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View Full Version : Getting Customers on the PDF Bandwagon


Rob Robinson
01-04-2008, 08:06 PM
we are over 95% PDF files so the user defined folders are mostly empty and we use the off site backup as a last resorts so as ling as the sub pages are all there..
Tom! How exactly do you pull that off? We still get a high percentage of native files due to customer laziness, more or less. We offer tech support and customer training at no charge but some customers are scared to learn something new (InSite), don't have the time to hassle with it or lack the skill set. We also offer financial incentives! What is your secret?

tclifford
01-05-2008, 01:54 PM
We spent a good deal of time on the road teaching and training our customers and then we charge more for application files. Each job is quoted as PDF files, if they send app files...we ding them for more. We make our customers want to send in PDF files and if not...$$$!

Tom! How exactly do you pull that off? We still get a high percentage of native files due to customer laziness, more or less. We offer tech support and customer training at no charge but some customers are scared to learn something new (InSite), don't have the time to hassle with it or lack the skill set. We also offer financial incentives! What is your secret?

Rob Robinson
01-07-2008, 03:34 PM
Sounds great in theory but it seems you have made it work in reality. Question - customer is trained, submits PDFs but one of several things happen. Despite extensive training the 'print-ready' PDFs have something wrong with them (no bleed, etc.). Since the weight of a correct PDF file is now on your shoulders, do you continue the training process and ask for new PDFs? If so does your customer become frustrated with the process, claiming it's too hard and demand to submit native files at the discounted rate anyway?

Or maybe it's a PDF that needs massaging, the work isn't centered because it's designed in Illustrator with customer generated crop marks, or it's set up properly but errors out due to software limitations, or Prinergy simply won't refine it for unknown reasons, perhaps an ad embedded in a magazine page your customer doesn't own up to - what then? Continue to frustrate the customer while trying to troubleshoot workflow woes?

And all this is BEFORE broaching the subject of automation! To have that work properly there are naming conventions, knowledge of how to upload to InSite and other issues that go beyond simple prepress.

Perhaps it's the type of work we get or our customer base but we run into roadblocks constantly. While typing this reply a problem customer just came in with native files on CD - they TRIED to use InSite but Prinergy failed at refine. I had several suggestions but they're too busy to deal with it. So now I get to figure out why their two color job, which looks great in Acrobat and is separated properly, isn't working with our system. Of course they blame OUR system and they're partially right - it's just the process of getting files to plate properly and they constantly have issues that even when a solution is defined, it doesn't stick due to their turn-over in employees or lack of ability to adapt to a different way of making PDFs.

Rob Robinson
01-07-2008, 03:38 PM
Tom I realize I'm getting way off topic here but your post struck me and I feel it is a very important subject. Perhaps a new thread should be started (which I can do). I appreciate any input you might have and would think this is a problem that affects a large percentage of printers trying to make the automation dream a reality.

tclifford
01-07-2008, 05:17 PM
OKay...well the process beings way before the final PDF files arrive at our site. We want to do a "trial" with each new customer and new title we get. For series work, one trial will be fine. During the trial we test the files and do a once over for mechanics and other stuff, bleed, font embedded, RGB image, lo-res you know the drill. We give feedback and keep going till the customer can generate good pdf files, then they are off. They know they own the process. If the final PDF files do not meet the minimum level of readiness, then we give them a choice, Fix it yourself or it will cost X amount to fix for you. If its missing bleed, fix it and send new files. If the images are low res...fix it. Sometimes the customers get mad, but they know upfront what we expect and what needs to happen and the cost savings usually speaks for itself. I know I didn't answer it all..but lets keep this going and i'll try to help wherever I can...

rock on

tc

Sounds great in theory but it seems you have made it work in reality. Question - customer is trained, submits native files but one of several things happen. Despite extensive training the 'print-ready' PDFs have something wrong with them (no bleed, etc.). Since the weight of a correct PDF file is now on your shoulders, do you continue the training process and ask for new PDFs? If so does your customer become frustrated with the process, claiming it's too hard and demand to submit native files at the discounted rate anyway?

Or maybe it's a PDF that needs massaging, the work isn't centered because it's designed in Illustrator with customer generated crop marks, or it's set up properly but errors out due to software limitations, or Prinergy simply won't refine it for unknown reasons, perhaps an ad embedded in a magazine page your customer doesn't own up to - what then? Continue to frustrate the customer while trying to troubleshoot workflow woes?

And all this is BEFORE broaching the subject of automation! To have that work properly there are naming conventions, knowledge of how to upload to InSite and other issues that go beyond simple prepress.

