Simple but effective!

I’d like to share one of my bugbears.  It’s something which annoys me because it seems so simple yet is something which has been totally overlooked by companies, organisations and technical people.  How often do you download a PDF  – perhaps an e-ticket for flights booked or your insurance documents – and the file appears on the desktop with some totally generic or random name?:


  • Document.pdf : ironically the members’ magazine from the Association of Independent Information Professionals!)
  • Documents.pdf : Adrian Flux insurance documents
  • GeneratePDF.pdf : Virgin Media phone bills
  • F049DBTSFXFLMPLHVJWWG.pdf : Airmiles e-ticket

Now you may never have noticed this, but as I instinctively tend towards good information management principles, but this strikes me as a wasted opportunity for two reasons.

  1. It is unhelpful to the customer – if they work through their email downloading various attachments, none of which have sensible names, they have to waste time re-labelling them and may misfile them.
  2. These examples are also of no use at the company end – certainly the first two above don’t make it possible to differentiate Customer A’s PDF document from Customer B’s.  The random combination of letters and numbers in the third example might be customer specific but don’t appear to have any relevance to the content of the document so I suspect they are randomly generated.

How to improve your customer service & own information management

-  If your company automatically generates (PDF) documents to send to customers then find out what name is generated on them.

-  If it is unhelpfully generic or random, then take some time to think up a suitable title that would enable the customer to readily identify the document when they download it.  Of course you won’t be able to anticipate everyone’s personal filing system, but a start would be to include your company’s name, a general name for the document such as ‘phone bill’ or e-ticket and the date.

The latter is a question of whether you date it with the date the document is sent out or the date to which it refers.  For example, an e-ticket for flights in 6 months time could be dated with either the current date that it’s generated or the date of the departing flight.  I’d probably err towards the date of generation as the customer can rename the file to something which suits them better but at least this gives them a starting point.

-  The customer’s name is useful information in particular for you as a company to be able to see at a quick glance who the document was for, but at the customer’s end is probably of less relevance.  You will have to strike a balance between useful info for the customer, useful information for your company/customer records, length of file name and the limitations of the technology that you have.

-  You will then need to find out what your IT system can be set up to generate – whether it can take info from the document itself, or if it needs to be a bit more generic such as ‘e-ticket’ and the date of generation.

Don’t forget these are good principles to use when naming your own files or if manually generating customer documents.  Come up with a strategy that works for you – both to give the customer useful information and to help manage your own records better.  Imagine how much time you will save when not faced with a whole list of files generated for different customers all with the same name!

Need help working out what your customers need?  Or how to decide what information works for both you and your customers?  Get in touch and let us help you!

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