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Amid the day-to-day pressures of managing an in-house print room, it’s all too easy to only concentrate on what’s in front of your face and ignore any bigger picture such as how the print room is perceived by the organisation as a whole, at all levels.

For example, do you know the answers to questions like “Are my customers satisfied with the service they get from us?“, “Are they aware of the full range of products and services we offer?“ and “Are there any products they need that we aren’t currently producing?“

Conducting customer surveys can provide the answers. Carefully planned and conducted, as well as being tailored to each type of interviewee, surveys will help you gain an in-depth, all-round view of the degree to which the print room is valued and perceived within the wider business. They should also help you uncover new opportunities that you may not have previously considered.

Rather than present interviewees with a single all-encompassing questionnaire, it’s better to break the exercise into a series of shorter documents, each made up of no more than ten questions and designed to extract specific information. We have designed four survey templates that do just this, starting with a six-question “Qualitative Review“ that asks respondents to mark, on a scale of one to ten, the print room’s performance on elements such as quality, service and speed of response. Other templates address areas such as how aware respondents are of the print room’s current capabilities, and what additional services they would like the print room to provide.

To get the most out of the survey exercise you should spread your net beyond just the end users of the print room, to include your line manager and, where appropriate, senior management and other decision-makers in the organisation.

Whenever possible, tempting as it is simply to email the questionnaires, you should interview people face-to-face.

Not only will this approach help you, literally, give the print room a face, it will facilitate valuable discussion around the questions and answers, something that simply filling out a form rarely does. That said, if you really are pressed for time it’s possible to handle such questions as how aware people are of the print room’s services by email, but the more qualitative opinions require the personal approach.

Taking the face-to-face approach is more time-consuming, of course, so make sure your sample is both relevant and of a manageable size. Concentrate on your “core“ customer base – the top five to ten departments by spend or volume – and identify the key executives in each. Do the same with departments that you may not be doing much work for at the moment but which you believe have considerable potential. And in every case, make it clear to them from the outset that the point of the exercise is to ensure that the print room is fit for purpose and will continue to evolve in line with their requirements.

From all this, it’s clear that careful preparation is necessary if all parties are to get the most out of the exercise.