A funny thing about all the articles and studies written about improving the customer experience (CX): almost none of them even mention documents as a contributing factor. That’s probably a mistake. Documents, particularly the type generated by readers of this column, play a critical role in how customers perceive a company. Sometimes employees with no direct contact with customers, like the people in the document center, fail to realize how important they are in shaping positive customer perception.

It is easy for document center employees to forget they share responsibility for supporting corporate customer experience goals. Issues like looming deadlines or fighting with material that jams on the inserting machines tend to command most of their attention. I have observed situations where production-oriented people are so focused on getting the work out they fail to notice glaring errors in the documents themselves.

The mail center is the last chance to catch mistakes before documents are distributed to customers. If the mailing staff sees something off-base and lets the pieces go out in the mail anyway, there are bound to be negative consequences. When customers receive bills or statements with alignment problems, extra blank pages, or obsolete branding, relationships can suffer.

Even worse, recipients of errant documents may call customer service to inquire about their mistake-ridden documents. Handling these queries costs money, but the real damage happens when the CSRs have no knowledge of the document error. Customers must explain what is wrong and are likely to receive an unsatisfactory response. Customer support is one area the corporate customer experience team does monitor. Document errors can be the stimulus that causes CX scores to plummet.

I have long advised document center staff to regard the documents they create as more than just paper with words and images. Un-caught mistakes can sneak into any production run at any time. Errors like mismatched data, overflowing pages, excess white space, or missing graphics are easy to spot if one takes the time to look. Organizations would be wise to encourage print/mail personnel to skim through material they are about to release into the public domain. If the communications they are running are not clear and sensible, they should be able to stop the process long enough to call for a summary review.

I say, “Take the time!” Correcting document errors before they leave the building is much easier (and less expensive) than managing a drop in customer satisfaction that occurs after the mail is delivered. Document center employees have more of an influence on the customer experience than they think.

Mike Porter is President of Print/Mail Consultants. He helps his clients get the most from their document print and mail centers and prepare strategies for the future. Visit www.printmailconsultants.com and sign up for his free newsletters written especially for document industry professionals.