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Most of us have a friend or two that we know we can depend on. Someone who, in times of need, can be counted on to lend a helping hand, offer good advice, or hang around just to make sure everything is a-o-k.
Having a friend to help with personal issues is one thing. Having a true friend in the business world is quite another.
Chuck Chapman, the owner and self-described jack-of-all-trades at Fast Lane Graphics of Greenville, South Carolina (USA), is just that kind of friend to all his customers. While his company's specialty is vinyl lettering, it is customer service, Chapman said, that makes him unique in the business world.
"I don't do a lot of advertising. We have a huge repeat business and get lots of referrals. That's advertising you can't buy," Chapman said. "Our philosophy is to give our customers the absolute best value for their money. We're not always the cheapest or the fastest, and that's because we go the extra mile - but we do provide the highest quality product at a reasonable price and as quick a turnaround as possible."
That's what keeps his customers coming back - customers that range from huge corporations that place large orders on a regular basis, to small businesses with less than 100 employees that come to Fast Lane for everything from signs, vinyl lettering, logo design and business cards to refrigerator magnets, bumper stickers, T-shirts and sweatshirts.
"We try to be a one-stop shop," said Chapman, who works hard to avoid turning down any customer request. "We also do quite a bit for churches, schools and real estate business, as well as people who just walk in and needing a 'Happy Birthday' banner."
Fast Lane Graphics has been in business since 1993. In addition to its print activities, the company also offers advertising consultation to small business clients as a way of networking its customer base whenever possible. That's another way in which Chapman helps his customers succeed, while simultaneously adding another value service of his own.
To the untrained eye, sign-making may seem like a relatively simple proposition. That couldn't be further from the truth. An effective sign requires quite a bit of thought, and clients who fail to understand or abide by that often regret it down the line. According to Chapman, the old adage is true: you get what you pay for.
"It seems like anyone with a PC thinks they can tout themselves as a sign maker. A mind-set like that merely waters down the industry as a whole. We've seen lots of jobs that our customers had first produced somewhere else in order to save money, that ended up being poor quality jobs that they hated," Chapman said. "Then they come to us to redo them. It hurts to know that I sometimes lose business to these other sub-quality places, but I end up getting a lot of business back anyway, and then those customers become my loyal customers."
Getting the job done right is partially due to Fast Lane's desire to use the latest technology. Chapman uses the advanced RTape's Conform® Series with RLA® (Release Liner Adhesion). The application tape lays flat to expose release liners around printed die-cut decals, offering superb adhesion, eliminating the need for heat and vacuum processes, and allowing graphics to be rolled or stacked without concern of application wrinkling, tunneling or curling. Additionally, it is smooth, not sticky, avoiding dog-eared and problematic graphics.
Chapman said he is very pleased with RTape's Conform Series with RLA and that there is no need to use anything else.
"A distributor recommended RTape. On the few occasions I've used anything else, I've regretted it. If something works well for me, I stick with it," Chapman said. "I've tried some other tapes but prefer RTape's dependability and consistency. It doesn't tear as easily as some, and its good adhesion makes the job go faster. I tried a clear tape for a regular RTA customer once. They asked me to go back to the RTape."
Business has been good for Chapman. He said his gross receipts and profits have increased every year for the last 14 years in a row. As long as he maintains his devotion to customer service - which he has every intention of doing - and as long as he has access to the best sign-making technologies, he knows that upward trend will continue. The signs are everywhere.