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 16 of the Custom Apparel Startups podcast. My name is Mark Stephenson.
Marc V: And I’m Marc Vila. Today we’re talking about “Customer Experience Matters.”
Mark S: We’re also talking about customer experience matters. We’re going to talk about both of those things. One reason is I hardly ever read any of the trade magazines, like PrintWear and Stitches and Wearables, and things like that. I hardly ever read them, because between Marc and I, we pretty much know it all. So, I really don’t think -.
But this time, there was this wonderful article in here, called The Power of a Positive Customer Experience. I looked, and it’s by Marc Vila! Which I was so excited to read, and decided we should base a podcast on it.
Marc V: And you found it because I shoved it in your face.
Mark S: That’s true. Otherwise, like I said, I don’t read those magazines.
Marc V: I do. I flip through the magazines and read them a lot. I’m just always trying to think of new ideas and new things, and how our customers can learn and do better. I’ll tell you I was inspired by visiting Walt Disney World.
Mark S: Now, you’ve got kids, so it’s not just you by yourself, wandering around Walt Disney World in a creepy way.
Marc V: That time it was just me. No! Because Walt Disney and the crew over there in Orlando, Florida, they’ve mastered this concept of customer experience, from the music to the smells to the doorknobs. It is an actual experience.
That’s one thing I mentioned in the article, but specifically, it really does matter in our industry, as well, how we can deliver this awesome experience, which will create life-long customers.
Mark S: I really never thought about it, frankly, until you started here. Not thought about it seriously, because you always think, what impression do your customers have of your business? But there’s a huge effect that keeps customers coming back, or it doesn’t. I think Colman and Company does a particularly good job of this, in making sure that customer service, and the personality of the organization, comes through.
Tell us a little bit about, Mr. Vila, since you are the authored expert on customer experience – tell me about what customer experience is.
Marc V: Okay. It’s literally the experience that they have when they deal with your organization, when they deal with your company. So, what is it like, working with you and your company? What’s it like? What does it feel like?
I think customer experience is more than just – it’s not customer service, which is different. Customer service is serving them. It’s taking care of their problems and their issues, and smiles and all of these things.
But the customer experience is what they feel, while they’re experiencing and living through customer service, while they’re placing orders, while they’re getting product. It’s what they feel. If they feel awesome, if they feel that they like you, then you’ve succeeded.
Mark S: Right, because you can get great customer service from a company, and you just don’t respond to it personally. Like Disney World, especially here in central Florida, people have an emotional connection to Disney World.
Everybody absolutely knows. We’ve all had season passes in the past, so everybody knows what that’s like. You get the phone calls beforehand. You get terrific service inside the rooms. You get the character breakfast. There is a personality to Disney World that people carry their whole lives, so you feel X way, when you think about Disney.
Now, you folks out in California, I’m not talking about Disneyland. That’s a completely different experience. It’s not the same at all.
Marc V: Which is true. It’s the personality. I liked where you had mentioned that, where you had said it’s the personality of the company. What do you mean, specifically? I understand personality of Disney World, and what that was. What would a personality of a t-shirt shop be?
Mark S: I don’t know, but when you – and I have to use this example – it’s a terrible one. When you go into Abercrombie and Fitch, when you go into one of those retail stores, you are going to have a consistent experience. You are going to run into basically androgynous models, wherever you look.
You’re going to run into the 20-something, good looking. The apparel is a certain way. The service is a certain way. It has a defined personality.
It’s the same way when you go into like a local pretzel shop. Maybe the guy behind the counter is a real character, so you know kind of the kind of things he’s going to say.
Actually, I’ll use a better example. My wife is from Trinidad, in the West Indies, and they have a particular flavor of Indian food. They also have a personality to the culture. So, there’s a little roadie shop here in Tampa. Whenever you go there, there’s a woman that cooks all the food herself, and she has a lot of personality, and it’s all borderline rude.
When you order a drink, she will ask you “What? Your hand’s broken? You can’t go to the thing and pull out a can of soda yourself?” I’m not saying that’s a good personality. I really respond to it. But it’s a personality of a business, and you can expect that.
If I were to go into Abercrombie or go into this roadie shop, and at Abercrombie, I see like a middle-aged guy with glasses that’s running the counter and speaking a certain way to me, where if I were to go into the roadie shop and someone was overly polite and walked me to my table, and offered me extra butter, then those would both be kind of disjointed. It would interrupt that personality, that customer experience.
Marc V: Yeah, because if you walked into, say Abercrombie, and an older gentleman greeted you like “Good evening, sir. How are you today?”, it would feel very weird. It wouldn’t feel right. You’d be like “That place was weird,” even though you had somebody greet you nice, they had the clothes you wanted, maybe the price was right.
Everything was right, but then the personality was wrong, because the person at the counter was different. It felt weird. You would walk out saying “That was weird.”
Mark S: And it doesn’t match. What we’ve talked about maybe three times so far is that first contact with your customer, and how that experience plays out.
But before you do that, you really have to, just like the roadie shop and just like Abercrombie and Fitch and Disney World, you pretty much have to decide on a personality for your business. If you’re a one man shop or a one woman shop, then the personality is you, or what you create.
