Costly Production Errors Reduced
The Hacker Group/FCB, a direct marketing agency in Bellevue, WA, produces hundreds of millions of direct mail pieces each year. In the past four years it has consistently reduced its production costs resulting from error. How did they do this?
Gayl Curtiss, executive vice president and general manager, shares some of her strategies. Many of her tips directly translate to catalog production.
• Award employees bonuses that are directly tied to error-free performance. When compensation is tied to performance, employees are encouraged to pay extra attention to their work to eliminate mistakes. Employees should have clearly defined written roles and responsibilities, so they know how performance will be measured.
• Make employee training your No. 1 priority, and make it an ongoing process. Cross-training also is invaluable at The Hacker Group, because it enables employees to make more accurate and better-informed decisions.
• Work with vendors who care as much about quality and error-free work as you do. “If your vendors don’t come through for you when a mistake is made, fire them,” says Curtiss. The Hacker Group puts its vendor expectations in writing. The company defines what’s to be included with every project and bid in a detailed, six-page document. Written documentation, Curtiss says, saves time and reduces budget overages. Written standards for your printer should include information such as:
+when a mailing is scheduled to drop;
+number of proofs you need to see and at what time;
+number of samples;
+a list of what documents you’ll provide and when;
+how you’ll evaluate print and color quality;
+what will happen when an error is made.
The latter should be agreed upon beforehand. For example, if the printing is unacceptable, it should be agreed that the vendor will reprint at no charge.
• Be a rules-based organization. At The Hacker Group, workflow is carefully documented, and standard operating procedures are spelled out in great detail. This creates an environment where it’s difficult to fail. Curtiss advises that once you’ve developed standard operating procedures, have your least-tenured team member review them yearly. The new employee will get great training from it.