Mixing document elements from one customer or business unit with another, a condition we call cross-branding, can be one of the most devastating mistakes an in-plant or outside print service provider can make. Some minor errors may be forgivable. Others are definitely not. Preventing these particular mistakes is practically impossible for print operations that rely solely on manual document quality control methods.
Consider the following scenario:
A print and mail service organization handles bill production duties for several businesses, perhaps even companies which compete against each other. To facilitate efficient and low-cost processing, print service providers often print the documents on plain white paper loaded into their laser printers. Printed bills for all customers are then folded and inserted into identical double-window envelopes.
Now suppose their Customer Communication Management (CCM) software crashes one day. Instead of reinstating the software to the most current version, a technician accidentally restores from an old backup. Production runs flawlessly after the recovery – except that any changes made to document layouts or form elements since the old backup was created have disappeared. If a customer underwent a merger or re-branding during that period, the documents produced in the next production run would seem like a step back in time.
A visual quality check will, in many cases, not catch the mistakes. Under casual inspection the documents will seem to be correctly formatted.
Service providers of all sizes use comparable workflows and face similar challenges. Perhaps this method is similar to the way your company produces documents.
Cross-Branding Errors Can Be Serious
The impact of such a mix up can range from minor embarrassment, such as printing an old logo design, to a disaster. An errant remittance address, for instance, may cause payments to be delivered to the wrong place. Relying on manual inspection by human eyes to recognize errors generated in high speed print and inserting environments is a dangerous practice.
A system crash isn’t the only way errors can creep into documents. Human form designers and programmers can easily insert graphics or text such as terms and conditions, or even regulatory verbiage, into the wrong documents. This often happens when designers copy source code or document definitions from one customer into the documents of another. Forgetting to replace all the customer-specific portions of the documents can cause a case of cross-branding. When print providers make these mistakes they generally reprint the job (along with a mea culpa apology letter), losing money on printing, materials, SLA penalties and postage – not to mention reputation damage.
In the worst cases service providers can be responsible for regulatory infractions. Printing the legal language required by one state on documents pertaining to a different state can be considered a violation that results in fines or penalties in the insurance industry. Insurance companies will expect the service provider responsible for the error to compensate them for any extra expenses, including penalties levied by regulatory agencies.
Killing Two Relationships with One Stone
In a worst case scenario, cross-branding incidents can have doubly damaging effects. When text or graphics from one customer appear on a different customer’s documents, both those companies will notice the error. A service provider could conceivably lose two customers from a single cross-branding mistake.
Cross-branding mistakes can easily contribute to the loss of major clients. Customers unhappy with service provider performance may take their business elsewhere, switching to a company that employs a more comprehensive and automated quality control system. Companies have lots of money invested in their brand identity and will not work with a service provider that cannot sufficiently protect their image.
Automated document quality assurance solutions solve the challenges of manual quality control. These systems can quickly compare specific elements on every page to a control file. Print/mail service providers can test print streams more often and more thoroughly. Instead of testing documents for accuracy only after programming changes, they can catch otherwise undetectable errors that slip into live production—whenever they occur. This allows them to make corrections quickly and avoid costly cross-branding mistakes.