Episode 106 – An Experience Your Customers Can’t Forget

Aug 28, 2019

This Episode

Mark Stephenson & Marc Vila

You Will Learn

  • How to create a memorable customer experience
  • Learn the ways to increase customer satisfaction

Resources & Links

Episode 106 – An Experience Your Customers Can’t Forget

Show Notes

Picture this… close your eyes… (not if driving)

You pull up to your beach hotel for a vacation. As you pull up you notice the big palm trees, flowers and a big driveway to pull up to a grand entrance.

As you arrive, someone is there to greet you and open your door. You enter into the lobby and smell the fresh scent of flowers with a hint of mint.

You are guided to your room and when you walk in there are fresh flowers, some water and drinks on ice.

Throughout your stay you get doors held for you, chocolates put on your pillow and smiles everywhere.

How would you rate this hotel vs the EXACT same hotel without all the extras and fluff?

This is exactly what creating a memorable customer experience is all about.

Give your customers an experience that sets you apart from everyone else:

– They will like you more
– They will remember you
– They will perceive your product as being of higher value (more $$ for you)

According to a study done by Oracle:

– Customer experience impacts willingness to be loyal
– Customers will switch brands due to poor experience
– Customer is willing to pay for a better experience

Simply put, happy customers remain loyal. The way to create MORE happy customers is through creating a great experience for them.

Ways to improve your customers’ experience

Create your vision

– Write down a vision statement for how your customers should feel when they interact with your business

– Example: We want our customers to feel like their order is important no matter how big it is. That it’s not just about us taking orders, but creating custom apparel that exceeds their expectations and inspires them. Deliver on-time, every-time with stellar results.

Know your customer

– What is your niche? If they are urban, cool and trendy then match your style to that type of person. They might want to be able to communicate via text message and more likely to choose apparel that’s less ‘common’.

– If your customer is a parent of an elementary school student. They are probably very busy and would like email updates or text alerts on how their order is being processed.

– Create a ‘persona’ for your customer. Describe your customer narrowed down to 1 or 2 people.

– Example: Our ideal customer is a parent of 2 kids. They are very involved in their child’s school. They both work full time and cherish their family time. They aren’t interested in poor quality apparel but want their children to look great for pictures and be comfortable at school.

Become emotionally connected

– You have to know how your customers emotionally. What makes them happy? What would disappoint them? What is important to them?

– Example: If you know your customers are really busy, then empathize that with them during conversations. Go the extra mile to save them time, or make it very easy for them. Maybe you deliver to homes or deliver to the school. Package up apparel with tags/notes so they can easily find them at the school.

– Go the extra mile when possible. If the customer mentioned they have been so busy they don’t even have time for breakfast, you can put a note in their order with a breakfast protein bar. “Enjoy this the next time you are too busy to cook breakfast”

Always ask for feedback… then act on it!

– Send a follow-up email/survey to ask how the order went.
– Ask during the process if they feel good about anything.
– If you have an upset customer, use it as a learning experience. what could you have done better/different in hindsight.

Building a customer experience plan

Initial contact
– How do you greet them?
– How do you let them know all you have to offer?
– How will you make them feel welcome

Quote Stage
– Make sure quote is clear and communicated well.
– Deliver in a way that is good for them. email a pdf? in person meeting?

Purchase Stage
– Do you accept payment in a way that is good for them?
– Paypal? Credit card? apple pay? cash? Terms?

– How will communicate order status?
– Package the products to look nice. fold, bag, box
– Any finishing touches? notes, stickers, chachkies, free gifts

Post sale
– Thank you message
– Make sure they were happy
– Ask for a review or survey

In addition to this, one of the most important things you cannot miss is having a plan for when you make a mistake. What will you do when you order the wrong color shirts or forget to order the 2XL Shirts, or you are going to be a day late on delivery. It will happen so have a plan!

Customers have a ton of options and are empowered to make the choice of who they will do business with. Be sure the experience you deliver is the best for YOUR customer.


Welcome to the Custom Apparel Startups podcast, your best source for information, news, tips and tricks to get you off the ground running, and earn success with your custom apparel decorating business. So, get ready to soak up some knowledge!

Now, here are your hosts, Mark and Marc!

Mark S: Hey, everyone! Welcome to episode 106 of the Custom Apparel Startups podcast. My name is Mark Stephenson, from ColDesi.

Marc V: And this is Marc Vila, from Colman and Company. Today we’re here to talk about something really cool; an experience your customers will never forget.

Mark S: I love this! It’s part of our marketing plan, our business plan series that started with episode 101. We’ve talked about things like email marketing, emails that you should send. We’ve talked about marketing planning, validating.

Marc V: Picking a niche.

Mark S: Picking a niche. We’ve had some great conversations, so far. This one, I think, actually works whether or not you’ve listened to the others.

Marc V: It does. That doesn’t mean that you get to skip them.

Mark S: No, you should never skip. We’ll see you in 106 hours!

Marc V: The thing is, if you listen to all of them, there’s like an Easter egg hidden throughout all the episodes. If you piece it together, it’s a clue, and you can win a prize.

Mark S: It’s a coupon for some mental health counseling.

Marc V: Yes. When we talk about an experience that your customers can’t forget, maybe we can start off with a little story.

Mark S: I love it when you paint us a picture. So, please do.

Marc V: Okay. Let’s do the dreamland sequence music now. Picture this. If you are in a position to close your eyes, it’s a fun exercise, mainly to get to tell people to close their eyes. That’s the fun part.

Mark S: It is, especially while they’re driving.

