The gears turn and indeed those of the screenprinting technologies turn as we solve the problems of our clients. Yes, as screenprinters, we are in the problem-solving business.

Patek Philippe WatchAnd, just like the gears on a fine Patek Philippe watch must turn exquisitely, so must the gears of your problem-solving. You must be in constant movement or you will lose time and money. And, of course, the better you are at solving the problems the more successful you will be, especially in the eyes of your clients.

If you want to be a World Class Operator, helping your customers solve their most difficult problems and create lasting success, you have to solve the right problems.

Many screenprinters don’t consider this a necessary part of a business – solving other peoples problems – but that is exactly what we do every time we accept and print an order. Their problem may be how to market the upcoming “Watermelon Seed Spitting Contest” or the “New XM-5 Version” of their best selling product. Screenprinted posters, tote bags, T-shirts or any number of the tens of thousands of items that can be screenprinted may be just the answer to solve their marketing problem.


The Five Whys

The Five WhysThe Five Whys is a root-cause analysis technique originally developed by the King of Japanese inventors, who stated:

“When a problem occurs, ask “why” five times to try to find the source of the problem, then put into place something to prevent the problem from recurring.” ~ Sakichi Toyoda, Founder of Toyota Motors

This concept is used by millions to not only solve problems but to get the bottom of, well, almost everything. Mostly you will find it in the myriad lean methodologies where is it used to solve problems, improve quality, and reduce costs.

After Sakichi Toyoda death in 1930, Taichi Ohno of Toyota continued to use the process as part of the lean manufacturing movement that has helped successful business leaders by addressing the underlying causes, thus permanently solving the problem and creating a lasting new reality.

Essentially, the Five Whys is problem-solving, and critical thinking that is much like what removing weeds at the root is to lawn care. Fix a symptom in business but not the underlying cause, and, much like a pulled weed with the root left on the ground, the symptom is bound to sprout up again. Fix the underlying cause of a problem at the root, and you will see lasting improvement.

Put another way, you can spend your time creating new customers each day, like pulling weeds from a yard, or you can cultivate your yard to possess only the best grass that you can trim occasionally to create mulch for your garden. You end up with a beautiful lawn and garden that is the envy of everyone in the community.

The Five Whys help you work with clients to uncover the root causes of what is driving their needs, and allow you to craft the most compelling, powerful, and lasting solutions to their benefit and thus earn their confidence and a larger share of revenue than you might believe. A great use of this technique is the upsell! They come in wanting T-shirts and you upgrade them to polo shirts. Or you get them to order another product in addition to their original need.

Why it Works

This works well for you because most screenprinters ask only the obvious questions that satisfy the needs of the screenprinter and never the client’s specific needs that will guarantee that the client’s needs are not only met but exceeded, making you a trusted partner in their mind. And, of course, this leads to a lasting and profitable relationship.

Most screenprinters simply ask:
• What product would you like to order?
• How many colors will be required?
• When do you need the items printed?

They do not attempt to solve the deeper problems of the clients that the client is not only willing to pay for, but that they are willing to pay more than you thought, order more product, and give you their future business, as well. Getting to the root cause of problems is an essential component of needs discovery, as knowing the root causes will define your solution and the success you will have.


How it Works

When presented with a problem, ask questions that start with why?

Orange Dots Separation

Question 1: Why are you here today?

Answer: I want to purchase some custom-printed T-shirts for our marketing campaign.

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Question 2: We can certainly help you with your order. Why did you choose us over others?

Answer: You were highly recommended by a client of ours – ABC Widgets.

Orange Dots Separation

Question 3: Yes, they are very good clients of ours, as well. Why did you specifically choose T-shirts for your marketing campaign?

Answer: We have used T-shirts in the past and they were very successful for us.

Orange Dots Separation

Question 4: T-shirts are great marketing tools. Why have you did not consider other items that have a greater appeal to a larger market share?

Answer: I am not sure. Our past printer did not suggest anything else.

Orange Dots Separation

Question 5: Why not consider a polo shirt with a small left chest logo, which can be worn on more occasions.

Answer: That’s a great idea. I personally wear more polo shirts than T-shirts.

Orange Dots Separation

And, now you have the customer “asking” for an upgrade, which is what you wanted to do in the first place. The markup is higher, which increases your revenue and the print area is smaller, using less ink and press time, which lowers your cost. Play your next card correctly and you win!

More or Less
There may be only “5 Why” questions necessary, or there may be more depending on the complexity of the client’s problem that they want you to solve.

When using the Five Whys – do not stop at the first need that you uncover and think you can push something on them. Let it play out until you have uncovered more than one need. Staff members who are capable of getting to the bottom of things create stronger relationships; stronger foundations of trust, are seen as problem solvers and change agents. In turn, this keeps the competition closed out and enables your sales staff members to sell to clients year after year.

Be Careful
The 5 Whys is a powerful tool for savvy sales staff to help get to the true causes of the client’s problems. Some of the reasons why it will not work for those without the knowledge to make it work well include:

When the sales staff member has a tendency to stop at symptoms rather than seeking the deeper level of root causes or does not have the knowledge of the design possibilities or screenprinting process there may be a problem conducting the questions. The staff member may not be able to properly identify the cause if they do not have intimate knowledge of the process.

The process of 5 Whys requires the staff member to be able to ask the right questions and of course, there will be a completely different set of questions based on each client’s needs. The staff member must possess the ability to think on their feet, so to speak, and consider that a single problem may elicit more than one solution. It is fine to share these multiple solutions with the client allowing them to choose the most appropriate solution for their need.

These can be significant problems when the method is applied through deduction only. On-the-spot verification of the answer to the current “why” question, before proceeding to the next, is recommended as a good practice to avoid these issues.

If you employ the Five Whys you’ll know that as you can uncover needs and craft solutions, then you’ll be addressing the root causes, solving problems effectively and for the long term. In the end, you will have created a lasting working relationship with a good many clients that believe you to be a World Class Operator! And, guess what? You will be!

May all your impressions be great!

What do you think?

Share your experience and knowledge in the comments below.


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