Automated Testing is a Valuable Customer Service

Why Aren’t More Service Providers Providing Automated Testing Tools to Clients?

I recently revisted an article by Joe Pigeon of Paloma Print Products called “How Much Does Document Verification Really Cost.” It talks about the costly customer communications testing process that, for many companies, hasn’t changed much since the 1970’s.  Despite the availability of PDF proofing tools, an awful lot of testing gets done by viewing stacks of printed test output.

As Joe’s article states, this is a massive waste of high-value human resources such as developers and business subject matter experts (even when conducted online) and a waste of physical resources when large jobs are duplicated on paper and shipped around for review, markup and processing. It also makes regression testing more challenging if the marked up issues are on paper versus captured online.

860272_paper_pile1These are not new issues but, despite the availability of excellent testing software that automate regression suites, automatically identify changes in print streams and allow the user to filter out changes (such as font updates) to streamline testing – these tools are widely underutilized. This is surprising enough in a captive, in-plant environment and even more so in a Print-for-Pay environment. Reducing testing efforts for clients is a key value-added service that has the additional benefit of getting customer business on-boarded more quickly. Why aren’t service providers making these tools available to their customers?

A few months ago I was working on a Request For Proposal  (RFP) for a major insurance company who outsourced their printing to a variety of service providers. One of the questions in the RFP was regarding automated testing tools – what the service providers used themselves and what services they provided to their customers. Half of the respondents did not use an automated testing suite and the other half that did said that they did not make the tools available to their customers for the customer acceptance process. Are these tools not structured to push the interface out to the end-client? Is the cost model onerous? With the potential to reduce testing times by 50 to 75% the cost would have to be awfully high to make it untenable – plus it is probably a service that the customer would be willing to pay for if the results can be demonstrated (as they certainly can in my experience.) Perhaps this is just an overlooked another overlooked service opportunity in the print industry. If so, it is one that is pretty easy to get a piece of without a great deal of investment.

Elizabeth Gooding

Elizabeth Gooding is the editor of the Insight Forums blog and president of Gooding Communications Group

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