Marc V: If you’re not driving and you choose to close your eyes, just for the fun of it, I welcome you to participate. You pull up to your beach hotel for vacation. You’re pulling up, and you see the big palm trees. You can see the flowers, the beautiful brick as you pull up, how the highway rises up usually, to get to the entrance of the hotel, so you’re at this big curve.

Around there, there’s all types of staff, people dressed in nice coats and things like that. You arrive, somebody opens the door to your car, you come out. You go in the lobby. It smells of just citrus and flowers, maybe a hint of mint in the air. There’s some fresh cold water, with orange slices in it.

Mark S: Nice!

Marc V: You’re guided to your room. There’s flowers in your room, some cold water, some drinks on ice, maybe champagne or Coca-Cola on ice, something like that. Throughout your stay, people are opening doors, smiling at you. They’re putting chocolate on your pillow. I hope I’m building this beautiful picture.

After seeing all of that, how would you rate that hotel experience, versus the same exact hotel with none of that? You walk into the lobby, they hand you a key, you go up to your room. They say good-bye when you leave.

Mark S: And it’s a nice room.

Marc V: Yeah. It’s the same exact room.

Mark S: Same exact room, same exact hotel. But you’re right. That picture you painted of the experience, which is why from now on we’re going to call you “big money Vila,” because I’ve never been able to afford that experience.

But I agree that that creates the most lasting impression.

Marc V: It’s a mood that you get into. It’s something that you feel. It’s emotionally tapping versus you got a good room and it was a good rate, you liked it, it was very clean, it was pretty, it was cool. It was a hotel stay. But next time you’re going to go, what are you going to do? You’re just going to start shopping again.

Mark S: For price, yeah.

Marc V: You’re going to look at the price, you’re going to look at the location. You’re going to start your whole evaluation process again. Versus if they deliver you an experience like that, you always are going to go back to that memory. “Remember when we stayed at such-and-such at the beach? We’re going there again.”

Mark S: Sometimes it is like the dressing that they put on things, like the peoples’ uniforms and things like that. Sometimes it’s the people that you remember. Like I remember staying in Miami, and there was a great bartender who entertained us for half an hour, or the front desk lady was terrific, or every time I walked through the lobby, the hotel staff was great, just very complimentary and willing to help.

All of those things are going to contribute to whether or not I’m going to go back there.

Marc V: Yeah. This customer experience that we’re talking about is something that you can do for your business, without all of the stuff that a hotel does. But you get to do it in a completely different way that creates the same type of feeling for your customers, when they go through and they purchase custom apparel or whatever else you might do.

Mark S: Because we talk about competition all of the time, here, and that’s definitely one on the things that can set you apart from your competition. And it doesn’t mean that you have to buy really nice sheets, and package  them in with every custom t-shirt.

Marc V: That would help, though.

Mark S: It would make you stand out! But it means that you’re creating this kind of memorable experience, to attach your name to feeling good about a purchase.

Marc V: Exactly. It gives your customers a reason to want to give you money again. We never feel bad about giving money to things that make us feel good, that gave us a good experience. You don’t mind giving money to that. That’s the type of experience you want to create for your customers.

So, giving your customers an experience that sets you apart from everybody else. That’s what this is about. If you do it, they’re going to like you more, they’ll remember you, and I think number three is your favorite one, right?

Mark S: Yeah. You’ll be able to charge more. They’ll perceive what you do as being a higher value. When we talked about competitive analysis, and taking a look at your actual competitors in the marketplace, customer experience is one of the things that we mentioned. That’s because if you’re in a market where you aren’t the cheapest, and somebody else is, and they deliver their goods in a less than professional way or in a worse way than you do, then you could win that business back, and charge more at the same time.

Marc V: Yeah. It just popped in my head, thinking about that – how does Starbucks get away with charging like $8 for a cup of coffee?

Mark S: Right.

Marc V: It’s part of the experience. For one, you’re a fan of their coffee.

Mark S: I am.

Marc V: And you’re just a black coffee guy, just to be clear.

Mark S: Yes, please.

Marc V: He’s not a frap guy or anything.

Mark S: Nothing $8. I refuse to pay more than $4!

Marc V: But in your opinion, you would say the quality of the product is good in the first place, right?

Mark S: It is very good, yeah.

Marc V: So, the quality of the coffee is good. In addition to that, you walk into this place and it’s a cool-looking place. That’s part of the experience. They train their staff to be very much like -.

Mark S: For the most part, they’re very professional and friendly. They greet you when you come in.

Marc V: And they’re offering you lots of different things that you might enjoy and like. And no matter how you order your coffee, they’ll do whatever you want, and they do it in a cool way, where they call your name out and they write your name on the cup. There’s lots of things going on in the background. It looks cool.

Mark S: They’re a bajillion dollar company for a reason, because after all, they just sell coffee.

Marc V: Yeah, and there’s plenty of coffee places that sell a really good cappuccino and things like that, but it’s different. They’ve created an experience. That’s just another example, besides a hotel.

Mark S: I think we should draw more parallels to the coffee business in our podcasts.

Marc V: Let’s do it, starting now.

Mark S: Starting now. We can write off my Starbucks habit. Often, we talk about stuff like this, but there has actually been  some research done.

Marc V: I did just a little bit of research. I mean, I’ve done plenty over time, to know it. But in this article that I read, it was from Oracle, if you’re familiar with them, a big software company. They do tons of stuff. You’ve definitely interacted with things in your life from them, if you didn’t know.

They interviewed their executive staff, and asked them about what happens when they do different things with customer experience.

Customer experience impacts the willingness to be loyal. Customers will switch brands, due to poor experience. And customers are willing to pay for a better experience.

