How should I give negative feedback to my printer?

I'm about to have a meeting with one of my core printers to discuss several problems we have been experiencing with them. We've talked to them about this before but the problems never got resolved. Do you have any tips on how to make our dissatisfaction clear without hurting the relationship? I still want to work with this printer, but I'm concerned that they will hold this against me.

Criticizing anyone directly is difficult. And the more we like and count on a supplier, the harder it is to tell them when we're not happy. Here are four ways to give negative feedback in a constructive manner.

  1. Be specific. The more specific you are about what you are unhappy about, the better the printer's opportunity to understand your concerns and fix the problem. Instead of just saying, "Your invoices are confusing," say "We are not getting the information that we need to see on our invoices. In order to pay you promptly - and to make my job easier - on the invoice of every job, I need you to include our purchase order number and the job title that we use. We also need a full written accounting of any AA or change-order costs explaining exactly what those costs were for."

  2. Refer to a situation. Describe an exact situation where the problem occurred. Instead of complaining, "My CSR never returns my phone calls," say "On our last job, I left a voice message for Diana at 2PM on Wednesday telling her I needed to increase the print quantity by 50,000. Since she never acknowledged that she received my message, I was very worried that the quantity change wasn't made and didn't find out that everything was okay until the job delivered on Friday."

  3. Discuss impact and perceptions. Tell the printer the "pain" you were caused and what you had expected to receive instead. "I was told that our job would mail on Friday, but then I found out it didn't go out until Monday. I was expecting this Friday delivery. I had notified my boss and three marketing people. Then I had to go back and tell them the job didn't mail on time after all. I felt that I lost face with my associates on that one." Or "When you said our job would deliver on Friday, I was expecting the delivery by noon, not at 5:30. At that point, it was too late for me to do anything with it."

  4. Suggest solutions. If you want your printer to change, tell them what you would like changed and suggest some solutions to eliminate or minimize the problems. Ask if the problem can be resolved, if they are willing to resolve it, and how they would go about doing that. Come to consensus on what will be done next time. Then after the meeting, write a summary of what was discussed and agreed to - and send them a copy to make sure you are in agreement.

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