Vet that Vendor: Key Questions to Ask a Prospective Color-Document Outsourcer

July 28, 2015 Categories: Reference Guide Tags: , , , , , , , ,

In a previous post, “5 Things to Know Before Greenlighting Digital Color,” we discussed market drivers that are fueling the adoption of color for customer account statements and other types of documents.

We touched on the benefits of outsourcing, and suggested that the key to success is selecting a compatible partner--one with the tools, technologies and experience to ensure a smooth and trouble-free conversion.  The questions below are offered to help you in this process.

Dig Deep--Early and Often

Production capabilities, security certifications and technical expertise can vary widely among color-enabled vendors. Knowing what to ask could save considerable time and trouble, and get you connected more quickly with a company that meets your needs.  Though you probably have your own (very lengthy) list, make sure it includes some version of the inquiries below:

#1: Print-Mail Experience: How long has the company been in business? Do they know and understand your industry? Are they narrowly focused or do they have broader ranging experience? Have they counseled and worked with top-tier brands and industry leaders?

#2: Digital-Color Expertise: When did they start offering digital color? What percentage of clients have successfully converted?  Will their pre-conversion support include helping you select and train an internal color ‘champion?’ What’s their plan for educating your production, IT and marketing teams about stock and substrates, color management, inkjet technology, and document-design best practices? Are there trained digital-color specialists on staff and available to support your transition?

#3: Security Certifications: Which entity certified the company and for which critical processes? In today’s highly regulated environment, SSAE 16 Type II (SOC 1) is the gold security standard for print-mail outsourcing. Less stringent designations will only increase your risk and expose your company to actions and penalties from the CFPB.

#4: Technology Investment: For economic reasons, some companies hold onto vital capital equipment long after its recommended lifecycle. While this strategy might seem judicious in the short term, the technologies retained may eventually lapse and fail, resulting in unfavorable consequences.

Security breaches are one example.  Sub-par document quality and less-than-reliable USPS deliveries are others. Ask to meet the vendor’s Operations and Technical teams. Learn how the company stays current with new and emerging technologies that directly affect your output quality and regulatory compliance.

#5: Other In-house Resources: Ask the vendor about the type and size of its in-house support teams.  For example, are there software developers on staff? Does the company maintain and repair its own equipment? Are extra training and specialized certifications available? What about educational workshops and open-house events?

Bottom line: Document outsourcing is a weighty proposition--and not being curious can cost you.