Mark S: I think that all three of those things are really important, especially coming from a company like Oracle.

Marc V: Yes. They know this as a fact. They’re not the cheapest in any service they offer. But you know if you purchase software from them, you’re going to get like an onboarding team to teach you everything and walk you through, and support you the whole time, where you know you could probably get a similar software for cheaper. And if you need help, you can email somebody, and they might respond next week.

Mark S: I like this variability of customer experience, and one that fits your brand, and how it might impact willingness to be loyal. There are a couple of neighborhood places in South Tampa that a lot of the employees here go to on a very regular basis, that are terrible. They’re terrible places! The food isn’t good. Maybe the beer is cheap, but they’re terrible.

Marc V: I know where you’re talking about.

Mark S: But they go because they have this home-like experience. People know them there. They come in, they sit at the same table. These businesses have built up loyalty in the local community, in the same way that you might inspire that same thing in your business.

Marc V: There’s a bar/restaurant not far down from that one, that shut down, that was almost like a copycat type of a place. But why did that one shut down, and the other one didn’t? Again, it’s because of experience.

Mark S: Exactly.

Marc V: Simply put, happy customers remain loyal, and the way to create more happy customers is through creating a great experience. That’s kind of the point. So, let’s get into how to do it.

Mark S: I like what we’re starting with here, and that’s creating your vision. That idea that you’re deciding in advance, not on what your brand logo is going to be and what the t-shirt designs are, and things like that. You’re designing what you want your customers to feel like and notice, and experience when they interact with you.

Marc V: I like that. This is actually one of those times that you write something down and you pin it up somewhere. You put it somewhere, and you constantly remind yourself of what your vision is. We wrote an example of what one could be. This might be yours. You know what? You can use this one, if you want. You don’t have to remake it.

Mark S: I think so. It’s in the show notes.

Marc V: “We want our customers to feel like their order is important, no matter how big it is. That it’s not just about us taking orders, but creating custom apparel  that exceeds their expectations and inspires them, delivered on time every time, with stellar results.

Mark S: That is really good, and I hope you’ve experienced something similar, if you’ve ever called in to ColDesi or Colman and Company. Because we will spend  just as much time, or almost as much time, on a small embroidery supply order, and take just as much care of it, certainly at the shipping and delivery stage as well, as we do with a $50,000 UV printer order.

Marc V: Absolutely. Every order gets checked the same way, ordered the same way.

Mark S: The same number of people involved.

Marc V: The same number of people involved, the same approval process if there’s an issue with something. It all goes through the same process, because we want every order to be great. We want them delivered to you on time, all of these things. So, some of these mirror ideas that we have.

But you should create a vision like this for yourself. Starting with a vision allows you to do the rest of the steps, because you know the goal you’re going toward. Every time you want to revamp things, re-look at things, or you make a mistake, you’ve got something in the center to walk back toward.

Mark S: Absolutely. I like that. I will say that there is one difference that I thought of. When you buy a piece of more expensive equipment, we do include some popcorn. You get popcorn. That’s part of the ColDesi experience, because we’re synonymous with popcorn.

Marc V: Every once in a while, you get candy with supplies.

Mark S: Sometimes you do.

Marc V: That happens sometimes.

Mark S: Another little thing you might consider, giving away an embroidery machine with every order.

Marc V: I was thinking about just giving away like a little bit of popped corn, like five pieces.

Mark S: Get them started on maybe a Christmas wreath. Like every time you order from Colman and Company, you’ll get a single kernel of popped popcorn.

Marc V: And you can add it to the string. Then, at the end of the year, you have garland for your tree.

Mark S: I think we have a customer experience plan in the making, here!

Marc V: Wow!

Mark S: Somebody thinks this is a great idea.

Marc V: Let’s stop the podcast right now.

Mark S: Let’s go take care of that. So, we’ve created our vision. We’ve given you a good example, but think of your own. Really think about it, and make sure it matches your business, and not ours. Maybe fast and efficient is the experience that you’re going to focus on. Maybe luxurious. Maybe it’s that hotel that Marc Vila described, that is the experience that you’re looking for, for your niche market.

But maybe you want to feel smarter, because you stayed at a Holiday Inn Express. Maybe it’s quick, in and out, no nonsense. Everybody knows what they’re doing and just handles it all, so you don’t have to.

Marc V: Exactly. And with creating your vision, when you’re doing something like this, it’s interesting, because not every hotel is that grand luxury hotel. That’s one experience that’s desirable for a certain group of people doing a certain thing.

You might not want all of that, if you’re kind of a quiet, reserved, private person on a business trip.

Mark S: Or if you’ve got eight kids in the station wagon, and you’re going to the beach.

Marc V: Yeah. So, the next thing in deciding this and figuring it out, is knowing your customer.

Mark S: Yes. Again, I guess this is where you would want to have gone through the other podcast episodes, because matching the experience to your niche is going to be really important.

Marc V: Really, all of your quote/unquote “branding” should match the niche that you’re living in.

Mark S: Yes.

Marc V: I wrote here, if your customers are kind of urban, cool, trendy style of folks, and that’s what you sell and that’s who you sell to, then certain things in the experience should match that. This might be a group of people that want to communicate via text message, so most of your communication is with text messages.

Mark S: Or if you’re in the small town or the mid-size town and you’re just doing local business for the football team and for family reunions, maybe you personally stopping by after school and delivering the shirts is part of the customer experience that’s going to make a big difference. Where in a different market, that might seem odd.

Marc V: Yeah. So, know who your customers are. You can do this by creating a persona. This would be kind of making a definition of your ideal customer, or your common customer.

