediately. Conversely, <That Other Company> has just lost a customer by clearly pushing our Finance Manager to an automated system ensuring that her business isn't worth any of their time.

Seems to me that one email has just cost the competitor thousands per year? Hmmm....

What to do About It

Exercise the practice of minding the details because in tiny but simple moments like this additional value propositions can be forgotten in an instant making your product (although it may be superior) irrelevant in the eyes of the customer. This is particularly true when operating in a commodities industry such as print fulfillment. My recommendation is to go through your own check-out process and become your own critic on the automated communications your company sends. If you don't see an issue, seek the opinion of those that would be more considerate to those details and gauge their responses for appropriate action.