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Week of 30 October 2017: Quality--the first frontier

Email Jim at jthompson@taii.com

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For those of us in the trade publishing business, this is an extremely busy time of the year. We prepare our media kits, we pull out our lists of likely advertisers, and we make phone calls in anticipation of new advertising budgets being approved in the fourth quarter for implementation next year.* It is an "all hands-on deck" event and yours truly, as one of the team members, is not exempt and is up to his eyeballs attempting to keep up with the others in our company who do this all year long.

It just so happens this year that Quality Month on our editorial calendar is not quite over as we ramp up the phone calls, giving me one last shot at helping improve your quality going forward.

Granted, we are just humble purveyors of advertising, and perhaps you have a way for your prospects and customers to reach you other than your phone system (at least I hope so), but I have to tell you the door open to us; i.e., your phone system, leaves me with the near universal perception that your quality sucks (I tried to think of a more professional word--Lord knows I tried--but "sucks" is the only one that conveys the feeling).

This is the first place you make an impression folks! I have to tell you, if I were buying instead of selling, in many of these cases, I would hang up and look for another supplier based on phone system angst alone.

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Save the date! The Pulp and Paper Industry Reliability and Maintenance conference, sponsored by IDCON and Andritz, will be held March 19-22, 2018 in Raleigh, North Carolina.

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Sadly, mills have the same problems as suppliers when it comes to phone systems. Endless menus, vague instructions and frequent dead ends are the rule, not the exception, with both mills and industry suppliers. It seems like every phone system starts with the obligatory message, "Please listen carefully, for our options have recently changed." I can tell you I am hearing this on phone systems that I have been calling for ten years.

Jeff Bezos of Amazon fame has this figured out. In the busy holiday season, he will call together those in his organization who handle customer service and ask them how it is going. They, of course, say, "Great, boss." Well at least they used to, until he said, "Let's see" and immediately called their own customer service number, on a speakerphone, right then and there. People got fired; newly promoted people made changes pronto.

You can fix this, too, if you want. Do what Jeff did. Call the parties in charge into your conference room and then call your own phone number. Ask if the experience you have here is how you want your company or facility perceived to the outside world. Then fix it, for I am almost certain it is broken. This may be all you need to do to meet your sales budget for next year. You have no idea how many prospects hang up in frustration.

In this age of email, text, and so forth, people still make many phone calls. Yet most places I call obviously treat the phone system as if it were the pony express. One prospect I called last week made it impossible to leave him a voice mail because the system said his voice mailbox was full. I looked back through our CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software to 2015 and found every call that had been made to this character ended with the "voice mailbox is full" message. Obviously, his boss has another way of reaching him.

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Jim Thompson is back again...with a new book on a taboo subject: the personalities in the pulp & paper industry. Jim has written in the past on many subjects based on his four plus decades in the worldwide pulp and paper industry. This new book is packed full of information valuable to the senior member of the industry as well as the recent entrant. A must for every pulp and paper library.

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It doesn't have to be this way. One place I called last week provided the following experience. The Marketing Director answered the phone on the first ring (Wow! I was so excited!). After a pleasant conversation, he offered, "I would like to finish this call by transferring you to "Suzy" (not her real name). Suzy will make sure we have your contact information correct and that you have mine correct. I almost fell out of my chair, but indeed, that is exactly what happened. Don't think I won't knock myself out for this company if we should be favored with some business!

The old adage is true, treat others as you would want to be treated.

For safety this week, communications systems are absolutely vital in an emergency. Test your phone system, your speed dial to the hospital and other services, your radio system and so forth often and vigorously. Having these systems up to par may make a life or death difference.

Be safe and we will talk next week.
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*Since it is advertising sales season, let me offer a few more comments, please. If you read our publications, you likely fall into one of two categories. Either you work in a mill or you work for a supplier. We have been publishing for over a decade and are here to stay, but we can't operate on chopped liver, it takes the real green stuff to make this all work without a paywall. So, if you are in a mill and like what you see here, please tell your suppliers what you like to read and who you would like to see them support with their advertising budget. If you are a supplier, please be aware (we know) we are first in news, (we think) we have the largest audience in the pulp and paper industry worldwide and (we know) we have the lowest advertising costs. Give me a chance to prove it--call me on my cell phone, 404-822-3412 or email me at jthompson@taii.com. My voicemail box is not full! I look forward to hearing from you.

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Nip Impressions has been honored for Editorial Excellence by winning a Tabbie Award!

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