We kind of were talking about the two extremely different personalities. That’s one where you try to be ultra-professional. Maybe you’re a screen print shop and you deal with Fortune 500 companies, or you’re even a small home-based business, but your demeanor is very professional. You want things to be crisp and clear, and very good looking, and everything happens on time. That’s kind of the approach that you want to take.
Marc V: Someone might describe it like a corporate feel.
Mark S: Right. The other one is kind of the home-based business, that maybe all of your customers know that you have an embroidery machine in your back bedroom, and you work after the kids go to sleep. So, the personality of your business may have something to do with taking care of your kids or the fact that you work out of your house, or it may be a homey feel.
But either one of these are going to inform every step of your process, and if you’re consistent, the people that gravitate toward you and do business with you will be lifelong customers.
Marc V: The great little exercise to do – I always like little exercises and homework and things, because it’s like real world.
Mark S: I hate exercise.
Marc V: But I think what you do is describe your business, personify your business, like it’s a person. Say “What would I like the personality to be?”
Mark S: Right.
Marc V: It could be anything. Write down four or five words; edgy, cool, funny, hip, professional, corporate. Write down these words.
Mark S: Quirky, nerdy, whatever it is.
Marc V: Yeah. Write down a personality. Then, every step that you’re going to create, which we’re going to go over, make sure it aligns with that personality. If it doesn’t currently, change it.
Mark S: Yeah. Because the more consistent you are and the more your customers know what to expect from you, and their experience is the same, every step of the way, the better their feel about your business, and the more likely they are to talk about it. If you have a very professional business, then your customers are going to appreciate that, and they may refer to you in that way.
Like “You’re looking for a real pro for direct-to-garment printing? Talk to this guy.” Or “You should talk to this lady. She’s hilarious, and she also does good work.” You’re going to get a lot of those kinds of things, and it will benefit your business in the long run.
Marc V: I love all of that stuff. I think this is a fun part of creating a business.
Mark S: Absolutely. Let’s kind of break down the steps. Are you ready for that?
Marc V: Let’s do it.
Mark S: What we’re going to do is we’re going to go through the initial call or contact, and how your personality of your business and your customer experience might inform that and the following ones, taking in order – kind of mid-order, doing a progress report.
You know, if there’s any issues, how you handle those. Filling an order, the packaging that you use, and how you handle packaging and delivery. And then, the follow-up. How do you handle asking for referrals, or coming back to the customer over and over again?
Marc V: The first thing that you said is the initial call.
Mark S: The initial call or contact. That could be somebody coming in or on the phone, or email, etc.
Marc V: Or website. That’s the first thing that you need to think about. How are your customers going to experience their initial contact with you? What I see too often is somebody that I talk to on the phone, that is a really cool person. I like them. Whatever about their personality, they’re great. I say “I would do business with them.”
They say “Yeah, you can just go on my website. I have a quick little form you can fill out, and what you want to order.” Then, the website is terrible, and it doesn’t match their personality at all.
Mark S: Right. I didn’t even think about the website, which is funny. But that’s very important, especially if you’re billing yourself as the pro, as a professional, then you have to have a solid, polished website. If you’re billing yourself as kind of a home-based business with a lot of personality and kids, then your website should reflect that, as well.
Marc V: Or you might not even have one.
Mark S: Right.
Marc V: Sometimes, if there’s part of your personality that doesn’t shine well, sometimes it’s better to hold that back, and it could be a website. We’ve talked about websites, and things like that.
Mark S: Yeah. Please, please listen to all of those, because most of you have terrible websites. I have to be honest with you. You really do have bad websites, and it’s not doing you a service.
For example, if you’re the home-based business, and you have all of your customers come from referrals, you should use your Facebook page, and post pictures of your dog. Do that personal touch with all of your customers.
Marc V: What we’re saying, really, is the initial contact, the initial call. I think a lot of these things are just concepts and ideas, but how are you going to answer the phone call? Will you have a certain greeting that you’re going to say?
If you’re quirky and nerdy, you might have something that falls along with that. Maybe you have Star Trek music playing in the background.
Mark S: “Hi. Thanks for calling Mark’s T-Shirts, where nerds rule!” Or “We really don’t care what you do for a living. Just buy a t-shirt!”
Marc V: Yeah, all of that. If it’s really professional, have a very professional greeting. “Good afternoon. Thanks for calling.” So, have a greeting. Have an initial way of answering the phone call. That comes along with the website. That should match, as well. If you have a storefront, the same thing.
Mark S: If you are walking through the mall and you see a t-shirt shop, and all of the t-shirts are nicely decorated, you may or may not walk in. But if you have a t-shirt shop in a mall, and you’ve got sci-fi t-shirts all over the place, you’re going to attract a certain audience, or if you’ve got funny ones.
If you are walking around in a mall in your fuzzy slippers and pajama bottoms, and you’ve kind of got that home-based feel no matter where you are, then you’re going to attract a different set of customers, and people are going to respond to that.
Marc V: Yeah, it’s huge. It’s really important, I think, to make sure that the initial way that they come in contact with you, like you mentioned. Storefronts, too. The signage on your store, where it’s located, all of these things all become a part of that initial experience.
Do they like you right away? People make decisions and make judgement calls really quick.
Mark S: Yeah.
Marc V: If you can get somebody, like “Wow! This lady is so cool! This lady is so nice!”, immediately within that first minute, because of your website, your email address, whatever it is, then that will set the pace. The rest is easy.
