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When Bad Files Happen to Good People

(September 2007) posted on Thu Sep 27, 2007

Finding a common ground for files.

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A designer posted the following on a recent forum: "Do you hate InDesign CS3 as much as I do? CS2 was so much better." I don’t concur with that sentiment, but then I’m in production, not design. CS2 was obviously working for her-which is why some designers swear they will never give up Quark 4 or Pagemaker. The fact that files generated from those applications create havoc in many workflows means little; they simply want to use the programs they have always used. Can you really blame them? Wouldn’t you prefer to be able to stick with the RIPs and output devices you already know? Even if you hate them, at least you know how to make them work.

Part teacher, part therapist

The thing to remember: Bad files happen to good people. I freely admit to calling some of my more troublesome clients by names I would not wish them to know about, but these are decent folks trying to do their job. They are not consciously intending to make our lives miserable, nor do they think the file they have prepared is wrong in any way. In fact, they typically believe that if they gave their files to a "knowledgeable" printer, they would have absolutely no problem with it. It’s not true, but it’s what they believe.

So when troubleshooting a problem, it’s important to realize that, in your customer’s eyes, you are typically to blame. You must explain the problem in a way that does not point fingers at them (or at yourself), but indicates that you are willing to work with them in solving the problem. This is where the customer-service representative earns his or her keep. They must be part teacher as well as part therapist. Offer advice, offer training, and maybe even offer to buy the customer a software upgrade (it could be far less costly for repeat offenders). You have to make it your customer’s own self interest that is at the heart of the matter, not yours. Make it easy for them to make the necessary changes and updates, or to use the correct file formats or color space. Show them how it can save them money, get them their proofs faster, and result in their jobs consistently being delivered on time.

Finally, keep in mind that most of the file errors we deal with every day are caused because the person preparing the art thought what they were doing was correct. It’s not simply that they made a mistake, but that they did not realize it was a mistake. And even when you point it out to them, it still may not be clear that it was a mistake. "It prints fine on my laser printer," is something I hear a lot, as is "I couldn’t get it to print either, but I figured you wouldn’t have a problem." We’re going to keep hearing such things for a long time. Put a smile on your face, tell your CSRs to keep everything positive, and keep the customer’s interest in mind.