Blog Series: How to (Really) Select a New Print Vendor
In This Series:
If your organization provides printed training manuals, booklets, course books, or other educational materials to learners as part of a course or training curriculum, those materials are a critical component of the learning process. They need to be of the highest quality, be cost-efficient to produce, and of course, must be delivered to instructors and learners on time. If any one of these three criteria is no longer being met, it may be time to think about switching your print vendor.
The process of selecting a new print and fulfillment vendor can be time-consuming—time that your team doesn’t have to spare. And these types of changes come with risks—namely, the risk of the unknown. Will a new partner be able to really deliver on all that was promised? Will the transition add work to your plate? Will you have to change some of your long-standing processes to fit into a new vendor’s workflow?
The Print Vendor RFP Process: What it does (and does not) achieve
To help simplify the process, many organizations undergo an RFP process that is meant to level the playing field by gathering standard, objective data from each print vendor being considered. The goal is to make it easier to make an apples-to-apples assessment of costs and capabilities.
Most print and fulfillment RFPs are designed to assess vendors on three criteria:
Capabilities match: do your needs fit within the print vendor’s “sweet spot”
- Print type & print run size
- Finishing and binding options
- Warehousing and inventory management
- Shipping options
- Turn times
- Order accuracy rates
- Quality control procedures
- Length of time in business/financial stability
Cost alignment – do their costs align with your expectations
- You provide all specs and requirements
- They provide a quote, often at multiple quantity breaks
While all these metrics are extremely important, they should be considered a basic “cost of doing business.” Most legitimate print providers with a long-standing history of success will be able to answer questions on capabilities and quality to your satisfaction. This means more of the decision is made based on cost.
But even in doing that, you still haven’t addressed the risk and uncertainty that might prevent you from making a needed change because most standard RFP questions don’t really tell you what it’s going to be like to work with a print provider, day-in and day-out. This could leave too much “gray area” around key details like processes and communication flow—details that create those small, nagging hiccups that can easily derail your day.
Instead, your evaluation process should consist of a two-way conversation designed to answer questions like:
- Are they transparent?
- Will there be any hidden or unexpected charges?
- Are they going to make things easier for me and for other stakeholders in my organization?
- Are they just going to take my orders, or will they add value?
Going Beyond the RFP: Better Questions for a Better Print Vendor Match
We’ve created a four-part series of articles that highlight some of the most overlooked questions organizations should ask a prospective new print vendor:
Part 1 discusses the importance of digging deeper into the detail behind the estimate provided.
Part 2 addresses a better way to assess true print quality.
Part 3 reveals the insight that can be gained from sample reports and invoices.
Part 4 stresses the importance of knowing who’s on your team, and what you should expect of them.
Including these relatively simple requests as part of your print vendor selection criteria will make it easier to know what level of service you can expect, if they’re going to make things easier for you and your team, and whether they’re going to deliver on what they promised in their RFP response.