Mark S: Right. In marketing-speak, that’s an avatar, a customer avatar.

Marc V: Tell us about that exercise.

Mark S: For example, let’s say an avatar that you might use is if you’re in the cheer bling business – by the way, check out ColDesi-bling.com. It’s one of our new websites. You’re going to love that. So, if you’re in the cheer/dance bling business, then you’re selling to mostly dance moms and cheer moms, so your customer avatar might be a combination of people that you know.

It might be Sheila. She’s got two kids. One of them is eight, one of them is 16. One is in dance, one is in cheer. She’s very busy. She drives around the state to different competitions, constantly. Sometimes her husband goes with her. Most of the time, he doesn’t. And she’s got a small son that she ignores completely.

Whatever that avatar is, that’s the kind of thing that you’re doing. If you can put a name to it, like Sheila, then when you’re creating your experience, you can say to yourself “What would Sheila like?”

It’s not what you would like to deliver. It’s what your customer would appreciate.

Marc V: It’s great to find one avatar or one persona – one or two, sometimes – that you can ask that question about. Writers do this. They talk about “What would Harry Potter do in this situation?” Writers would say that, because they’ve built a person. They’ve built a fictional person that exists in the imaginary world. Then, you filter everything through that person, in your mind.

That’s what you want to do. Now you know who the person is. Then, you write down what your mission/vision statement is, and that’s the filter you use, is that avatar.

Mark S: I have to ask you to do that, create like an avatar for your noodling shirts. No, don’t do that. I’m just kidding.

Marc V: Good! I wasn’t prepared!

Mark S: I like the notes that you’ve made. If your customer is a parent of an elementary school student, they’re probably busy, and they want email updates and text alerts. If you are selling to a retirement community, maybe they want a phone call. If you’re selling directly to teenagers, then maybe Snapchat or Twitch is the right way to communicate with them. But it’s got to match what you do, too.

Marc V: Corporate, they’re going to want emails, kind of official documentation on things. Everyone is going to be different. You’ve got to figure out what that is, and always kind of ask that avatar, that persona, ask Sheila if this is something that she would like, as far as experience goes.

Mark S: Yeah. “What’s going to wow you?” And it’s okay to have more than one avatar. If you have two different product lines or two different niche markets, or even two different really well-defined potential customers inside one market, then maybe you do have two slightly different approaches.

Marc V: Yeah. As companies get larger, that’s kind of what they have to deal with. They figure out “Okay, here’s all of the different avatars that come through our hotel or into our coffeeshop. Let’s make sure we build an experience that makes sense to all of them. What do they all have in common?” Things like that.

Mark S: Here’s a good example from the ColDesi world. I’ve talked to a couple of our customers that do a lot of videos on Avances, recently. One of them has a couple of full-time jobs. She’s got maybe one or two customers that she does work for, but mostly she loves to do embroidery with the Avance, just for home projects and quilting. Now, that’s not a typical customer profile.

The other one is a typical customer for us, who is a small business person that just opened up a retail shop, that is doing local business for team sports, and things like that.

So, two completely different avatars that you would want to talk to, to create a different experience.

Marc V: Yeah. A common experience between both of these customers that you mentioned is part of the reason why we create lots of different blog and video content. Because a video on how to put a patch on a cap is going to work for all different types of embroiderers, whether it’s somebody who’s a fashion hobbyist or a small business owner. This is a piece of content that they can all relate to in some way or another, to help teach them a skill, which will broaden what they do.

Speaking about understanding these customers, segue it to the next one, to become emotionally connected with your customers.

Mark S: This is really important.

Marc V: It’s so easy and so hard, at the same time. What makes your customers happy? What would make that Sheila avatar happy? What would disappoint your avatar? What’s most important to them? These are questions to ask – emotionally important to them.

Mark S: If you’re already in business, if you’ve been in business for any length of time at all, you’ve probably had customers that have been elated with what you’ve done, and you’ve had some really disappointed, or even angry about something.

You can pull on those experiences, to build your avatar and figure out “Okay, what did I do right, here? What made them so angry here, and how can I relate to that better?”

Marc V: You’ve got to get to know them in any way that you can. Of course, as you scale your business and you change, it’s harder to build those relationships. But if they know that you care, and you really do care, then this stuff kind of builds. You can build systematic things that you create, that have to do with – like every order, what would really make that busy cheer mom happy?

She’s so busy. She’s running around like crazy. She really wants her kids to look great in the apparel that they order. It costs them a lot of money, so they want it good. What’s going to make her happy is, “Well, if I deliver it on time every time. If I follow up to make sure the sizing is correct. If I update her on the status of her order, so she doesn’t have to think about it.”

Mark S: She can relax a little bit. Maybe you deliver it onsite, to an event. I love those examples, because you’re getting inside that person’s head and trying to figure out what’s going to make them the most happy.

Marc V: This is also an exercise, especially if you are the owner of the company and you get to interact with your customers individually. I read a story when I was doing this research. It was on Zappos, the shoe company. Interesting story. This is how they emotionally connected to a customer, even though they never are in front of each other, ever, or barely talk to each other.

They ordered shoes. They didn’t fit. The customer returned them, but they returned them like a week later than the return policy, because the customer’s, I think, mother had just passed away. So, the customer had said “Hey, I’m sorry. Hopefully, you’ll still accept my return. I know it’s a week late. My mother passed away.”

They said “No problem. We’re going to take them back anyway.” That was one emotional appeal. The next level up that they did was the company sent her flowers.

Mark S: That’s great.

Marc V: Is that person going to buy shoes from anywhere else, ever again?

