It’s not Your Fault the Job is Late...Think Again!
Educate customers on your timelines for different types of projects. Explain what needs to happen and when—when artwork is needed, approvals are needed, mailing lists delivered. Create a mini project-plan spreadsheet. Customers will appreciate receiving the information, and if one of the dates slips, everyone knows they need to make up time.
Many times you are put behind right out of the gate. The project gets approved late by your customer’s executives and then everyone races to get it done on time. Most customers appreciate having the project plan and knowing what is expected of them because then everyone is running with the same playbook. They might need to approve something within an hour to hit the deadline, and knowing that up front is critical.
A printer I went work to last year spelled out the dimensions, requirements and bleeds needed for a direct mail piece. It was clear what needed to happen, and we appreciated the education so there were no surprises.
Communicate proactively—All production software has the ability to view work in process (WIP). If something looks strange, the customer should be notified immediately of a possible missed deadline and what needs to happen to get back on track. Leverage technology.
We have worked with several printers who have done this extremely well. They notify us if artwork needs adjusting, that the mailing list is needed by [X], or how fast we need to approve final artwork. Customers appreciate the little nudges even if such reminders aren’t necessary at times. It is a process to ensure nothing falls through the cracks.
Document everything—There are several reasons to track a project through the production system. It helps you understand where you may have weaknesses, and it helps you if a customer is blaming you for a missed deadline. We need to be sensitive to customer needs, always make it easy to work with us, and bend over backwards to make things happen, but certain things are beyond our control. A three-day delay in getting the file from the customer might be enough to put you in a no-win situation.
Give solid advice—A couple years ago, we started doing more direct mail campaigns. It was amazing how each printer approached the quote, but one printer was unique and special. It asked us what role we wanted to play in the design and layout process, what other mailers might be coming downstream, what standardization was possible on the piece for future campaigns, etc. The company had a great “Discovery Matrix” of questions to make sure we were communicating up front on expectations, roles and responsibilities.