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Assessing Best Practices Leads to Stronger Print Service Provider Partnerships

By Kemal Carr

Finding the right print service provider (PSP) is key to delivering the consistent, personalized communication that promotes consumer loyalty. For many companies, a request for proposals (RFP) is often a flawed, outdated, go-to process for evaluating these third-party vendors. An RFP on its own may not be enough to determine whether a prospective partner is the optimal fit.

Identifying a reliable PSP that can deliver consistent, high-volume and on-brand customer communications can be a daunting task for even the most seasoned of decision makers, which is why over the past 20 years Madison Advisors has developed its own methodology for evaluating prospective partners. In our most recent Emerging Trends Brief, “Mastering RFP Vendor Selection,” we draw on data gleaned from more than 100 Best Practices Assessments (BPAs) and present our tools for comparing prospective PSPs during the RFP process.

Even using the most comprehensive and well-executed RFP, decision makers may not possess the print industry knowledge required to ask the right questions of prospective vendors, which can ultimately lead to missed deadlines, communication lapses and a lack of contract clarity. For this reason, a comprehensive market analysis is the cornerstone of our PSP assessment methodology. Beginning with an onsite review and interview sessions, we measure the quality of each vendor’s customer communications practices, document production capabilities and ancillary processes. We then compile that data on confidential scorecards, which allow us a vendor-neutral data set from which to assess each PSP’s capabilities. As we often tell our clients, it’s the questions they don’t ask are what get them in trouble.

With this objective basis for evaluation, each vendor’s operational site is assigned an aggregate score, which we plot on a chart alongside those of direct competitors. Vendors are also sorted into three tiers—national, regional and local—based on their production site distribution and monthly page production. The tier system and BPA scores allow enterprise firms to compare and differentiate between various comparable vendors, ultimately deciding on the vendor whose capabilities align most closely with their needs. We often find large clients like to work with partners of comparable size, while mid-sized firms might better fit with a regional or mid-tier vendor.

One of the most significant RFP pitfalls is when a high-volume enterprise selects a vendor that lacks the capacity to keep up with their customer communication needs. This applies to both the physical mail manufacturing and the equally important omni-channel delivery channels.  To address this, another one of our tools plots aggregate scores against the vendor’s average monthly envelope volume, enabling clients to identify providers that can accommodate their print and mail volumes, as well as e-delivery capacity.

Another important attribute assessed by our BPAs is a vendor’s ability to leverage leading-edge technology to help enterprises increase the scope and scale of their customer communications. Our vetting process involves examining each vendor’s portfolio of software and solutions, assigning the highest scores to those with the capacity to accommodate a shift from paper-based to digital delivery.

Asking the right questions of a prospective PSP can be an intimidating task, even for those who are well-versed in crafting a successful RFP. With our research and consulting experience—and with the tools we’ve developed through objective analysis—Madison Advisors can support your enterprise in finding a partner that not only meets your baseline needs, but ultimately helps you grow your business.

The complimentary brief can be downloaded here.

Over the past two decades, Madison Advisors' industry-neutral expertise enables enterprise organizations, service providers and technology providers to achieve their strategic objectives around today’s evolving customer communications management (CCM) requirements.
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