Mark S: No, of course not! Because “Those people like me!” That’s really what you’re talking about here. It should be kind of basic for everybody. It shouldn’t be hard to figure this out. When you meet someone, you’re nice to them, you talk to them enough to get to know them, and you figure out what makes them tick, just like you do everybody.

You know to stay away from subjects like close-up magic, with Marc Vila, because he just gets angry and starts doing demonstrations!

But there are things like that, that are plusses and minuses to everybody that you talk to.

Marc V: You’re going to regret this joke one day.

Mark S: I am. Someday, I’m going to be in a biker bar.

Marc V: Speaking of going to bars… No. Seriously though, one thing here is if you can go the extra mile, that’s kind of what that Zappos story is. Any time you can go the extra mile.

I know we put it in the notes, so if you check this, you can remember this later, but if a customer mentioned “Oh, I’ve been so busy lately. Sorry I couldn’t come by the shop. Gosh, I didn’t even have time to eat breakfast today!” You’ve probably heard this in your life, right?

This is an opportunity, when you deliver the order, maybe you take a protein bar. You put a little sticky note on it, and you say “Enjoy this, this next time you run out of time to eat breakfast.”

Mark S: Right. “Put it in the glove box.”

Marc V: They’re going to see that, and “Wow! They were listening to me! They listen to me. They like me.” It makes them feel really good. They’re going to remember that gesture. Any time you can do extra gestures that are emotionally appealing, do them. It’s worth it.

Mark S: It will pay off, and you’ll feel better, because you’re just being nice. You’re just being good about your business, which is great.

The next thing that we’re going to talk about is kind of building a plan based around everything that we’ve talked about.

Marc V: One more thing, before we jump into that too quick. The last part of this learning and setting it up is getting feedback from your customers.

Mark S: Okay.

Marc V: You’ve got to ask for feedback during the sales process, upon the closing of everything up, and then post-sale. Find out. Were they happy? Weren’t they happy? Any time you can get more and more feedback. You can do it through online surveys.

Like I’ll send out surveys, which you guys may have gotten in the past, through SurveyMonkey. That’s a place you can do it. I think they have a free plan. If not, they have a paid one that’s pretty inexpensive. You can do email surveys like that.

You could just email somebody with questions, and ask them to reply. You could just ask them in person, “Hey, what could we have done better?” Find out these things. Get that feedback. Then, you take this and you kind of bring it back to the front. You say “Does this meet the vision? Should the vision have been different? This customer was upset. What would Sheila have thought about this?”

You kind of circle it all back in, and you get pointed in the right direction.

Mark S: Yeah. I hope you can see that when you deal with us, once again, because we are relentless about getting you folks to give us a review. If you buy equipment or supplies from Colman and Company or ColDesi, 300% of the time, you’ll get encouraged to review us in some way.

Let me tell you what happens in the building, if we get less than five stars! There’s a red light, there’s an alarm that goes off. Everybody has to go out in the parking lot and talk about it.

So, yeah. Be that way. Be aggressive about making changes that make your business better.

Marc V: Just ask them. That’s the simplest thing. Do it according to your own style, too. You don’t have to fit into any particular thing. Just ask the question. Say “Hey, I delivered all that stuff. Is there anything you would have liked better? The shirt? The design? How I delivered it?”

Mark S: The order process.

Marc V: “What do you think of my hair?” Ask all about that stuff. A lot of times, if they like you, “Everything was great.” But every once in a while, you’ll get that person that will tell you, “You know what would have been cool?”

Mark S: “I wish.”

Marc V: Is there something that anyone else would done better?

So now, let’s build a plan.

Mark S: That sounds good. I’m really interested in that initial contact, because I think it does set the tone for everything else that happens next. That is the way you answer the phone, the way you introduce yourself, the way you meet a potential customer for the first time, how welcome you make them feel. Not just if you have a retail space, but how welcome do you make them feel, when they call, and when you meet them in person?

Marc V: Yeah, or if they come by your booth, or something like that. We’ve had this conversation plenty of times, if you’ve listened to the podcasts, where just “Hello?”, answering the phone, or “T-shirt shop.”

Mark S: Yeah, that’s awesome. That makes me get all tingly.

Marc V: I always just say this. When you look at the big brands, the companies who are doing really, really well, then pay attention to how they’re doing it. They’re not doing all this stuff to waste time, and to poke fun at you. They’re answering the phone a very specific way, every time. Their emails finish with a certain signature every time.

They have standards of how they have to communicate with people. It’s because they know that this is going to get people to come back and back and back. You’ve got to do these same things too, for your business. It might sound corny and feel corny to have an opening line that you say every time you answer the phone. But dang, does it work!

Mark S: It does, actually!

Marc V: So, how are you going to greet them? How are you going to let them know everything you have to offer? How are you going to make them feel welcome, whether it’s at your booth, in person, over the phone, on the website, or whatever?

Mark S: Don’t just think about this stuff in your head. Go to the show notes for episode 106. Print this out and write something down, because you won’t do it. Maybe you’ll remember to do one thing a little bit better, but if you print this out and you work through it a little bit, it will become part of your business.

Marc V: Yeah. This should become  something that you physically outline yourself. “Initial contact on the phone.” Do it! If you had somebody that you hired for your business, as a customer experience director, what that person would do is they would have notes of “Walks into the store; this, this, this. Answer the phone; this.”

Mark S: That’s a real job, by the way. He’s not making this up!

Marc V: That’s exactly what they do. Then, they go through and they test it and they change it, and they see how customers like that. Do it. Actually write down a full plan for all of these things, with as much detail as you can put in. You’re going to be better than everyone else.

