Document Quality – It's Not Just for Looks
A missing word, bullet characters that’ve changed, or a dollar sign that didn't get printed. These details might not seem like a big deal. Especially when they are buried in legal disclaimers or terms and conditions that you suspect hardly ever get read. You may think them trivial, trifling, piddling, or petty.
But in the wrong circumstance, imperfections like these can make a huge difference in the effectiveness of printed documents you produce. Items like these can easily elude the efforts of human proofreaders. The errors are there, but manual verifiers reading pages of legal verbiage just don't see them. The inadvertent errors could be scattered randomly throughout large variable content documents making them nearly impossible to discover via visual inspection.
Some document operations managers may believe that it is not worth investing in an automated document quality control solution to find and fix what they consider to be cosmetic imperfections. But they could be putting their companies at risk.
If you are skeptical about the importance of obscure mistakes, type "misplaced comma costs millions" into a search engine someday. The results may be surprising. There have been many well-documented instances where something as small as a punctuation mark changed the whole meaning of critical passages. The fallout from a small error can often be an expensive demonstration of the value of document quality control.
Hidden Costs of Document Errors
Mistakes can be harmful even if they don't result in high-profile legal loopholes. Customers who receive your documents and find them difficult to understand, or suspect the documents are wrong will clog the customer service phone lines. The excess call volume results in longer hold times, additional staff to handle the volume, activation of additional incoming lines, and customer dissatisfaction. These costs are incurred even if the errors in the documents do not have a direct financial effect.
For companies in regulated industries, a document that includes the wrong paragraph or unapproved wording can even result in regulatory infractions. Your company could be assessed fines, endure public disgrace, and be forced to pay for expensive legal representation if new document versions do not meet all the requirements.
How Document Errors Happen
Mistakes can be introduced into documents as a result of incomplete copy-and-paste operations, inaccurate language translation, typing errors, or in any of the dozens of operations that documents go through between initial design and live production.
It is impossible to predict where errors will occur or what they might be. The more variability and steps in the workflow, the higher the chances of an undiscovered mistake slipping into the documents.
Anytime document elements go through a transformation the risks of the output being accidently altered are increased; for example when changing from one print description language to another. In today's world of multi-channel communications, organizations must be especially careful when adopting documents designed for print into data used in another medium such as PDF or archive formats. Character substitution, alignment, and spacing are particularly susceptible to inadvertent modification.
Importance of Document Quality and Management
Document quality problems may seem like insignificant details, but they do matter. Documents are quite often the most frequent interaction your company has with its customers. Sometimes the documents are the ONLY interaction that takes place on a regular basis. Confusing or misleading documents can weaken a favorable relationship or reinforce an existing unfavorable belief about the overall quality your organization represents.
Corporate image is important as well. Companies that have strict guidelines about colors, fonts, wording, and usage are going to be concerned if inconsistent rendering blurs their corporate identity. Letting documents out the door bearing the wrong logo or an obsolete tag line could cause some serious problems with your internal or external customers.
Print operations managers may discount minor document quality problems as superficial. Or they may believe that they can adequately control the quality of the output by doing visual spot-checks. These tactics may work for a while. Unfortunately, without an automated system that inspects every page, undiscovered errors will eventually occur. When they do, the consequences of taking a casual approach to document quality can be severe.