A little communication goes a long way towards simplifying the printing process for you and your clients.

Clearly communicating what’s required of both the customer and you the printer can help reduce any conflict that might arise during the order process. In order to provide the best service possible, treat each customer interaction as a learning opportunity for how you can make the process easier and smoother in the future.

It All Starts with Art

One of the first places problems can occur is when your customer submits his or her artwork. Being asked to reproduce a small, low-resolution logo file on a t-shirt is a problem – but it can be avoided if you communicate artwork requirements (file type, resolution, colors) beforehand. If you plan on charging for artwork setup, make sure those charges are explicitly stated. When it comes to artwork, it’s also important to state the limitations of color matching. Even with a good color matching system, getting perfect results isn’t always possible. Make sure your customers understand and accept how close of a match they can reasonably expect.

Gather as Much Info as Possible

In order to ensure a high-quality print job, it certainly helps to know as much as possible about the substrate you’re printing on. Be on the lookout for any potentially problematic materials. Customer requests plastisol printing on polyester garments? Watch out for dye migration! Besides understanding the fabric type and its associated challenges, you also need to be clear on the sizes your customer wants.

Let’s say you have a customer ordering jerseys for a local sports team – inevitably a player will claim he got a medium when he wanted a large. Would you want to set up the job all over again to print one extra shirt? Would you tell the customer to take a hike? Neither is a great option. To avoid this kind of situation, first it might be a good idea to provide samples of each size shirt so your customer knows exactly what to expect. Make sure you get the amount of each size in writing on the order form. It’s also important to have a clear return policy. If you printed the shirts in the exact amounts ordered (make sure you have an accurate count), you have no obligation to replace a shirt because the customer ordered wrong or changed his mind. However, you might want to use this as an opportunity to build some goodwill – that customer may still complain even though you did everything you were asked. If it makes sense for your business, consider offering a discount for customers who want to replace their orders due to their own mistakes. And it doesn’t hurt to order an extra shirt or two in each size, just in case.

Customer-Supplied Garments: Are They Worth It?

You also want to have a clear policy regarding customer-supplied garments. If the customer is providing the shirts, you can’t order extras in case of misprints. You need to make clear your average margin of error. For example, say your usual print job has a reasonable 2% margin of error. If your customer supplies exactly 100 shirts, you need to explain that the customer can only expect 98 shirts delivered. Either the customer accepts this, or if he needs 100 shirts exactly must account for the misprints by supplying two extra shirts. Also, if you’re not in control of choosing the shirt supplier, you need to communicate that you can’t guarantee the print quality or how long it will last because you don’t know the quality of the garment. You need to decide if customer-supplied goods are worth the uncertainty, especially in small quantities. If you do decide to tackle customer-supplied garments, you’ll have to figure out how to price those jobs to make up for the loss of markup you’d get by supplying the shirts yourself.

Get Your Orders out on Time

One of the most important parts of an order is the turnaround time. Many custom garments are ordered for a specific event. In those cases, time is really of the essence. Like every other step in the process, clear communication is essential to avoiding conflict over turnaround. To have things go as smoothly as possible, let the customer know exactly what the printing process entails and be honest (with your customer and yourself!) about how fast you can get the job done. Agree on a realistic due date in writing so there’s no room for confusion. Decide if you want to charge a set fee for rush orders and if so, come up with figures that work for your business.

More Steps You Can Take to Ensure Customer Satisfaction

In addition to clearly stating your policies regarding artwork, sizing, customer-supplied garments and turnaround time, there are plenty more steps you can take to keep your customers satisfied. Here are a few ideas:

  • If you order extra shirts for a job in case of mistakes but print the job perfectly, the customer can have a few extra shirts for free – a great way to build goodwill. And say you’ve printed t-shirts for a club and a new member joins. No need to print a new shirt!
  • When you deliver the order, include instructions for how to care for the shirts to ensure a long-lasting print.
  • Don’t try to print an order you can’t handle! Save yourself the headache – if you know a job is too big or too difficult, contract it out to someone.
  • Make an accurate count of the shirts and sort them by size or color before delivery. This way the customer can easily tell everything has been delivered exactly as ordered.
  • Mistakes happen to everyone. But what to do with misprinted shirts? If you plan on donating them, clear it with the customer first. They might not be happy seeing shirts with their misprinted logo floating around.
  • Know when to fire a customer. For example, if it seems like a client is complaining just to get free shirts, you might want to pass that business on to a competitor.
  • Do what you can to make clients happy within reason. Have a good customer-focused attitude, but realize that you can’t afford to please everyone. Are difficult customers worth the time and effort it takes to keep them happy? Don’t lose money trying to satisfy unreasonable demands.