Mark S: The next thing is the quote stage. That is where I think that more of our listeners might drop the ball and alienate people, than any other. Because we’ve seen the emails where even in the auto-responder, it gives you a list of reasons not to do business with you.

Marc V: Yeah. That’s our favorite thing to talk about!

Mark S: Our favorite thing. I’m going to do it again. So, you get an email or you answer the phone, “Hey, Bob’s T-shirt Shop, where you can only order 24 of something or more.” Or you get an auto-response email with a list of things under the signature, “We only accept this graphics file. We don’t do credit. We don’t do 30-day terms. You have to provide this. You have to do that.”

All that says is “Please go find somebody that’s easier to do business with.” It’s not a great experience.

Marc V: No. It’s not a good experience. And guess what? I’m going to tell you something that, I’ve had this conversation amongst so many people in this building and throughout my career. Almost nobody reads that. And if they do, they skim it.

I’ll tell you how you can prove this. If you don’t believe me, put a spelling mistake in there, on purpose. A really good one. Then, wait to find somebody who corrects it for you. It’s going to take six months, because nobody is looking at it. So, all of that stuff doesn’t matter there. They look at it like “Look at this guy!”

Mark S: Put “Free elephant with every shirt.”

Marc V: Yeah. Nobody will see it. Instead, use all of that real estate and that effort to communicate your message in a better way.

Mark S: Be excited and proud and interested. When you present a quote or proposal to somebody, this is the point where you’re asking them for money, and you’re expressing everything that you can do. It’s all down to this piece of paper or this email.

Everything that you’ve done; the ads that you’ve done, and going to a show, everything. Instead of just shooting somebody “That will be $14.95 times 12,” this is your opportunity to rebuild that value, especially if you’re one of five people that are going to quote them on the same job.

Marc V: That’s a really great point. If you’re going to be up against some other folks, then you want yours to look, like when I look at this quote, I feel that something good is going to happen here. That’s what you want to feel.

Then, determine how you’re going to deliver it, too. Is it emailing it to them? If it’s a school, is it going to the school and meeting with the person, and explaining it to them? Is it doing it over a phone call? Whatever it might be, figure out how you’re going to deliver it, in addition to just doing a good job in creating it.

Mark S: Yeah. You’re answering the customer’s questions on a formal document, in some way. The questions are; How much is it going to be? When am I going to get it? What if I don’t like it? How do I pay for it? These are all the basic questions that you’ve got to make clear and easy for them to tell. So, do that.

Marc V: Then, after you quote them, there’s the purchasing stage, the actual act of giving money. I kind of thought this is like a stage in and of itself. Because I remember when I used to sell equipment a long while ago. That actual act of giving money was sometimes a roadblock, and you’d lose the sale.

Mark S: It can be so hard.

Marc V: Yeah. You’d lose a sale just in accepting the money. So, you’ve got to figure out how is your avatar, how is the persona of your customer, how are they going to want to pay? And is your business and your plan willing to work with that? Is it PayPal? Is it credit card? Is it Apple Pay? Can they do cash? Are you going to allow them to do checks? What do they want?

Checks is probably not the most common method you should have, if your customers are kind of young, hip, urban people.

Mark S: Right. They don’t have checks, and they don’t have cash.

Marc V: However, if it’s a school, they still might be having their accounting department issuing a check.

Mark S: Yeah. This is actually such a big deal, that most people don’t think of. I’m glad you put it down here. I’ll give you two examples.

The first one is I love the city of Tampa. It’s great. It does not have a big parking problem for events and things like that, but what it does have is the parking meters where you can pay with an app.

Marc V: Oh, yeah.

Mark S: Because I can’t seem to save my password, I have to attempt to re-sign up for the app. I know what it is. They don’t really take PayPal, so you’ve got to type in your credit card number at least one time, on your phone. So, every time I park, it’s a huge issue for me.

The other one is working with some folks to do a temporary contract to cut the lawn on a rental house that’s in another city. I want to do PayPal, and they don’t do that. I can write them a check in advance, or I can use Venmo or two other things that I don’t understand.

These are barriers. These are deal-breakers. I don’t use either one of those services.

Marc V: Yeah, so then I can’t give you money. Therefore, I can’t do business with you.

Mark S: Right. Don’t be like that. Make it as pleasant and clean as possible.

Marc V: Yeah. Figure out what your customers are going to need and want, and then figure out a way to get that to them as best you can. All of these things come with limitations within your business, but if it’s reasonable, do it. Don’t skip out on things out of laziness or hardheadedness.

Mark S: Or that you don’t know how.

Marc V: Or you don’t know how to do it. You can learn. Gosh, you can run an embroidery machine! You can do anything!

Mark S: You can do anything. You really can. That’s that truth.

Marc V: It’s a skill. It’s not that it’s necessarily that hard, but it’s a lot to know.

Mark S: There’s a lot to know, yeah.

Marc V: It’s the same as tons of other skills out there. An electrician who knows how to rewire a house, they’ll be able to figure out how to accept PayPal on their phone.

Mark S: They should be able to figure that out, yeah.

Marc V: It’s the same thing. Next would be the fulfillment stage. How are you going to fulfill your orders?

Mark S: That’s not just at the end, with the box that you’re putting it in. It’s the steps on the way, like how to communicate order status. It’s a relief when you order a pizza and they give you status updates, instead of back in the day, when you just called it in. Then, an hour later, when they didn’t show up, you called and realized that they didn’t place the order correctly.

Marc V: I did that recently.

Mark S: I’ll bet you did!

