Apparel Decorator Customer Service Success Kit | Atkinson Consulting
Consultant to the Decorated Apparel Industry | Helping Shops Succeed
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Apparel Decorator Customer Service Success Kit

Apparel Decorator Customer Service Success Kit

T-shirt Printing Quality Control - Marshall Atkinson

In any shop in the decorated apparel industry, regardless of the markets they serve, there needs to be an extremely high degree of focus on customer service.  “Customer service” isn’t just a couple of buzz words, but in fact, the lifeblood of your shop.  But what is it really?  Let’s break it down:

Fantastic customer service is all about being proactive, organized and working to please the customer at every opportunity.

Here’s a notion; develop your own “Customer Service Success Kit” for your shop.  If this was a box of stuff, what would you pack into it?  This isn’t just tangible things like a price list, art guidelines or embroidery tips, but also bigger ideas such as training, visits to your client’s office, friendliness and a lot of Thank You’s.

Spend a moment looking into your shop from the customer’s point of view.  Do you have these already prepared?

New Customer Information.  This ready to hand out or e-mail packet is loaded with the general information about your company.  Your history, capabilities, hours, etc.  Whatever you feel is important to a new customer to know and understand.  This packet should include an order form, credit card authorization form, and maybe even a W-9 form if needed.  Whatever you constantly hand out to customers.  This and all of the items below should be branded with your company logo, and professional in appearance.  Spend some time on this in the design phase and create a template page that you can use for other documents.

Price Lists.  These should be already prepared and ready to go.  If you have a computer, it’s easy to prepare an Excel spreadsheet or import price lists into your shop’s business software.  Most shops have multiple pricing tiers that are based on the volume of work or nature of the customer.  This means that there’s a different price quoted to some guy that just walks in off the street to someone that spends a suitcase full of money with you every month.  Extra charges or fees are included on the price list for any imaginable circumstance, and are outlined for easy reference.  That’s great, but the most important aspect of your price list is to train your staff on how to use it.  Finding the right column on the sheet is just as important as “when” to charge that art fee, or when to waive it to get the job.  You don’t want to leave money on the table, but you don’t want the business opportunity to walk down the street to another shop either.

Art Guidelines.  Tired of getting a 14k .jpg file or logo saved in Word to use for a customer’s artwork?  Design an art guideline information packet.  Cram in all of the information pertinent to your shop.  What software do you use?  What does raster vs. vector mean?  What is the standard size for a full front?  Get all of this and more designed on a document and ready to hand someone or e-mail them.

Embroidery Guidelines.  Just like the art guidelines above for screen or digital printing, but set up for your embroidery department.  Every question you commonly get asked should have the answer on this information packed guideline.  What is a run stitch?  Can you digitize?  What thread to you use?  What’s the biggest hoop size you use?  You hear these questions every day.  Make your life easier by proactively giving out the answers to the test.

Other Information Guidelines.  For special circumstances or marketing pieces, maybe you need to create a separate information sheet on your Sustainability Program or how you handle the CPSIA guidelines.  Use your branding template and create the information sheet so it’s ready when it comes up in conversation with a client.  There is absolutely no better way to impress someone than to be professionally prepared to help them when they are searching for answers.

Thank You Note or Card with your logo.  What do you use to hand-write a thank you?  Why not get a big stack of cards printed with your logo on them and some envelopes?  When you complete the first order for a new customer, or you want to send a thank you to an old one, handwrite a sincere thank you and drop it in the box before it ships or your mailbox on the curb.  These days everything is handled by e-mail, and the old fashioned thank you note has probably increased in power and significance as nobody uses these anymore.  Yes, your mom was right!

Finally, here comes the hard part.  Actually using these tools and training your staff to use them also.  These pieces don’t do anybody any good sitting in a drawer or on a shelf in your supply closet.  Make a point to use them, and train your staff to understand the importance of great customer service.  Be proactive.  Be organized.  Be more impressive than everyone else.  Kick some butt.  You can do it!!

