Profit Strategy Sludge

Get the Sludge Out: A final cost-saving lesson Vistaprint (and you) can learn!

If you’ve been following the 3-part series of blog posts based on my recent experiences with Vistaprint, you know I’m a fan, because they create great customer experiences and even better, take care of their customers completely when things go awry.

Let’s turn the tables for a minute to explore one more thing that Vistaprint could do to really take their business to a new level of profitability and growth, which likely applies to your business too. It’s called Get the Sludge Out.

Sludge creeps into every business, no matter how well intentioned, because business is complex these days and often relies on technology which as we all know, is far from infallible! Sludge is what causes all the little things to go awry… leads to product and services issues… leads to high costs of customer service to make it right… and needlessly strips profitability out of your company.

In my last post, I shared the fact that I inadvertently uploaded an image to Vistaprint at a resolution that had only about half of the pixels required to produce a great image. Now, it’s easy to help the customer fix that on their end with any of the basic photo-editing programs that are out there today… so Vistaprint needs to be more proactive and catch that long before it ever caused a problem at their end that disappoints a customer, requires involvement from their customer service staff, and costs them money to make it right – all unnecessary sludge, all unnecessary costs that they need to get out of their system.

Here’s the lesson: Find the root cause of an issue and fix it for good,
instead of repeatedly band-aiding it with a fix.

The root cause in this case is that their system allows uploading of low-resolution photos, and it’s easy to fix that issue for good instead of taking their more-costly “make it right” approach. For example, upload a photo to just about any social media site, and it will tell you whether it’s the right size and resolution – your photo won’t upload doesn’t meet their standards.

As an additional preventive tactic, Vistaprint could simply add a sentence during the product-creation process they step you through, advising the minimum resolution for good results, and directing the customer to a tool to check and adjust their photo before even uploading it into their project!

Both solutions are simple. Easy. Permanent. And remove all the unnecessary costs associated with this glitch.

Fortunately, Vistaprint sent me a follow up survey about my customer service experience that included a text box asking how they could do a better job in future. I shared this recommendation with them. Whether or not they choose to implement it is up to them… but they now have everything they need to make sure no other client ever experiences this problem. They’ve created a great closed-loop feedback system that continually helps them get the sludge out and get better and better.

The bottom line impact of getting the sludge out can be staggering. Some of my private clients have stripped millions of costs out of their business, often more than doubling their margins as a result. This is worth putting on your to do list in 2015.

Drop me a note down below. Share the best strategies you’ve ever found for getting the sludge out of your own business, OR, let me know how you’ll apply this AHA! Moment to get the sludge out of your business in 2015.