Perhaps it's the type of work we get or our customer base but we run into roadblocks constantly. While typing this reply a problem customer just came in with native files on CD - they TRIED to use InSite but Prinergy failed at refine. I had several suggestions but they're too busy to deal with it. So now I get to figure out why their two color job, which looks great in Acrobat and is separated properly, isn't working with our system. Of course they blame OUR system and they're partially right - it's just the process of getting files to plate properly and they constantly have issues that even when a solution is defined, it doesn't stick due to their turn-over in employees or lack of ability to adapt to a different way of making PDFs.

tclifford
01-07-2008, 05:18 PM
If you know how to start a new thread with this...be my guest...
-tc

Tom I realize I'm getting way off topic here but your post struck me and I feel it is a very important subject. Perhaps a new thread should be started (which I can do). I appreciate any input you might have and would think this is a problem that affects a large percentage of printers trying to make the automation dream a reality.

Rob Robinson
01-07-2008, 09:12 PM
If you know how to start a new thread with this...be my guest...
-tc
Well I was going to do it the clunky way by copy and pasting our messages but if you have a better method, please do - it would be much appreciated.

The idea of starting a customer with a 'trial' period including training and testing of files is a good one. That does indeed put the ownership of correctly submitted live jobs on them. I'd like to hear more about that if possible.

The internal politics here as it relates to our customers (some who have been with us since the beginning of time) can be complicated. They want the same service and convenience they have always received and to them learning anything new is adding to their work load. When presented a financial incentive to do so, they'll take the effort but often we end up experiencing some technical issue that is nobody's fault per se. Then back to square one and it's our fault so they get the discount anyway.

tclifford
01-07-2008, 09:31 PM
Well as far as trials go, we always try to ask for a sample for the files they will be submitting, 8-16 pages worth. We run the files and proof them as if we were working on the live job. We have a simple filemaker pro database that each operator fills out asking a set of questions, yes or no and if the answer is no we try to give suggestions to how to make the answer yes. We run the same proofs they will see with the live job so the customer knows exactly what to expect. We try to follow up each trial that has failed with a conference call so we can work through the details and get them on track to making good PDF files.

The road to getting customers on board really starts with sales and once they buy in, the rest is pretty easy.

The idea of starting a customer with a 'trial' period including training and testing of files is a good one. That does indeed put the ownership of correctly submitted live jobs on them. I'd like to hear more about that if possible.

vinnyfalcone
01-07-2008, 09:53 PM
My solution is to direct customers to my website, which instructs customers on how to create the pdf. Ongoing instruction on how to build files correctly will have to be on an as needed basis. My initial focus in the Austin, TX market is to start with the simple stuff like 1& 2 color no bleed jobs and graduate to the more complex.
I agree it can be difficult in certain "unsophisticated" markets to graduate to a customer supplied PDF mindset. Just know that many larger markets have been doing this for over 10 years with great success. Any adoption you get from your customers will only reduce load, lower costs and help with your competitive advantage.

tclifford
01-07-2008, 09:56 PM
Having a self-serve website where the customer can go and get the info they need is the way to go. Once we stopped emailing out info, the % of PDF adoption really took off. Customers might not always use the info, but at least you showed them where it is and if they need it, they have it! - great idea!

My solution is to direct customers to my website, which instructs customers on how to create the pdf. Ongoing instruction on how to build files correctly will have to be on an as needed basis.

thbinney
01-31-2008, 09:09 PM
The idea of starting a customer with a 'trial' period including training and testing of files is a good one. That does indeed put the ownership of correctly submitted live jobs on them. I'd like to hear more about that if possible.

The internal politics here as it relates to our customers (some who have been with us since the beginning of time) can be complicated. They want the same service and convenience they have always received and to them learning anything new is adding to their work load. When presented a financial incentive to do so, they'll take the effort but often we end up experiencing some technical issue that is nobody's fault per se. Then back to square one and it's our fault so they get the discount anyway.

That's the same situation we're in, and not just because of the customers but our own sales people too. In fact I've hit more snags trying to get sales people and customer service reps to try and do things to improve the over all prepress/printing process than I do when I talk to customers directly.

vinnyfalcone
02-03-2008, 09:26 PM
The Sales Reps here don't believe in asking the customer for a reasonably detailed PO. How do you get them to suggest learning to create press ready PDFs?

The best way to get the customers to participate is to limit the old relationship with the SA and gradually create the communications with an inside rep (CSR or project manager).

Sales people here are reluctant to suggest a "new" way to their customers for two main reasons. The first is their lack of confidence the present change to the client for fear of losing them and /or the salespersons complete lack of understanding of how an easily implemented process will create a smoother workflow as well as build a stronger customer relationship.

It's difficult as prepress people to manage from the middle, but it sometimes is the only way to create positive change.

kcoffman
02-04-2008, 04:20 PM
Vinny, that sounds so familiar. I'm amazed at the lack of information that comes back to prepress on jobs here. No info on sizes or ink colors at times. And I agree, when I can't even get the basics from a customer, how am I going to get a press ready PDF from them?