Mark S: Let’s say the initial call – you’re Mary, you run a home-based business, and it’s all about bling. When you pick up the phone and say “Hey, thanks for calling Mary’s Home of Bling! This is Mary, at my home. How can I help you?”
If it’s professional, then like Marc said, “Hey, Mark Stephenson here, from Bigtime Custom Apparel. We have a special today on 5,000 t-shirts. How can I help you today?”
That personality has to come through that initial call.
Marc V: When you do that right, when you have that good personality that reflects the personality that you want your business to have and to embody, then you move right along from there.
Mark S: Right. The next step is taking the order. But the other thing I want to point out about this initial call and about defining your personality, is that if you are not true to your personality, then it will show up as some kind of a failure in communication, or in expectations later on.
If you are Mary’s Home-Based Bling Shop, and you try to come off like a corporate entity, then that’s going to be difficult to maintain throughout the process. At some point, somebody is going to find out that you work in your garage or your bedroom, or in a house out back, and it’s not going to match the perception. You’re not going to seem true. You’re not going to seem like somebody you want to do business with long term.
Marc V: Authenticity.
Mark S: That’s the word!
Marc V: Authenticity is important. I read an article it actually reminds of, a while back, of saying “I” and “we” in businesses, and when is it appropriate. The author just kind of said “Say we, when it is we. Say I when it’s I.”
Mark S: I like that. Bulls-eye!
Marc V: If it’s just you, don’t be afraid to embody that. If you have people that help you, let them know that, too. So, even if you want to go after that corporate environment, remember that whoever you’re selling to is another singular person, too, often. Match with that person. Let them know that you’re going to represent them with their apparel well.
Mark S: That’s the first step in customer experiences. What happens when a customer first experiences you and your company? It’s a website, it’s an email, it’s an incoming phone call or an outgoing phone call. Just make sure all of that stuff matches your personality of your business.
The next thing is taking an order.
Marc V: Now, this is the first step where I think most businesses start to fail. It’s right at the beginning, because they don’t have, for one, besides just matching the personality, because that’s always going to be a theme throughout the whole thing, matching the personality. However, in taking the order, you have to make sure that’s it’s honestly, just easy and comforting, and non-obtrusive.
It’s got to be something that when you’re helping a customer take an order, for one, it shouldn’t be a big form that they have to fill out, that’s work.
Mark S: It can’t be hard for them.
Marc V: It can’t be hard for them. You want them to be able to say “Oh, it was just so easy to order shirts! I called up, I spoke to so-and-so. They answered my questions.” Or “I went online and they had a really easy form I filled out. They stayed on the phone with me, while I did it.”
But you want to make sure that when your customer is placing an order, that they don’t walk away from it, that they don’t abandon the order part of the way through. “Never mind. This guy sends me an email with this Word document that I open up, and it’s not formatted correctly. He said I have to fill out the whole thing, if I want to do an order. I called up someone else down the road, and they just took my order over the phone. It took like 15 minutes.”
Mark S: Right. “And now, we’re done.”
Marc V: Maybe filling out a form is the right way to go for your business, but make sure that it’s nice and easy and comforting, and gives the customer, again, an excellent experience in placing the order.
Mark S: Right. What we want to avoid, too, is the – we send out a lot of emails here at ColDesi. I’m sorry if you get five a day. A lot of the auto-responders we get back from companies, I know it’s one of Marc Vila’s pets peeves, as well, have two paragraphs of disclaimers.
Like “Hey, we only take orders over this. Don’t send us bad artwork. If you’re calling on a Friday, we really don’t want to talk to you after 2:00.” There’s all of these negative things, all of these rules for them to do business with you.
You’ve decided that that’s the personality for your business. Think about it like that. Is that really your personality? If someone wants to place an order with you, do you immediately respond with all of the things that they can’t do?
Or when you take that order, is it “Okay, this is great, this is great, this is great. This is a great price. Here’s the great deal I’m going to give you. Terrific! Just send me the artwork, and we’ll get this all taken care of for you.”
Which one is it? Which one would you rather do business with?
Marc V: That’s just so important. It’s one of those things that always drives me a little nuts, in doing business with somebody. The thing I always say is “I’m trying to give you money! Please take it! I want to give you money, you want my money. Can we just do this in a way that’s not like a pain in my neck?”
Mark S: Right. I will say, too, don’t confuse a casual personality or having a home-based business, or even a big professional business, with being able to skip steps or leave things out, or being unprofessional. You can have a great personality and still be professional.
For example, if you take an order on the phone, be easy, be fast. But then, send them a confirmation email, to make sure that that’s all correct. Give them the expectations of delivery date in writing. That’s the experience that they’re going to want. “Yes, I talked to you on the phone. Yes, I’m definitely going to do it. I’m going to send you a confirmation email, just to make sure that I got all of this stuff right.”
Marc V: Right. “And I need you to respond to that email, and confirm.”
Mark S: “And then, we’ll get started.”
Marc V: Exactly. This way, there’s a clear communication, because communication is really part of that order, making sure that you’re communicating clearly, and it’s not a pain to do. I think those are the two things, for me, in placing an order. It’s got to be a clear communication.
Don’t send a quote, probably ever, by just emailing somebody what the price is.
