By Frank J. Romano May 24, 2004 -- As an industry, we continue to integrate functions to improve workflow. Workflow began to change with CTP and will change again with JDF. At that time, we will see the CSR absorb more pre-press responsibility. The CSR is the communication link between the customer, sales, and production. They are often the negotiator and the “voice” for each side Customer service representatives, as we know them now, came into the graphic arts industry in the 1980s. Before that time, production coordinators or job planners wrote job jackets, planned jobs, created press layouts and impositions, prepared proofs and press sheets, monitored and ordered inventory, and, in their spare time, worked with customers and salespeople. Their main focus was to represent production to the customer. With their busy schedule, attending to customers' and salespeople's inquiries was difficult. In an effort to increase business and provide quotes, orders, and job status in a more timely manner, management created customer service representatives. Today, a CSR acts as a “buffer” between production and the customer. They perform all of the tasks that help to ensure a job will run smoothly and meet the customer's needs every time. The CSR is the communication link between the customer, sales, and production. They are often the negotiator and the “voice” for each side, handling such issues as: Clarifying specifications and obtaining missing information Quoting, proofing, and communicating job status Expediting jobs Making changes Handling complaints Prioritizing technical assistance regarding press capabilities, file formats, and end-use applications Maintaining account and job files. The goal of the CSR is to provide the customer with a pleasant purchasing experience that will encourage future purchases. Because of the close link that the CSR has with sales, the customers, and production, they are also a key source of information to management regarding the health of the company. The goal of the CSR is to provide the customer with a pleasant purchasing experience that will encourage future purchases. The CSR is in constant contact with the customer, and the customer should always be able to contact its CSR. This used to be by phone, but e-mail is growing. We increased productivity by automating CTP workflow and eliminating the stripping department. Next, CSR and pre-press functions will be merged. As we enter the next phase of workflow—beyond CTP and digital printing—we will require new skills and tasks for CSRs. They will absorb an increasing amount of pre-press responsibility to make sure that files are intact and correct, and that those files are ready for automated workflows. We do not think that originators will produce proper files for integrated manufacturing. The CSR will be more web-enabled and more computer literate than ever before. And, most important, they will need to know more about application software, file formats, and job preparation than ever before—in addition to their knowledge of printing and binding. Enter the world of the new CSR.