I definitely think the key is to open communication between prepress and the customer, which is challenging at times. But with it, our worlds can drastically change, as I've been a part of it at other printers and I've seen it work.

tclifford
02-04-2008, 06:43 PM
Well in our plant, if we do not get the info that we need, we place the job on hold. Bad communication = errors = spoilage. I know sales may not buy into that, but the leadership from the top owns this and jobs sit unless we get what we need.

kcoffman
02-04-2008, 07:21 PM
I could not agree more. Stand up to your customers, the rework time and dollars that are caused by their lack of information and organization are dollars (usually ours) being flushed down the toilet. I don't see how management and owners do not see that.

vinnyfalcone
02-06-2008, 02:14 PM
Depending on the uppers and owners to understand the difference between a Mom and Pop shop and real business is a challenge. I have experienced in many places their reluctance to letting go control to ideas they cannot get their heads around.

The biggest obstacle is the embedded cultures and convincing ownership their stake in the company's future.

How many companies have full membership in the PIA, but never attend a single class or read any of their materials? Talk about a mountain to climb........

klanderson
02-22-2008, 05:58 PM
I don't normally frequent this forum, but I couldn't resist. Our company has been through quite a few changes over the years, but one thing has remained constant. My belief that my "prepress" relationship with a customer is just as critical as that of a Salespersons. I explained to an upper that I was not only a prepress specialist, but a salesperson incognito. I had no desire to get into sales or customer service, but I had little choice. I wanted files that worked, and I needed them now! I haven't the time or effort to rework files that need to be turned into printed materials in an hour (love that turn time). And now because I work with extremely understanding and intelligent sales/office/presidents, etc. we all have a future going forward producing commodities that people want, being paid well for them, and having relationships that work. Every prepress employee is responsible for this new relationship-oriented dynamic. We no longer have sales/CSRs doing the relating to clients in matters of file prep or delivery, nor do we rely on them with explaining the intricacies of why something white may drop off when it displays properly in the PDF. Prepress does the explaining directly to the customer as directed by Sales. CSRs are as much the dinosaurs as keyliners and camera operators. It's sad, but it works well for us. Just my opinion.

tclifford
02-22-2008, 06:31 PM
Well said. We do have CSR's who are very valuable, but we have others who are just expediters. We can pay people 8.50 an hour to forward emails and open packages. Unfortunately the good many good CSR problem solvers are gone and all we are left with are ones that can't find their way out of a paper bag. - tc

allan.larson
02-22-2008, 09:15 PM
On several occasions lately, I have spoken with customers who want to 'minimize' the role of the CSR. The designers are being well brought up and trained in file prep to a certain extent, or at least a reasonable percentage, which means that the automation tools available can be exploited without the need for the human touch in the middle.

Take Dashboard for instance: For those with Prinergy 4 and those still waiting, it's information at fingertips for whoever. More than one site has asked if we could port that information through InSite for designers/customers to be able to track production, add notes, essentially partner closer with prepress. This means the CSR role can be minimized rather quickly.

The devil is in the details and there are many gotchyas that I know "automation" cannot catch and for those times, a seasoned set of eyes and a brain behind them can catch stuff, but I am curious to know if we have achieved a level of trust/cooperation with a reasonable percentage of your clients where they don't need hand-holding of a CSR.

Thoughts? Looking forward to seeing lots of you on the Strip in Vegas.
Allan Larson

Rob Robinson
02-22-2008, 09:36 PM
We are putting more prepress related tasks into the hands of the CSRs. The idea is to have prepress technicians train customers on how to make print-ready PDFs, minimizing the need for prepress interaction on future jobs.

In theory, customer now supplies PDFs that can be preflighted, imposed and processed by the CSR or pressman (in the case of our digital press). This frees prepress resources for other tasks such as customer training, troubleshooting and workflow. Sales and customer service will have a better understanding of InSite and automation, enabling them to set up customer accounts and train our customers on how to use InSite. Previously these tasks were handled solely by prepress.

robert.hammen
02-22-2008, 09:38 PM
Our customers must be more stupid than their customers. Many times we deal with the same people year after year (catalogs), and, despite having a full-time Adobe Certified Print Expert (trainer) on staff, and demanding test files, we keep getting the same errors, year after year after year.

As far as minimizing the importance of the CSR or Prep worker, this is highly dependent on the politics of the organization. Some companies put the sales reps on a pedestal, and the sales reps have 100% control over who talks to the account. Situations like these, the CSR's are more like administrative assistants for the sales reps.

Then, there are those organizations that take a team approach, where no one individual (sales rep, CSR, preflight/prepress worker) controls interaction with the customer).

Can you guess which organization is more successful?

At least in my experience, it's the latter. Unfortunately, I work for the former :(