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VoIP Provides the Next Level of Service

Sep 12, 2007 12:00 PM, By Jessaca Gutierrez


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Xpress Print and Mail Solutions uses the web-based SightSpeed videoconferencing system not only to communicate directly and quickly with clientele, the company also trains its cameras on its presses so clients can dial in to immediately proof their products as they come off the presses.

As more and more corporations and businesses have to search for creative ways to find and retain their clients, companies are turning to modern technology to provide that premiere level of service to their clients, among those is VoIP videoconferencing. Xpress Print and Mail Solutions is just one of many companies hopping on the videoconference bandwagon.

Xpress, an Arizon-based digital printing company, started three years ago when office copier manufacturer Konica Minolta was at the cusp of manufacturing digital printing equipment. With five printing presses split among the company’s three offices in Burbank, Calif., New York, and Arizona, communication was key—for both clients and with other office employees.

Unlike the traditional printing that prints masses of material that does not differ from page to page, digital printing production uses what is called variable data to print material that is unique from one page to the next.

“If you want to customize a piece that’s being sent out, you can change the content of each piece as it’s being printed and the information or the images that are contained in that piece,” says Joe Barnhill, president of Xpress. “So a majority of what we do is direct mail, and it’s customized based on the demographic information that’s supplied to us in an excel spreadsheet. So we are printing things on the fly as they are coming off the press, it’s quite possible that every piece is unique in its appearance, its message, which is an extremely powerful marketing tool from the standpoint of comparing that to just static printing, which everything is the same.”

In such a fast-changing environment that handles a copious amount of data, the company needed a way to quickly and efficiently move along the approval and proofing process. But because the prime use would be communicating with clients, the system had to be inexpensive, easy to use, and readily available to the company’s clients as well. Although email is a large backbone of communication, it doesn’t provide the nuances of an Internet-enabled videoconference line. Working with SightSpeed, a Internet-based video communications company, Xpress was able to set up a web-based videoconferencing system that the company’s clients could also use.

But the real benefit was providing clients with a realtime look of their product as it was coming off the press. All the clients have to do is dial in from their own computers.

“It’s unique to see pieces coming off the press and we are printing on a 13”x19” press sheet, but within the sheet, these postcards may be 6”x9”, they may be 5.5”x11”, and it just depends on the size, but each one within a sheet of paper is different and it’s all because of the technology that’s driving the print engine, so [the clients] can kind of do a press check in realtime and look at the job being printed and say, ‘Wow, that looks just like we thought it would look like, and we’re delighted,’ as opposed to sending proofs back and forth. You know you can’t really proof a project like this because if you are doing 25,000 pieces, you’d have to make 25,000 proofs. And it just doesn’t really make a lot of sense to do that.

So whether it’s working with a client, showing them the press sheet, or whether it’s a quick videoconference to kind of go over the project, SightSpeed has helped us facilitate that immensely because it’s just a couple of mouse clicks and you are connected as opposed to something like we are doing here like a webex where you have to dial in, set up the conference and get everybody to accept, it’s just too time consuming because that’s the old way of doing things. We think things like SightSpeed represent new technology and affordability that we haven’t seen in the past.”

Barnhill says the addition of the SightSpeed system has changed their relationships with their clients. “In terms of speed and personalization, it’s a much more cordial relationship that we have with people,” he says. “You can see them face to face as opposed to just an email or a voice mail. You get to know people, and you get to know them more personally because you are having more of an interaction. So I would say that it has helped us in our overall business model because of the way we interact with people. Most companies like us are very sterile from the standpoint of their connectivity. Some companies that do web-to-print, print and direct mail, they don’t even list a phone number on their website. If you can’t reach them by email or by their knowledge base and asking questions, it’s not likely you are going to get through to them any time soon. They make it difficult because they don’t want to pay people to have that interaction. But with us, it’s pretty easy going. Calling somebody up and just checking on how things are going, you know, ‘What’s the weather like in Boston today?’ and that kind of thing. It’s more like a family relationship dealing with our customers as opposed to doing it the old fashioned way.

But the system also provides clients with an unexpected tool for those that are not familiar with the printing business: education. Barnhill says that with the addition of SightSpeed, Xpress has been able to provide a it clients with a better understanding of how the whole process works, which in turns means less handholding and better rapport with clients.

“Most people that we deal with are not really that familiar with the type of work that we do and by us showing them, like we’re running a job, they ask ‘What does the place look like?’ So we’ll take the camera off the press and pan around the room a little bit and take it over and introduce them to another press operator and say, ‘This is Bill. He was running your job yesterday.’ I think most people like to be entertained and I think it gives them a little break in the monotony of their day when they do business with us because we want them to have fun doing business with us. It kind of gives them a one-to-one relationship with us, and they get to see us from the inside out whereas I don’t think they can have that kind of relationship without a product like SightSpeed.”

The biggest limiting factor besides affordability when it came to selecting a system was that the system had to be cross-platform. Although Xpress is a primarily Mac-based facility, many of the company’s clients are working from PCs. SightSpeed works across both platforms.

After installing the system on their computers, the company was ready to go immediately. Their workstations were already equipped with cameras, and the offices are equipped with T1 connection to supply the necessary bandwidth.

The VoIP of industry has seen marked growth. According to a recent report from TeleGeography, the number of U.S. VoIP users increased from 6.5 million in mid-2006 to 11.8 million by the 2nd quarter of 2007. This growth shouldn’t come as a surprise with the latest video technology buzz. From cell phones to the recently announced Apple iPod Nano that plays video, consumers are demanding more interactivity.



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