When work orders don't reflect customer needs, product rejection rates rise. Unfortunately, customers don't always have the technical knowledge to convey precise product specifications. At Ampersand, a custom-label company, located in Garden Grove, California, a client who orders cake labels, but neglects to mention a flash-freezing process, could end up buying labels with an adhesive guaranteed to fail in that application.

Ampersand's solution is improved communication with customers by making the order confirmation process a meaningful exercise. Instead of sending out a superficial order confirmation for "peach shampoo labels" that arrives after the product has been shipped, vice-president Paulette Carnes faxes order confirmations with all necessary job specifications, such as adhesives, substrates, and machine applications. A support person calls the client every 24 hours until the details are reviewed.

Customers must sign off on the confirmation order, which forces them to stop and think about all aspects of the job. To save time, they don't have to create a separate purchase order--they simply write the P.O. number on their order confirmation.

First-time customers sometimes think, "Why do you guys keep sending paperwork and calling?" But, says Carnes, Ampersand catches potential errors all the time, and new customers soon learn that this process is in their own best interest. Ampersand's material rejection rates are less than 0.5%--compared to an industry average of 3%. And the extra communication and reduced errors build long-term relationships.

Copyright 1997 G+J USA Publishing