Marc V: So, it’s communicating the status of the order, letting them know. That’s a great thing that you could do, if possible, where you send an email or a text message and let them know “Hey, your order is in production right now,” and things like that. If you have the ability to do this and it makes sense for your customer, it’s only going to give them a better experience.

If you can afford to bring technology in, to help you do this, then that’s great, too. There’s tons of software, fulfillment automation software that will auto-send emails and texts. If you want to get into that, you can. I have no clue how much this stuff costs. But nowadays, most software you can get pretty cheap.

Mark S: “Nowadays?”

Marc V: Yeah, nowadays.

Mark S: Nowadays, it is. The other thing that’s one of my favorite questions to see in the Custom Apparel Startups Facebook group is when people ask about “Where do I get the packages? Where do I get the folding bags? How do I put a label on the plastic that I put my shirts in? Do you use a folding box?”

All of these things, based around “I want my customer, when they open up the box, to love what they see.” Instead of giving those Amazon boxes, where you order a couple of different things. The box is as big as a table, and there’s like a single golf ball and a video camera in it, bouncing around.

Marc V: Yeah. Just some basic thoughts and ideas of things you could do:

Fold every shirt individually. When you got the sizes, if it had names along with it, maybe on the size tag, you could also put the name, so the person giving them out has “Julie, Mario,” stuff like that.

Mark S: To make it easy for them.

Marc V: If you’re really plush and beautiful, then you could wrap all of them in tissue paper, with a little gold sticker with your logo on it. You could do all that. Maybe it’s just getting a thank you note in there, getting product recommendations, free gifts. You know, the protein bar, because they couldn’t eat breakfast.

Mark S: That’s right. The difference between that and getting a box of marginally folded shirts that are dusty from sitting in the warehouse, they’re going to get something professional and beautiful, that you’re going to deliver for them. Then, you get to circle back up to you’re building customer loyalty. You can charge more for it, because you’re giving a better experience.

Marc V: Absolutely, all of those things you can do. When you order something from, say Amazon, the way that it may have worked is that somebody has an idea. They give China a call, and ask them to make it. Then, China puts them in a cheap cardboard box, and sends them over. Then, Amazon gets it.

They do not take the crappy box that has the Chinese stamp on it, and that’s been around the world, and send that to you, and just put a new label on it. Because you’d get it, the box would be destroyed. What a terrible experience that is. No. they do send you a new box, with an Amazon sticker, and it’s got the product inside.

Pretty much, for me, it always arrives not broken. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten anything broken from them, that I can recall.

Mark S: No. Some badly packaged. I am fascinated with this idea that you have, that you pick up the phone and call China.

Marc V: Yeah, you just call China.

Mark S: And literally anyone that answers can make you whatever you request.

Marc V: You could also tweet China.

Mark S: You can do that!

Marc V: You tweet China, just to let them know that you want to make this stuff. What I think about that is some customers will order blank shirts, and then they get the box from the manufacturer.

Mark S: Oh, yeah, and they repack it in the box.

Marc V: They repack. From a recycling and an economic standpoint, that definitely can be a good thing to do. But if the box has been beat up and shipped UPS, and gotten wet, and then that’s how you deliver your final product, your customer just isn’t going to like it.

Mark S: Plus even if it’s not, they didn’t order SanMar shirts. They ordered shirts from you, so it should have you on it, or nothing at all, really. At least wrap it in butcher paper or something, before you send it out.

Marc V: Butcher paper! Cool. That’s actually a good idea. Or that paper that you sit on when you go to the Doctor’s office. You could probably get that. It’s probably not too expensive.

Mark S: Used, it’s really cheap! So after the sale, what do you think? A thank you message?

Marc V: Yeah. A thank you message is great. In the box is a cool thing.

Mark S: Yeah. A little card.

Marc V: But also post-sale, a thank you email, a thank you phone call, a thank you tweet. Like if you ordered something from China, you could add China, “Thank you.” They would appreciate it.

You can thank them on social media, if that’s a thing you do.

Mark S: It would be xie xie or [inaudible 41:45].

Marc V: Thank you!

Mark S: You’re welcome.

Marc V: Can you spell that for me?

Mark S: Later, yeah.

Marc V: Thanks. You’ll have to write it down.

Mark S: I will. Yeah, making sure they’re happy is a big deal. This is the time that the survey comes in, and where you might get the opportunity to improve. But you’ll also get the opportunity to cement the relationship between you.

Marc V: A phone call or an email is typical. You could do the other things. You could social media tag them and do all of that stuff, if that kind of fits your brand and your person.

Mark S: Our ColDesi salespeople, they hand write thank you cards to the people that purchase equipment from us, because they mean it.

Marc V: Absolutely.

Mark S: Really, that’s it.

Marc V: Absolutely. You make that phone call, and it might just be “Hey, Jordan. How’s it going? You got the shirts last week. You had your company picnic. How did they work out? I just wanted to make sure everything was okay.”

Mark S: That’s really interesting, because a lot of companies don’t want to make that phone call, because they’re afraid that the customer is going to say something.

Marc V: They’re afraid. “Oh, yeah. You want to know how it went? Half of them were the wrong size!”

Mark S: That can happen, at least until you start getting stuff right. Because that’s what you’re doing, is you’re trying to get everything right. That can happen, so you’ve got to kind of have that mapped out in advance, what you’re going to do.

Marc V: What’s funny is that if you are building this customer experience plan, where “This is how I quote. This is how I contact them. This is how they’re going to buy.” The likelihood of after the sale, them being dissatisfied, is really low.

Mark S: It’s low.

Marc V: Because you’re prepped them the whole way. You’ve communicated.