Mark S: Right. “50 shirts, $150.”
Marc V: Yeah. You’re going to miss something. Try to do everything in a quote, and that’s the professional side of you. Your personality can shine in the quote, because you can have a silly image or a professional type of thing.
And then, the second part of it is to actually make it easy. I always think about, and everyone is probably going to be able to relate to this – if you’ve gone to Walmart, what’s the checkout experience like at just about any Walmart? It’s that they’ve got 40 checkout lines, so when you walk in, you’re like “So cool! There’s never a line!” No!
Mark S: Right. That’s not the way it works.
Marc V: They’ve got three open.
Mark S: Yeah. That’s not the way it works.
Marc V: They’ve got three out of 40 open, and you’re in line, and you curse “Why am I here?” But that’s not what you want to deliver to your customers. I hope not!
Mark S: I agree. Don’t make it hard. When you’re taking that order, make it simple and make it professional, and think about what your customer’s experience is. What would you like? And if you’ve decided on a personality for your business, make sure that shines through when you take the order, as well.
Marc V: Great!
Mark S: The next thing is going to be, I’ve got down here “progress report and issues.”
Marc V: So, I think this boils down to one thing or two things. They’re all going to boil down to two, probably. But really, for me, when I hear that and I think about that, I think about making sure your customer just knows what’s going on the whole time. They know when to expect it. They know if you’re working on it. They know that everything’s on pace, especially if it’s going to take a little while.
If they’re doing an order that you’re fulfilling right away, like you’re a t-shirt shop in a mall or a storefront where there’s not too much going on. But if you’re placing an order for 500 shirts and 500 caps, it’s costing them a good amount of money now.
Mark S: For an event.
Marc V: For an event that’s happening on a date, and you told them that you would have it ready by Tuesday, and they ordered it on, say ten days before that. It’s a great idea, you’ll never regret just saying to somebody “Hey, by the way, everything’s on pace. I just wanted to let you know you don’t have to worry about it.”
Mark S: They would love you! You know what? I would love that. Even if I get my car fixed, if it’s going to be there overnight, I’d like somebody to call me in the afternoon and say “Just wanted to let you know we have all the parts, and everything is going fine.”
Marc V: Yeah. You can decide how you want that to be. You can let them know that the shirts have arrived, the blanks have arrived. You can let them know that it’s passed production and art. There’s a place where I’ve ordered stickers and art from before, and I get these little mini progress emails, when it goes from one part of the company to the next.
It’s like “Artwork has been approved.” I get a nice email that says my artwork was approved. I look at it for a second, I smile, and I delete it. It doesn’t matter. However, my stickers aren’t supposed to arrive tomorrow, and I’m worried. “Are they going to?”
Mark S: Right. You know what’s happening. Now, you can apply personality to this, as well. If you are the home-based business, and everybody knows you’re the mom bling company, then maybe your progress report is “Hey, they cancelled the PTA meeting today, so I’m going to get your order out five hours early,” or “Hey, my kid got an A, so I’m going to actually knock $10 off of your order!”
Something that kind of connects you, your life, your personality with the business, and share that experience, when you report what’s going on.
Marc V: And the nerd one, the email says “Status update: T-shirts. Order has arrived.”
Mark S: “Star date whatever.”
Marc V: Yeah. Put it all together and have a little bit of a personality to it. Just keep them in the loop. Then, the other part you wrote down there was issues.
Mark S: Yes.
Marc V: How do you handle an issue?
Mark S: You handle that with the same personality of the company. Let’s say the blanks didn’t arrive. I would much rather prefer to communicate that to somebody five days before the order, to let them know there might be a problem, because the blanks didn’t arrive, “Here’s what I’m doing to fix it,” than it’s the day that the order is due, and now I’m not going to get my shirts.
Marc V: You can also start to triage issues, when you do this. Let’s just say that you ordered a massive order of shirts from a company. You’ve got three or four customers, and you ordered thousands of dollars’ worth of t-shirts. You get a dozen boxes, and you start cracking them open. It’s all wrong. They didn’t send you your order.
You got somebody else’s order, and this is, say $5,000 in t-shirts. “How am I going to handle this? They’re not going to overnight me another $5,000. I don’t know. Will they?” But if you call your customer and you say “Hey, I just want to let you know your shirts arrived. Well, they weren’t your shirts. They were somebody else’s shirts, but I talked to them, and they’re going to have new ones for me tomorrow. I should be on pace. If I’m a little bit late because of this, is that okay?”
And then, just gauge. They might say “I really, really need those.” Then, you say “Okay, no problem. I’m going to do yours first, ahead of everybody else’s, to make sure yours is on time.” Because you might talk to the next guy, who might say “I’m not even going to use them until next Tuesday anyway. Just have them to me by Friday.”
Mark S: Or it could be something like, let’s say you go to place the order with your blanks manufacturer, and they don’t have that shirt, or they don’t have enough of that shirt. That’s your first issue in the progress report. Say “Hey, I went to order these polos, and they’re not available. But I have a great substitution here. Let me give you that status report. Is this okay?”