Here are some examples of the pieces we created and use at Visual Impressions.  (Sorry, price lists are not available for this article)

VI 2014 New Customer Information Packet (Out of State)

VI 2014 Art Standards

VI Sustainablility Sheet 2013

CPSIA Guideline Info Packet

12 Comments
  • Shop Success Gumbo – atkinsontshirt
    Posted at 06:55h, 23 July Reply

    […] e-mail sales, if someone sends you a quote request, can you quickly respond with a written quote that is branded with your shop information and looks professional?  Can you respond quickly, or does it take you a day or two to get around to it?  Do you have the […]

  • 4 Ways to Promote Your Shop Using Social Media – atkinsontshirt
    Posted at 06:22h, 25 June Reply

    […] examples of your stellar customer service.  Won any awards?  Got some testimonials in your pocket?  Did your team solve some challenging […]

  • Everyone Is Not Your Customer – atkinsontshirt
    Posted at 07:49h, 26 May Reply

    […] sure every shop has similar stories.  Some probably incredibly worse.  I just made these up to illustrate a point.  When you appeal to everyone, that just might […]

  • The Death of Customer Service in the Decorated Apparel Industry | atkinsontshirt
    Posted at 09:23h, 30 January Reply

    […] reps that don’t even work in our office, as one is in California and the other in New England.  They manage our in-house customer’s orders from different states.  That is rock star status if I have ever seen one.  I thank our lucky stars for technology and […]

  • Secret Shop Strategies for Shirt Sampling Success | atkinsontshirt
    Posted at 07:21h, 19 December Reply

    […] For most shops, not very.  I’m in the same Facebook/LinkedIn groups as you, and collectively as an industry we’re all a bunch of scared mice.  There are some exceptions, but for the most part our customers define what we are doing.  It doesn’t have to be that way though. […]

  • 8 Ways We’re Kickin’ Your Butt | atkinsontshirt
    Posted at 08:50h, 31 October Reply

    […] The culture of perfection and execution starts with learning how to pull on your socks.   […]

  • 7 Habits of Highly Effective Production | atkinsontshirt
    Posted at 06:15h, 17 October Reply

    […] the distributor, as they are coming from another warehouse that’s a few days away, the office customer service rep notifies receiving with a tracking number, changes the shipping date automatically and adds notes […]

  • Know Like Trust Buy – The Sales Funnel | atkinsontshirt
    Posted at 07:56h, 12 September Reply

    […] Good service.  Your staff knows what they are doing.  They are well versed in the industry.  Whenever someone interacts with one of your staff members they are treated professionally and with respect.  Customer service always resonates. […]

  • Turning Whiners Into Winners | atkinsontshirt
    Posted at 04:25h, 25 July Reply

    […] drive you crazy?  Instead, offer an easy solution for your customer to do business with you.  Have a website ordering platform or at the very least a simple order form that you can send them.  The next time you get that weekend midnight text order, just shoot them a prepared response on […]

  • Arrrgggghhh! 7 Frustrations You Deal with Every Day in Your Shop | atkinsontshirt
    Posted at 09:08h, 20 June Reply

    […] you can do a good job.  I wish I had the answer.  On our end, we train our customer service staff to ask a lot of questions and try to get the answers.  Following up is the key.  It’s still frustrating […]

  • 9 Foolproof Ways to Keep More Customers | atkinsontshirt
    Posted at 06:00h, 07 February Reply

    […] pieces that you can hand over or send as a .pdf to anyone that asks a common question.  Build your Customer Service Tool Kit.  Being able to communicate effectively, accurately and ultra-timely will set you apart from your […]

  • If Only All of the Pieces Would Fit Together | atkinsontshirt
    Posted at 06:57h, 31 January Reply

    […] If only your customers made it easier.  Customers.  We love them and we hate them sometimes simultaneously.  I guess it all depends on their level of competency too.  Do they know what they want and can they communicate that effectively to you?  Sometimes you have to help them.  These days when more and more online t-shirt platforms are popping up everywhere and snagging a lot of the business, that pain in the butt hand-holding you hate could be the value added feature that keeps your orders in the door.  You should revel in the fact that you can work with people face to face and walk them through the order, taking their fears away and making the process easier.  Sell that.  You can provide expert level recommendations on what shirt is softer a Hanes Nano or an American Apparel.  “Here, feel the shirt and compare.”  There isn’t an iPad app for that.  The front end work that you put in to make your customers comfortable and ordering easier will pay off in big dividends when they can’t get that same level of service somewhere else.  Not all customers are so price driven that they will abandon you to save a penny.  There are huge swaths of customers that will pay more for great customer service, quality decoration and the knowledge that they are being taken care of with a first class shop.  First, you have to build that.  Read how to build a Customer Service Success Kit by clicking here. […]

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