Mark S: And they’re not going to be “You guys suck!” It’s going to be “You know, I’m glad you asked. Everything was awesome, except -.” Then it’s cool, because you already have a relationship, and you’re already somewhat friends or acquaintances. You’ve talked.

Marc V: Yeah. Once you’ve done all of this, you’ve got to just be prepared during the whole stage. Then afterwards, follow up. Now you’ve built the relationship. Then, you’ve got to have a plan for when it goes awry. What’s your thoughts on that? How do you go through that?

Mark S: It’s got to be a couple of things. First of all, you have to figure out – you have to realize that if you take ten to 1,000 orders every month, you’re going to get something wrong. The zip code, or you’re going to get the color of the shirt wrong.

What are you going to do, if you make a mistake at that stage? So, you’re not figuring things out. Say “Well, that’s easy. When they let me know, then I am going to redo a shirt. I’m going to give them an extra shirt, and I’ve going to overnight them the fix. This is an expense of me doing business.”

Or it’s “The first thing I’m going to do is I’m going to apologize. I’m going to send them a note, and I’m going to say ‘Listen. If you decide to give me another chance, I’d love to do this again for you, but the right way. So, I will give you X amount off of your next order, or a free shirt.’”

Then, do a little bit more than you say you’re going to do.

Marc V: For the most part, if you’re doing all of this stuff to the best of your abilities, from beginning to end, when you do make the mistake – it’s inevitable that it will happen. No matter how great you are, you’re going to make a mistake.

Mark S: We make mistakes all the time.

Marc V: Yeah. The likelihood of them forgiving you and coming back is really likely. They will forgive you. You’ve emotionally appealed to them. You’ve communicated well with them. The experience was beautiful, except for this one hiccup. “I’ll forgive you for that hiccup. You did so well along the way, and then you made the mistake.”

The folks who are unwilling after all of that, if you really put your full effort into this after all of that, and you missed one 2X shirt, and they’re unwilling to forgive you for this, they are probably unwilling to forgive anybody for anything.

Mark S: You need to lose their email address.

Marc V: Yeah. They probably are the worst customer everywhere.

Mark S: But on the other side of that, I’ve made some big mistakes with customers, big mistakes. The good part is if you do everything you can to fix it, and even if you can’t make it whole 100%, if you make this herculean effort, you could turn them into your best customers, into your biggest fans.

Marc V: That’s true.

Mark S: We’ve got a couple of customers that are like that, where I don’t even remember that when they first got their machine like five years ago, we made this big mistake, and they were very angry about it. But we fixed all of that, and now they’re basically on our side, everywhere we look.

Marc V: It’s all about the experience, and that’s it. Customers now are more empowered than they ever have been, to pick options. There’s plenty of competition out there, no matter what you sell. They know that they can go online and look at reviews, and research. They don’t even have to necessarily talk to you, to have an idea if you’re a good person to do business with.

Mark S: Yeah, that’s true.

Marc V: So, you’ve got to deliver the experience, that great experience, and you’re going to outshine your competition so much. You’re going to Starbucks them, in a way.

Mark S: Starbucks as a verb. I like that.

Marc V: They were one coffee shop, and they swept across the nation, because they were doing things so much better than others. Chick-Fil-A is another example. They’ve been around for a while, but the past years, they’ve taken off. If you’ve shopped there, then you know that it’s always “My pleasure. Thank you very much.”

Mark S: Overly polite. They’re great.

Marc V: What did they know? They knew that sitting in a drive-thru line is terrible. So, what did they do? They built the entire thing out. They’ve got dual lanes. Then, they have people walking out in the lanes, taking your order on an iPad, because if we can take more orders – they knew the slowdown was the one person running the register, so they’ve got four people taking orders.

They also know it’s hot outside, so for their staff, they’ve got these coolers with fans. It’s a purpose-built thing that’s blowing right toward them, so their employee is not sweating on you, taking the order.

They’ve built all of this stuff out. Now, they have lines around the corner. The next thing you know, now McDonald’s, who has been around forever, is building dual drive-thrus.

Be that company that all of a sudden, you’re beating your competition so much that they start copying you.

Marc V: I think those are both good kind of final examples here, because that’s a story about long-term and continuous improvement. And that’s what you’re going to do, too. We really do want you to kind of build that customer experience plan, but don’t do it with an eye toward “These are the things that I can accomplish now,” or that “I have to do all of these things right now.”

But you’re building your own business persona, your own business avatar. “This is the way I treat people. This is the way I want them to feel. These are the things that I eventually want to deliver.”

Then, you can say “Okay, I’m going to start with this. I’m going to answer the phone really nicely.” Please!

Marc V: That’s great. “I’ve got 10, 15 things that I want to make happen on our store. I know we can’t do them all at the same time.”

Mark S: It’s paralyzing.

Marc V: It’s a lot of work and it’s a lot of money. But you do this one and then you do that one, and then you do that one, and you keep growing.

Mark S: And then in a year, you’re great! Okay, I think once again, we’ve delivered some value.

Marc V: Wonderful!

Mark S: I hope you guys have enjoyed the episode and enjoyed the customer experience of the Custom Apparel Startups podcast. Do me a favor. The next time you’re in Chick-Fil-A, if you’re sitting in the line, tell them one of the ways that they can improve their customer experience is by recommending that people listen to the Custom Apparel Startups podcast!

Marc V: That’s a good one!

Mark S: Alright, guys! Thanks for listening. This has been Mark Stephenson, from ColDesi.

Marc V: And Marc Vila, from Colman and Company.

Mark S: You guys have a great experiential business!

Marc V: Wow!

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