Lettershops, fulfillment houses and printers have become a dime a dozen. Competition in the mailing and fulfillment industry has increased two-fold over the last 10 years. Printers have invested in mailing software and equipment, others have opened mail houses after seeing what a lucrative business it has become, and still others are toying with the idea of joining the crowd. An angry or frustrated customer now has the advantage of selecting from numerous letter shops or fulfillment houses. With today's economy, customers can shop for the best price.


So what makes your company different from the rest? Is it price or service?


Sales and customer service must work together to keep customers coming back. They are opposite but equal sides to the same coin. Sales seek long-term customer relationships and strong return through sales volume. Customer service strives for efficiency and effectiveness through streamlined systems and procedures.  If one fails, the other falters as well.


Customer relationships need to be clearly visible within any given organization. Building long-term customer relationships depends on how sales and service is integrated into each project. Well-integrated sales and customer service team can develop great relationships and offer a competitive price at the same time.


Teamwork provides unparalleled competitive advantages through superior service resulting in customer retention and referrals as well as repeat business and, most importantly, an excellent reputation. In the world of business today, your company needs to stand out from the rest.


Just recently, a client decided to move his mailing business to the printer. Sales worked hard in developing this account over the last year, as did other departments to keep the business coming back. And now, the client wanted us to become his backup vendor. This client mailed 4.2 million mailpieces within a six-month period.  Did we just want to be a backup? Of course not. With mail of this volume, we wanted to remain his number-one vendor. His sole reason for leaving was price.


Convinced the decision to move the mail was a mistake, sales, service and management decided to team up and offer a product better than price: vendor loyalty. Working together with the client, we offered a side-by-side analysis of his first mailing, convinced the programs we developed in the prior year would outweigh the lower processing price and that, in reality, he would end up paying more in postage. The results are still pending, but this customer is witnessing firsthand quality service and a team of people who show concern for his business welfare.


Teamwork begins at the top and flows all the way through production. Sales has the responsibility to find out all of the details of a project and to correctly communicate those facts to customer service. At the point of transition, it is the responsibility of customer service to foresee any possible complications prior to initiating the project. If sales do not get the facts straight from the beginning, the project is set up for failure. Service then needs to communicate the job to production, and production prepares it properly for the post office. With one of these links missing in the chain, the end result is not a perfect circle but rather an angry client.


Working together allows an organization to foresee any possible problems with a project before it is in mid-stream. Rather than react to a problem, your customers appreciate foresight, so things are handled proactively. And, as many lettershops and fulfillment houses know, an error in our industry normally equates to a substantial monetary value the worst case scenario being the loss of a great client.


The ability to work efficiently as a team in the long run will keep your company ahead of the rest. Whether it is sales or service, your current and prospective customers are depending on you to help their companies be successful.


Sherry Braeger conducts the sales and marketing activities for JHL Mail Marketing, Inc., a Stevens Point, Wisconsin, full-service lettershop. You may reach her by phone at 800-236-0581 ext. 17 or by e-mail at sherry@jhl.com. For more information, please contact the Mailing and Fulfillment Association (MFSA) on the Web at www.mfsanet.org.