Marc V: Yeah. They could turn around and say “I really want those other shirts.” “Well, I can’t get those until Monday, which means I can’t deliver your product until Friday. Is that okay?” “No problem.” Crisis avoided, rather than you play this other game of not telling them, trying to do a dance of “Well, they said that it will be here Friday. I hope there’s no delivery delay, because if they’re here Friday, I can work throughout the entire weekend and get it to them Monday, and the customer won’t know any different. Whew!”
Mark S: No, no. Because what will happen is your order will be late, and all you’ll be able to talk about when your order is late is the fact that you didn’t get the shirts on time. And your customer does not care.
Marc V: And in the meantime, there might have been another customer that you could have not worked on, because they didn’t care. “I ordered these way early. These are like a month early. It’s fine.”
You’re going to run into all of that. I run into that when we’re – I had somebody recently, who had ordered some rhinestones. They had ordered, it wasn’t a ton of stones, but it was enough. I think they only needed to do maybe ten shirts, but it was kind of a big deal client for them. It was somebody new that they were getting into.
They had some clout, so they thought “If I can treat this customer well, I can get some big orders from them.” So, they ordered them, and everything went well. However, there was like a storm or something. It was like South Carolina. It’s not going to be relevant to me now, but it was really bad rain in South Carolina, a few weeks ago.
So obviously, delivery trucks could not go through where they normally could, so their order by UPS, UPS just said “We have to re-route all of these trucks. We can’t deliver it until Monday.” Well, now she felt like she was in this bind. That’s a situation where she’s like “I have to get it by Friday!”
“Well, you should just call that customer and find out.” “Do you really need to, and what are your alternatives?” You’ve got to communicate with them.
Mark S: Right. You actually have an advantage in your customer experience, if you have some kind of a problem that you overcome. Some of our best customers are ones that have had serious issues, but that we’ve taken care of it wonderfully, and the experience was so good that they become advocates for your business.
Like they say “These guys were late, but there was a flood and a fire. They ran out of t-shirts, and still, they got it to me like one day late! They’re fantastic!”
If you can elicit that kind of a response, because of the way you handled between when you take the order and deliver the order, just think of the business that you can build up.
Marc V: It’s about providing – “Everything is good and on pace” communication, but also about how you’re going to handle the issues and respond to those issues.
Mark S: Right. I just want to do like a quick footnote in filling the order, because that’s next, after “progress report” on my little list here. Honestly, filling the order is just the act of actually creating the shirts. Of course, you want to make sure you do the best job that you can.
Don’t get into the habit of just checking the box, because the quality of the garment, the quality of your embroidery or your DTG or your bling is vitally important. So, part of customer experience is checking everything, before you pack it up.
Marc V: This all goes along with the personality of your business. It all goes back to that. If your business is “We do it fast, we do it cheap, we get it out the door, we got your shirts and it cost you almost nothing,” then you gauge your quality based on that.
Mark S: Right.
Marc V: So for you, it’s like “Well no, I don’t have the most vibrant print. I don’t have the most amount of rhinestones in my designs. I do them a little bit less dense, but it’s because they’re cheap, and it’s cheap shirts, and it’s fast. So, I can do these fast and cheap, compared to somebody who says they’re going to do awesome t-shirts. They’re going to put pre-treat on your light-colored garments, talking about DTG printing, so they look more vibrant.”
But that takes you more time and money, compared to somebody else. Its got to line up. I think in fulfilling the order, taking care of it fits with what the expectation is.
Mark S: That kind of rolls right into packaging. Let’s say you are the big professional organization. That’s your persona. You where a tie to bed. Maybe the quality control aspect of the order is that you have a professionally printed checklist of – you have the 10-point quality checklist for your order. It’s on the company stationary or on a postcard or something.
Someone goes through and says okay, the embroidery is high quality. There are no pulls. The underlay was done properly, and all of that is there. It’s signed off by somebody with VP in front of their name, and it’s dropped into the top of the box. That same thing, for the home-based bling lady, might be a grocery list that says “Hey, these are all the things that I made sure that you got today, with your order.”
Check, check, check, and there’s a nice flourish and a signature, and a heart and a puppy, or something along those lines.
Marc V: A real puppy?
Mark S: Yeah, a real puppy. Maybe you write a little note “If you find my kid’s tooth in one of these boxes, let me know!” Whatever reinforces the personality of either kind of organization.
Marc V: I think the packaging is quite possibly the most – first, it’s the initial contact. That’s probably the most important thing, because that’s going to be do they like you or not, right away. And to me, the packaging, it might be the next.
Mark S: I’ve got to give props again, because Colman and Company has done such a good job in the past year, of upping their game with packaging. Now, when you get Colman and Company rhinestones, you get crystalline, with the beautiful high end packaging that lets you know that there’s quality inside.
When you get the ink that says “Genuine DTG” on it, there’s a label there, with a date on it. It’s all very well done, and very professional.
Marc V: You don’t have to be perfect in everything, and you don’t have to be – bringing up Disney, when you get your passes, they now give you these wristbands, and it’s in a very high-end box, with custom foam. It’s got your name printed.
Mark S: I mean, but the ticket’s $4,000!
Marc V: Exactly! So yeah, would it be cool if every single shirt was individually wrapped, with a note? Yeah, but are you charging for that? If you’re not, then you just scale it down, so it fits right within your personality. If fits in what they’re paying for.
But I think that some little things you can do that will basically cost you almost nothing in time and money, but will really step it up, is like you said, that checklist, whether it’s handwritten or pre-printed. A thank you note.
