This can be very depressing, especially for newcomers to the screen printing industry.
As discouraging as this can be, it's important to remember the age-old business maxim: "The customer is always right." While it's harder to accept this in a made-to-order business like screen printing, there are some strategies you can keep in mind to make this process a little easier. Without a doubt, this will ensure that you'll be able to prevent it from happening in the first place, but also, you'll know what to do in the worst case scenario.
Establish a Customer Service Representative
First and foremost, you need to make a designated customer service representative if you already haven't. When assigning someone to this position, be sure to target someone with your company that has a good demeanor and is capable of having a civil conversation. Remember, this person is the official representative of your entire company. If you come off as unprofessional to a dissatisfied customer, it can put the entire business at risk. You most certainly don't want to let one bad order mess up the entire reputation of your business. Clients who are unsatisfied sometimes take to the internet and leave bad reviews anywhere they possible can which can be detrimental to your business, so it is imperative to do your best in providing a solution to any problems that may arise.
Figuring out your rep is just one phase of the battle, once this is done, you need to get this person to establish some ground rules for return policies. Without question, you need to give your customer the benefit of the doubt. Most of the time, if a customer complains, they are being genuine in their complaints. To prevent customers from trying to get multiple orders for free, ensure that they return all shirts that they are not satisfied with. These raw materials can at least be re-used or recycled rather than discarded. Also, this will prevent customers trying to get one by you from getting away with any possible scams.
Don't Attack the Customer
Once you have a system set-up for dealing with complaints, it's now the right time for understanding the ground rules when actually engaging a customer. When engaging a customer, avoid stooping to their level. If a customer starts to use profanity or personally attacks you or other employees, just take it. Remember, the customer is always right. If you acquiesce to their demands, you'll be able to smooth things over and prevent any damage to your company's reputation.
However, if a customer is civil and simply wants some assistance, do whatever you can to make things right. Coordinate with your printers and designers to develop a product that satisfies the client, and remember, your company won't always be in the right. It's certainly possible to make mistakes, and in a business with a lot of creative control and differing tastes, it's very possible that you can make a product that a client isn't happy with.
So the next time a customer complains, try to keep some of these tips in mind...
Below is a list of 10 things you can do to avoid having problems to begin with:
1.) Create a standard mock-up template that shows the front, back and sides of the garment. Add your clients artwork to the mock-up and include the print color, size and location in the proof. Have the client sign off by replying to your email saying the proof is approved or by signing it in person.
2.) Have a disclaimer section on your website that states that yellow is not simply yellow and green is not simply green. There are 100's of shades of every color and if they want an exact match they will have to supply you with a pantone number.
3.) Always give yourself enough time. If you think the job will take you two days to complete, give yourself 3 or 4 days. Anything can happen and usually does, so being prepared will help you finish the order on time without stress.
4.) Have a production checklist. Everything from getting the artwork ready for print, to outputting the film and making the screens will help you avoid issues. If you have a detailed production process, it is hard for employees to make mistakes.
5.) Plan for mistakes- If you have an order of 100 pieces, order 110 pieces. Mistakes do happen and it is better to have the extra shirts on hand than to have to order them and shut down production while
waiting for them to arrive.
6.) Customer supplied shirts- Some companies choose to allow clients to bring in their own shirts. This can lead to issues sometimes with the quality of the shirt and how it reacts to being printed. All shirts are not created equal and some just don't print well. Make sure you count all the shirts before starting the order. Also, if you make a mistake and need to replace a shirt it may be hard to find the customer supplied brand, color or style.
7.) Order form- It is a good idea to have a standard order form for clients to fill out. Include such things as name of order, client name, phone number and email, amount of shirts, amount of colors in the artwork, print locations, due date, size breakdown etc.
8.) Price List- Have a standard price list available to all employees to ensure all quotes are accurate. This is one of the easiest ways to avoid issues with customers.
9.) Artwork- Only accept high quality artwork in formats that work for you. Some printers use Adobe
Illustrator while others use Corel. If a client doesn't have access to these programs or doesn't know
how to use them you can charge them an hourly rate to get the artwork print ready. Make sure clients know that all fonts are to be outline or included and that a pantone number is needed if they want an exact color match.
10.) Finally, in the screen printing world, messing up the occasional shirt is a given. The key is to learn from the mistake and not repeat it. You can use the shirts as shop rags to clean equipment, you can also use them for test prints. Honesty goes a long way in business and going that extra mile for clients is rare now a days and will result in a long lasting business relationship.
- James Perry reporting for American Screen Printing Association. Mr. Perry is the owner of T-Shirt Printing Toronto, a provider of screen printing, direct to garment printing, embroidery, vinyl printing, signs, banners & flyers. He is an ASPA member and has been involved in screen printing and graphics arts since 1997.