PDF Converters & customer contact

Where I work, we’ve had some experience with PDF converters.  Mostly abysmal. But we’ve found one crowd that seems to be on top of the game – WebSuperGoo.  Most of these converters totally mess up HTML to PDF conversion, especially when you have CSS involved.

We have one client that we have written the HTML to PDF converter for and we have had so many problems with other PDF converters we have eventually changed to using ABC PDF.  We’ve had some minor hassles, but WebSuperGoo have been excellent at responding to the questions.

In my small hosting business (DigitalTinder.com), I have written a simple acounting application that keeps my billing going.  Up till now I’ve been creating HTML files, printing to PDF and e-mailing them off by hand.  Today I downloaded a free copy of ABC PDF to test out an automated e-mailing of invoices as PDF after they have been created.  It was great, took about 15 minutes to do what used to take me about 2hrs previously.

The only down side is that as a small business, I can’t afford the $325 (R2500) for a license. Its actually pretty easy to use it, I still have to wait to see if the PDF’s get through the firewalls and mail filters and spam filters, or even if they make a better impression on my clients.

There’s a fine line between efficiency and and customer contact.  It saves me time ot use the PDF generator, but I lose the ability to have a personalised message for each client.  I can try and make a mail-merge’d email sound personal, but I don’t want to become an “impersonal machine” of a business.

My last post mentioned Grant from FusionReactor and how he’s got a great handle on PR in the web 2.0/social networking world.  I don’t have the same customer base that Grant has.  The majority of my customers actually don’t know about the inner workings of the technology underpinning their websites, whereas there are a number of tech savy people who use FusionReactor’s services.  Not that I’m saying that my customers are “clueless”… most of them are great entrepreneurs.  Their focus is on their businesses, not the technology and blogging/social networking is not at a mature enough phase for people like them to be using those tools.  In fact, in SA I doubt that there are many great businesses blogging and seeing business value coming from their blogs.  Its probably in the process of changing as I type this.  But I think it will be at least 6-12 months away.

So for now, I’ll have to keep some “offline” way of connecting with them.  Possibly SMS’s, or phone calls.  Keep efficiency up, but maximise personal contact with my customers. 

Its a learning curve for me and I’m looking forward to the journey.

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