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Printers Should Always Respond to Online Complaints

The key is to do it with respect. We explain this and offer more shop management counsel in this month’s “Ask Big Picture.”

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When somebody makes a crazy complaint online, is it still worth responding?

Yes. Always respond and do it with love and respect, says business consultant Andrea Hill of Hill Management Group. That doesn’t mean you can’t imply the person’s complaint is clearly baseless. Hill provides the following example: “I’m so sorry. We weren’t actually open last night when you were disrespected, but how can we help you?” The third time they complain, it’s OK to close the thread, she says. “By demonstrating patience, you’ll also gain the sympathy and admiration of prospective customers. Bad reviews are one of the best ways to get new customers if you handle them right,” she says.

Are employers allowed to require employees to sign agreements proving they can perform certain physical tasks associated with the job such as going up and down steps/ladders, lift certain amounts, or stand for a certain number of hours? If an employee becomes unable to perform these tasks, can the employee be let go?

You’re entering a tricky legal area here because the law – specifically the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) – puts a heavy burden on employers to accommodate workers’ physical limitations. And this starts in the hiring stage. As you’re no doubt aware, you can’t make broad inquiries during a job interview about any disabilities a person may have, although you may ask if one appears to be job-related. But even then, “the fact that an employee or applicant states that he or she is unable to perform a task associated with the job at issue, still does not mean that an employer can refuse to hire or discharge an employee,” says Dan Clark, a labor and employment partner at national law firm Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease LLP, noting you have to be able to show the task that the employee cannot perform is an “essential function” of the job. “The basic inquiry is whether the job function is one for which the employee was hired to perform, or one tangentially related to the job.”

And again, even if the task is regarded as essential, the employer must also show they have made reasonable efforts to help the worker, such as rearranging schedules, retraining, or modifying equipment.

“In the case of an employee with limitations on the ability to stand for a long time, providing a chair or stool might be a reasonable accommodation,” says Clark. “Only if an employee is unable to perform an essential function and no reasonable accommodation is available could a disabled employee be discharged.”

As for asking the employee to sign a contract acknowledging his or her ability to perform certain job functions, “this document would not allow the employer to avoid the requirements of the ADA if circumstances were to change,” says Clark.

Given many states also have their own laws regarding disabled employees, you would be very wise to consult a lawyer before proceeding with any plans in this area.

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I’m finally taking a vacation. Should I keep in touch with my staff while I’m away?

“We are encouraged to unplug so I choose to lead by example,” says Kristi Duvall, VP of Sales at The BoxMaker, in Kent, Washington. “As much as we need a break, sometimes our staff needs a break from us, too!” Duvall is taking the right approach, according to Katie Denis in her Harvard Business Review article titled “Emailing While You’re on Vacation Is a Quick Way to Ruin Company Culture.” Her research at Project: Time Off shows that at “companies where it’s unusual to unplug, employees are less engaged, less committed to the organization, and twice as likely to be looking for another job … Fourteen percent of managers unplug when they’re on vacation. At the most senior levels of leadership, a mere 7 percent do. The majority check in with work at least once a day.” She suggests this approach:

step 1: Go on vacation.
step 2: Trust your employees to handle the business while you’re away.

I like congratulating my staff with something special, but I never have an easy-to-grab gift. What’s an item I can keep in my office for employee celebrations?

Cheap doesn’t always mean low quality. Brian Adam of Olympus Group in Milwaukee has a bottle of champagne on deck for whenever someone is promoted. “They take the bottle home and get to celebrate with family and friends,” he says. The bubbly can also be gifted for birthdays, milestones, and anniversaries.

I’m thinking of dumping my landline. I do nearly all my work through my smartphone, have a small, one-person print shop, and it’s just one more expense. What do you think?

We think you should hang on to it a bit longer. A landline is still equated with credibility. “Having one will prove to potential clients your company’s legitimacy, so more will be willing to do business with you,” says Nicole Leinbach Reyhle, founder of Retail Minded: retail news, education, and support. A landline implies your operation is more than just you and that you’re a stable and reliable business. And yes, telephone technology has advanced greatly, but there are also practical reasons to maintain your old phone. Leinbach Reyhle lists the following:

  • A dedicated business number allows you to give out or list one number, as opposed to different cellphone numbers for different staff members. Such consistent business branding is also important for SEO.
  • A landline allows you to set business hours, keeping your personal and private life separate.
  • An office phone will allow you to take advantage of incoming call notifications, professional voicemail, and call screening.

If you really want to get rid of your landline, consider Google Voice, a free telephone service that provides a US phone number for calls, texts, and voicemails. You can use this number to make domestic and international calls from your web browser and mobile devices. If you’re in the US, you can even choose your own number.

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Big Picture magazine has been serving wide-format printing professionals for more than 25 years, providing business-specific content to help boost bottom lines through its industry-leading magazine, website, email bulletins, Brain Squad and social media channels.

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