November '14

For the Business of Apparel Decorating

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20 1 4 N ov e m b e r Printwear | 67 For Sharon Commerford of Embroidery On Demand, she agrees that being told to simply use her judgment is her biggest pet peeve. In a given week, Commerford says that she hears this as often as four times. "How am I supposed to know what they have pictured in their head?" Commerford says. "I usually have to then drag it out of them by asking a lot of questions." Last-minute Louies The next most common pet peeve is customers who leave jobs for the last minute or push for quick turnarounds. The customer needs it tomorrow, never signs off on an order, and then is upset when the order isn't ready by the end of the day. These customers often ask why you can't complete the order now or show up before the promised deadline and are frustrated if the order isn't ready. Educating your customers is one way to handle this situation. Your customers have no idea how many steps are involved in creating an embroidered product. This is not their industry. When pressed as to why you cannot complete an order while the customer waits, we find that making an analogy to cooking gives customers a better appreciation of all the steps in the process. Try this response: "It's like cooking a nice meal. First, we have to figure out exactly what you want, like you would find a recipe. Next, we get the products, just like you would need to go to the grocery store. Then, we have to create your design, which is like prepping all the ingredients. Finally, we bring everything together to create the finished products for you. It takes a bit of time, and we have several orders already in line before we get to this one." In the experience of Cindy Proctor of Busy Bee Embroidery, this is particularly an issue during the holiday season when small custom orders are popular. While the order may be small, it's still a time-consuming process, especially during this busy time of year. "All the time we hear, 'It's only one name on one stocking,'" Proctor says. "I politely show them the wall full of one-name-on-one-stocking orders that are ahead of them." Cheap, Cheap We've all had customers tell us they can get the job done for less from the competitor down the street. That's definitely a stopper, isn't it? At this point, you can politely indicate that's perhaps where the customer should do business. Surprisingly enough, the customer often comments that the competitor can't finish the job in time. When that happens, the competitor's price no longer has any bearing on the conversation. If you can meet the timetable, you have the inside track on this customer, and meeting or beating that price is unnecessary as well as unwise. If the job requires a quick turnaround, it may even be appropriate to tack on a rush fee, on top of your normal rates to make the customer more attentive to the timing of future orders. For some reason, our industry tends to allow customers to interact with us in ways that would be inappropriate or even downright ridiculous in many other business settings. Would you go into a restaurant with a hunk of raw steak and ask the chef to prepare it? Yet how often do our customers walk in with their own goods, expecting us to embroider them? Our customers give us lousy, unusable art and expect top-quality embroidered goods. If a customer were to take that art to a paper print provider, he or she would face fees to finish the design and turn it into something useful. Despite this, we let customers balk at paying for digitizing, never even charging them for any prep work that goes into generating that art. If your customer bothers you, step back and look at the bigger picture. What, specifically, is it about that interaction that bothers you? What can you tweak about your interaction with that customer and others who share this situation to reduce the frustration? How can you help customers and orders become more inline with how your business functions? Any steps you can take to create the ideal customer improves your entire experience, and that is better for everyone. pw

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