Mark S: That’s a great idea.
Marc V: A generic thank you card, the cheapest one you can buy, plain, is almost good enough. If you want to step it up a little bit, you can get your logo on it, or you can get the message even pre-printed in it, and you just sign it. But put that in the box.
I’m just going to list out random ideas, as they pop.
Mark S: Yeah, please, because this is important stuff.
Marc V: Maybe you put all of the sizes together, in an order that makes sense. XX on the bottom, small on the top. Maybe you put a paper divider in between them, that actually shows the size. Maybe you individually box the sizes, as they come.
If it’s caps, make sure that they’re all neatly stacked into each other, the way that a bunch of caps fit nicely together. Fold the shirts up in a way, so somebody could take it right out of the box and put it on, and not look like a fool, because it’s going to be a wrinkled mess.
Mark S: And fold them all exactly the same way.
Marc V: Fold them nice, because you have to think of what happens when people are passing out t-shirts or anything. You have somebody who has to pass them out, which hates doing that.
Mark S: Right.
Marc V: Nobody loves doing that. It’s kind of annoying.
Mark S: Yeah, because everybody complains.
Marc V: “I wish I would have ordered a large!” You don’t have to deal with that side of it, but help to make that experience better for them.
Mark S: If you’re the professional, maybe you include another brochure for your product in the top of the thing, or you put in a flyer or a printed thank you card, or something along those lines. If you’re the home-based, maybe you take a chocolate chip cookie and a thank you note, and put it in a little plastic bag, and you put it on top of the shirts, for the guy that has to pass them out.
You want to talk about being a hero? Put a cookie or a brownie or a prize in the bottom of the box, or something like that, whatever one of those things match your personality, and watch people respond.
Marc V: There’s a lot of cool things you could do. If you have a local print company or you go to an online print company, go through and look at all of the different options and sizes of things you can get printed, whether it’s cards or hang tags, or whatever it is. Find something that will match your personality, whether it’s an oblong shaped business card or just a simple nice, clean letterhead, that you can get a nice note or flyer or something about your business, a thank you type of thing printed on, or the handwritten thank you note. Get that in the box.
I think that one other thing you could do is you can get tape with your name or logo or information on it. Don’t do that four-corner foldup thing on the box, that when you deliver it to somebody, where the box is tattered and torn.
Mark S: It’s hard to open.
Marc V: It’s harder to open, and it doesn’t look as nice. Fold the box up nicely again, and tape it. But if you’ve got some tape with your logo on it, that’s even cooler.
Mark S: Yeah, and it’s not so expensive.
Marc V: It’s not too expensive. All of these things are not crazy. Now, if you really want to step it up, then you could individually bag the shirts.
Mark S: Yes.
Marc V: You can get, like U-Line sells those clear baggies that fold over.
Mark S: You can even get them customized. You can get a box customized. You could write a note on the outside of the box, saying “Hey, thanks to whoever is receiving this!”
Marc V: You can get boxes printed with pre-written notes on the side.
Mark S: Right, but all of that is crazy! We’re talking about things you can do. But you see where we’re going here? Right from that initial phone call, to taking the order, to get the quote, to get the email, to get a progress report. You fill the order, and you’re packaging, and it all works together. So, they know that “I got this cookie from Mary! Can we order from her again next year?”
Or “I really appreciated dealing with Mark’s Big House of Custom T-Shirts, because everything was spot on! I got the box and the brochure. The shirts look great. They were professional. I definitely want to do business with them again!”
Marc V: So, you’ve boxed it up, and now you have to deliver it.
Mark S: One thing that I used to do, with another company that I was with – this was before the sale, but it applies after the sale, as well. Everything I sent, I sent FedEx overnight. And let me tell you, 100% of the people in the world, if they get an overnight package from Federal Express, they immediately open it. There’s no question.
So, I would spend the money and the time and the care in making sure that that delivery was correct, and I got a response every single time.
Marc V: With delivery, it’s communication. Make sure they know when they’re going to get it, how they’re going to get it. Are they picking it up? Are you dropping it off? Are you mailing it? Just make it very clear ahead of time. That’s why it’s important to think of this step at the very beginning, when you’re communicating it all, and you’re taking the order and preparing it.
You make sure you say “Okay, you’re going to come pick them up Friday afternoon, right?” Or “I’m going to bring them to your business at this location, between 2:00 and 5:00 on Friday.”
Mark S: And “Who am I asking for?”
Marc V: Yeah. Just make sure that everyone understands how they’re going to get it, and that they’re cool with that.
Mark S: If you’re going to ship it or mail it, if somebody says “Well, I really want inexpensive shipping. Just send it USPS, send it U.S. Mail,” then say “No problem. I’m just going to put in my quote that we have no idea when it’s going to get there.” Make that match the personality.
You could say, if you’re very professional “You realize that if I send it through the Post Office, they won’t guarantee the time, it doesn’t track as well, and I really have less control of that. But I’ll do it, if you’d like.”
If you’re Mary, then say “Okay. I sent a letter to my cousin Ethel out in California once, and it still hasn’t got there. It’s been three years! Are you sure that’s okay?” You could do that delivery personality.
