October '15

For the Business of Apparel Decorating

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2 0 1 5 O C T O B E R P R I N T W E A R || 75 a singular event, as opposed to a well-thought out way to handle the situation. The proper way to react to this is to address how the mistake happened and decide if it could have been avoided. If you have completed hundreds of orders without error, maybe there isn't a remedy needed. However, if you determine your process- es don't adequately explain your artwork policies, then you must consider how to deliver this infor- mation in a positive way. If a bad experience occurs because of oversight, there is no ill will here, nor was there any reac- tionary events. This is just when you "didn't think about it." Your business is doing something that isn't providing your customers with a positive ex- perience, and you didn't even realize it. For example, a good friend owns a small apparel decorating shop. Honestly, he does everything well, as you most likely do too. But one day I was watch- ing him pack up a shirt order. The Ts were all folded into a box and taped shut. Completely innocent. But then I began to think about it. How is the customer going to experience this? Will they be able to easily pass out the sizes? Will people be able to wear them out of the box? Is there any type of packing slip or thank you note? So I asked him these questions, and his response was, "I never thought about it, but no one has complained." Do you really want your cus- tomer to have just enough to not complain about it? How could we make the unboxing of shirts bet- ter? We discussed putting a clever note in the box, explaining how it was a pleasure to customize their shirts and included, "inspected by…" with a signa- ture. We also made sure it was a policy to stack shirts with spacers between the sizes—just some paper with his logo and XL or L written big in the middle. This way it was easy to find the sizes. Next, he included the invoice, some business cards, and another note asking for referrals in an envelope addressed to the person who handled the order. Finally, he ended up ordering tape with his company logo on it so the box would be taped up with custom branding. At this point, his final product delivery felt fantastic, and his customers would know that he put some time and effort into delivering a good experience for them. It's important to be sure you aren't making mis- takes like this when it comes to the experience your customers have with your business. Don't be reac- tionary without thinking it through, and be sure to evaluate your business to avoid oversights in your customers' experiences. CREATING GREAT EXPERIENCES You can learn how to create the most amazing customer experiences for your apparel business by focusing on three different things: customers, competition, and creativity. Bill Gates said, "Your most unhappy custom- ers are your greatest source of learning." Take this thought and use it to create a better experience for your clients. If you have someone who is upset, then do your best to redevelop how you handle your customers' journey through the buying pro- cess. Also consider how many customers might have felt the same, but didn't say anything. Use this as an inspiration to improve your business. Watch your competition and emulate what you like using your own style. It doesn't even have to be your direct competition; it could be someone in a completely different business line. Just keep your eyes out for things that make you feel good about an experience or interaction. It could be how your local sign shop set up their website, or how a car dealer puts mints in your cup holder. Look out for events that improve a customer's ex- perience and figure out how you can tie it into your business. Finally, take some time each month to look at every facet of your business and think creatively. This should be without distraction so that you can focus on one particular part of your custom- er experience. For example, once a month while having your morning coffee, evaluate one part of your business or marketing. You could consider how you answer the phone or what your voice- mail says. Take a look at your store signage and see if there is anything worth updating. Reread your email signature or website's About Us page. You are an apparel decorator, which means you have a creative advantage over many other busi- ness owners. Use this to improve your business. Spend the time considering how your custom- ers do business with you and they will absolutely appreciate it. There will be challenges and deci- sions to make. Some changes will cost you mon- ey. If you decide to order custom branded boxes, it will cost more than the generics. If you create a new store sign, it could be a big budget item. However, these are all investments in your busi- ness and in customer loyalty. It is cheaper to get a customer to come back than it is to find new ones, so give them the best experience possible and you will earn their business for life.

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