If you’re delivering it in person, which I highly recommend if you do local business, because you get to interact with your customers, then make sure that you and the box and the delivery process reflect your personality, as well.
Marc V: Everything down to the way that you dress. If you smoke, don’t smoke in the car with the shirts in the passenger seat, on the way, because maybe the person that’s going to get them won’t like that.
Mark S: They’ll just open it up and smell tobacco.
Marc V: Yeah, so you think about those little things. Make sure that you’re dressed according to the personality. If it’s quirky and nerdy, then yeah, show up in jeans rolled up and a Star Trek t-shirt. That’s cool. They’re going to love you for that.
Mark S: If you’re the home-based business, show up with a box of cookies to deliver with them.
Marc V: Yeah. You have to make sure that doesn’t clash. If it’s a professional atmosphere, even though your nephew might deliver for you, and he’s the kind of kid who’s got a mohawk died black, if your personality matches that, send him for the delivery. If it’s a corporate -.
Mark S: Don’t send that guy!
Marc V: We see that stuff happen all the time in business, just in general. Make sure that the delivery just matches up with the rest of it, and it’s a clear communication of how and when and where, and why. Again, you should put all of that in writing, as much as possible.
Mark S: Right, and it should be reflected on a packing slip. Are you going to deliver the invoice at that time? Are you going to collect payment? Just be prepared for all of that, and make sure the personality is consistent.
Marc V: And I think there’s some other little things you could do. If you’re delivering to an office, and somebody is going to receive it that’s not the person that ordered it, you can have them sign that they got it. “What’s your name?” Have them sign, just like UPS does. This way, you can say “At 2:00 PM, Mary signed off for it.”
I think communication comes back then, after it gets delivered. If you’re dealing with Juan, who works in the ordering department for this large corporation, but you deliver to the front desk, you deliver it and you have her sign off on it. Then, you shoot a quick email to Juan, on the way out. “Hey, just dropped it off. Thanks for your business!”
Mark S: I like that.
Marc V: What’s next?
Mark S: Next is referrals and follow-up. Let’s think about this. We’ve talked about the initial call, the initial contact, whether it’s through a website or a phone call or an outgoing call or an email. Then, we talked about taking the order, and having that reflect the personality of your business.
The progress report and handling issues, to make your customers feel more comfortable. Filling the order and packaging, once again referring back to that personality.
By the time you get to delivery, you’ve really cemented the customer experience, especially if it’s a first time customer. What happened along the way up to this point, and the quality of the garments when you deliver them, you’ve cemented what the person that you’re dealing with thinks of you and your organization.
So, think about that, when you do each one of those things. This is it. You’re not going to be able to do a do-over next time. If you didn’t do a progress report, if you didn’t track the order properly, if the packaging was all screwed up by the time it got to your customer, you don’t get to recover from those. That’s set.
Marc V: Yeah. You know what else is guaranteed, if you do this right? You’re going to have more satisfied customers, with the same exact quality of work, if you didn’t do it right. Because once you start doing a bunch of things wrong, and you have customers that are upset along the way, then they’re going to start looking at everything with a sore eye.
By the time they get it, they’re going to look at it and be like “And the embroidery wasn’t even good on half the shirts!” The same exact quality, delivered perfectly across the way, they already love it, before they look at it.
Mark S: That’s a good point. I’ll use my mailbox analogy, which I think I’ve used before. If you love your neighbor, and they back into your mailbox by mistake, no problem. You’re just going to put the mailbox back in. If you hate your neighbor, and they back into your mailbox, it’s war from then on. You’re setting fire to their bushes, you’re poisoning their lawn, their cat’s missing.
That applies to this, as well.
Marc V: I don’t want to be your neighbor!
Mark S: No, you don’t! If you’re creating a great customer experience, then they’ll forgive the mistakes more easily. And the next thing, referrals and follow-up, will be multiplied tremendously.
Marc V: Tenfold. If you deliver an average experience versus delivering an excellent experience, you’re going to get a whole lot more people. People are significantly more likely to share a good story. I don’t mean a good story, meaning that you ordered shirts and it was a good price, and they looked good.
I mean a good story, like that at-home mom with the cookie.
Mark S: “This lady gave me cookies with the t-shirts! Let’s order again!”
Marc V: Or “These guys are so hip and cool! They all have cool mustaches!”
Mark S: I was just going to say that!
Marc V: The thing is, that’s a story. It’s not just a story of “Yeah, they make good shirts.” It’s a story of “Dealing with this couple that handles the t-shirts from start to finish, it was just so good! It was so cool and so friendly!” They’re going to tell people, not just because they’re literally referring business, but just because we share stories all the time.
Mark S: It’s a good story.
Marc V: How often do we share stories about the grocery store, or anything in life? That’s what people do. Friday night, they have drinks or tea, or go out to dinner, and they share stories. Make yours be one of them.
Mark S: I agree. That leads us to referrals and follow-ups, and that’s what’s going to happen. Once you create the right customer experience, you’re true to it, it matches the personality of your business, they’ll talk about you and you’ll get more referrals, and you’ll get more business.
You can apply that same thing to following up with your customers. After you do the delivery, maybe five to ten days later, you call them up or you send them a card, or you send them an email, based on what your customer experience is designed to be. Find out “What did you think? Did you like it?”
If you’re the home-based mom business, then you’re going to call up and say “Hey, I just dropped off my kids at soccer practice, and I saw the soccer shirts. I want to find out how yours worked out.”
If you’re the big professional, say “Hey, this is your 10-day follow-up call. We’d like to give you a quick customer survey, to make sure everything went as planned.” So, you fill out the little form.
Whatever it is, that follow-up helps ensure that not only they remember who you are and associate you with what happened, but that you’ll get that business in the future.
Marc V: But I’m scared now.
Mark S: Why?
Marc V: What if they’re upset?
Mark S: If they’re upset, that’s a great opportunity!
Marc V: Seriously, what if I call them up, and I could have left well enough alone, Mark? I could have left well enough alone. Now I call them up, and I’ve got somebody yelling in my ear.
Mark S: That’s awesome, because if you didn’t call them up, you would never hear them yell. You would never hear from them again, so you would never have an opportunity to get that same sale next year. If they are yelling at you, then you have an opportunity to take care of it.
Marc and I and someone else went to a social media conference, maybe a couple months ago. One thing they talked about was that if you get a customer that complains, particularly online, if you are able to turn them around and become satisfied with your product or service, then there’s a good chance they’ll become an advocate, and talk more about you and your product, then they would if everything went perfectly.
Marc V: Because they were so upset, and you turned it around. I think sometimes it will open up a Pandora’s box every once in a while, where everything was cool and quiet, and you made a phone call, and now you found out somebody was upset or bothered, because you did the complete wrong color on the shirt.
Now, their event didn’t really click together like they really wanted it to, because the shirt was the wrong shade of blue, and it didn’t match. But it’s just part of the game. It’s part of the experience. You should do it every time, because almost always, they’re going to say “Thanks, it was great!” Especially if you did everything else before.
Mark S: Or you may genuinely help somebody. For example, at ColDesi, I hope everybody knows we sell commercial embroidery machines and bling machines and direct-to-garment printers. And believe it or not, sometimes people have problems with equipment, especially if it’s their first time in the business..
A phone call from us, to listen to them yell about something about their embroidery machine will 99% of the time, result in us going “You know, that’s an easy problem to fix. Just don’t forget to plug it in next time.” It could be something ridiculous. It could be something really simple that you fix, and now you’re an immediate hero, because otherwise, that person would just sit there with a box of the wrong color t-shirts, and every time they look, they’re going to hate you, because they can’t use them.
Or you’re going to be the hero that says “Why didn’t you tell me? I’ll do that order again tomorrow, and I will deliver them myself tomorrow night.” What a hero! You would have never known, if you didn’t follow up.
Marc V: Long term growth, you have to think of that as a long term plan. You didn’t invest in equipment and start a business, to be out of business next week. You did it to hopefully retire from, or pass the business along to your son or daughter or nephew, or whoever might take over. That’s kind of the dream, maybe, that you want to do this for a long time. You didn’t just plan to do it for six months, and quit.
So, have that long term investment in it, meaning that in other podcasts, we’ve talked about it. “By the way, how is everything? Great! When is your next event? I’d love to follow up with you.”
Mark S: Right. Do that follow-up.
Marc V: That’s the long tale of what I call the post-delivery. The long tale of it is going through and making sure that you just communicate with them, know what’s going on, know what’s going on in the future, follow up with them, call them again, and call them again when they – “You told me that your next event was on Valentine’s Day, and here it is January. Are you ready for shirts?”
Mark S: You know what? Because we do have at least five or six people that listen to our podcasts and do some of the things that we recommend in them, I really can’t wait to see what people do with this. I’m really excited to see, because a lot of our customers have really strong personalities. They’re very passionate about certain things, and that should be revealed in your business and your business practices.
I think creating a customer experience, like we’ve talked about in this podcast, is a great way to do that.
Marc V: I think that this experience that we’ve delivered today is kind of a way to wrap up.
Mark S: I think it’s pretty good. I think we’re all done! The only thing we haven’t done is ask for referrals. So, if you have enjoyed this CAS podcast episode number 16, then please share it with other people that you think might enjoy it, whether they’re in the custom apparel business or not. We try to make everything that we say and everything that we teach and recommend apply to any small business.
Marc V: And really, this applies to every single business in existence, from plumbers to coffee shops to apparel decorators, and everyone should do this.
Mark S: It’s true.
Marc V: Every time I look at how we do it, I want to do it a little bit better, and you should be the same way, and have goals to say “Next year, I might invest in that really cool box, if business is going well.” You should do that, and always think about it and consider it.
We’ve talked about, in other podcasts before, to review it again. Don’t do it once, but review it again in months or years down the road, as things come along, so you can improve the experience you deliver to your customers every single time.
Mark S: So, join us on our Facebook group, Custom Apparel Startups. It’s our Facebook group. You can apply to join, and we will say yes or no, based on the personality of your business.
Marc V: There you go!
Mark S: Definitely email us at host@CASPodcasts.com, if you have any questions, need a personality test, or want to run some customer experience ideas by us.
Marc V: I encourage that on the Facebook group, for sure. We also do webinars. Those are product specific, but there is a CAS Webinars website. Those are specifically about certain products, different ways to actually decorate apparel.
Keep in touch with us. Let us help you the best we can, and we look forward to the next time you listen!
Mark S: Thanks for listening, and have a great business!