From ordering and printing to packaging and shipping, things can go wrong in many areas. If you have unhappy customers blowing up your email or your DMs, it’s always best to kill them with kindness. A screen printing expert and a few former screen printers share how to handle the three most common issues customers may bring back to you.
Photo by Golden Press Studio
WHY IS THE PRINT FALLING OFF MY SHIRT?
This complaint is most common with heat transfer vinyl (HTV), but can occur with any screen printed garment. If a print is washing off a garment, the ink is most likely under-cured.
Darryl Sapp, who has been in the screen printing industry for eight years, says sometimes you don’t know. On rare occasions, you can do everything right, and the ink still comes off the garment after it’s cured.
Darryl holds up an old shirt he printed, a six color, water-based job. “This is the bane of my existence,” he says. “I did everything correct, but if I were to wash this shirt, all the brown, the green, and the red will wash off.”
There are a couple of things you can do in this situation. Have the customer send back unwashed or unused garments. Run them through your curing process again. Do a wash test, and if the shirt comes out looking good, you’re set! If the garments won’t cure, it might be because the ink was too dry while you were printing the job. If the ink is too dry, it won’t bond with the material.
Ultimately, you might have to eat the cost of that job. Reprint the job, give them a discount, and offer a credit for their next order.
“A lot of people are like, ‘I don’t want to do that,’ but it’s one of those things that’s a necessary evil,” Darryl says.
Owning up to your mistakes and working to fix them is key in maintaining customer relationships.
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Photo by Noble Citizen
WHY DOES MY DESIGN NOT LOOK LIKE MY PROOF?
The quality of artwork you’re given will affect how the artwork turns out on the garment. As Darryl says, “garbage in, garbage out.” A lot of times, you aren’t provided with the correct format of artwork you need to print a quality image. Customers might send low-resolution artwork and wonder why their proof isn’t turning out like their submission. They need to submit vector artwork, or allow you to make necessary changes.
If you’re making adjustments to a customer’s artwork, make sure to communicate with your customer. Tell the customer that the artwork they submitted won’t meet their expectations. You can offer to redo the design for the customer at a cost, or ask for better quality artwork.
No matter what you do, keep your bases covered. Ryan Moore, a screen printer for 12 years, says communication is key in this process. Every change you make needs to be listed on a proof, even if it’s only a little change. Document everything.
“It’s almost legally trying to cover yourself at every step,” Ryan says. In some shops he’s worked in, the approval process was so rigorous it slowed their production down.
Photo by Symmetree Clothing
I’M MISSING GARMENTS FROM MY ORDER
Missing garments can happen for a few reasons. Sometimes, customers will not order enough shirts to go around and want extras at a discount. They may have made a mistake, but on occasion, the customer knows you’ll give them a discount if the count was wrong. To avoid this issue, you should have a system of checks during your printing process.
Sometimes customers ask you to print more of the same shirt. What you do is up to you. Darryl recommends keeping a small rack of catalogued screens that you’ve printed in the past week or so. That way, if someone wants more shirts, you save time and hassle in creating a new screen. If you have already reclaimed your screens, charge the customer for a new screen.
“If you like them, give them a discount,” Darryl says. The goal is to keep customers while still pulling a profit.
Another common issue with missing garments is that the customer did not check all the boxes of shirts when they arrived. Let’s say a customer orders 50 large shirts, 25 mediums, 25 small, and three extra small. Making a separate box for the extra smalls would be a hassle and a waste. It’s best to group those three in with other shirts. Sometimes, the customer won’t look through the boxes to make sure those shirts are accounted for.
To stop both of these problems from happening, keep a master order sheet that shows how many of each size garment the customer ordered. That way, you can prove that what they ordered was what they got. You also should write the size and amount of garments inside of the box itself so the customer knows what to look for.
Photo by Aerogant Printing
No matter what issue you’re dealing with, there are best practices to keep yourself in the clear and save some stress.
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GET IT IN WRITING
Keep signed, documented approval of everything. You can prove that the customer agrees to the changes you’ve made and the work you’ve done. If the customer comes back to you with a complaint, you can refute claims with the signatures.
If you realize you’re in the wrong, own up to your mistake and do what you can to make it right. Customers appreciate printers who recognize their mistakes and calmly handle the situation. Don’t let your ego drive the conversation.
Another major tool in your belt is the ability to say no. It isn’t easy, especially for printers starting out. Ryan has learned how to turn customers down.
“If it wasn’t something I knew and was confident I could pull off in that timeframe and make it look exactly the way they wanted, I wouldn’t take it,” Ryan says.
He adds that it’s always better to say no to an order in a professional way than to try to take it on and fail. You’ll never get that customer back.
Know your limits. If a customer asks you to do a job that is too big for your shop, or the deadline is too close, saying no may be your best bet. Big clients won’t matter if you have to eat the cost for a failed job. If you have to offer a discount or a credit for a job you didn’t execute well, you’ll end up losing money anyway. Customers you say no to might come back later.
The most important practice to get into at your shop is communication.
“It’s all about communication at the end of the day,” Ryan says. “The more up front you can be with customers and set their expectations at a reasonable rate, it’s going to set you up for success down the road.”
Not only do you have to communicate with your customers, but you should communicate with your team. Everyone should be on the same page. Ryan says it's important to keep an order sheet that everyone signs off on, from the artwork to counting the finished garments. You have a written, signed document that says you’ve done your part.
“If you do your due diligence up front, you can eliminate most of those problems in the end,” Ryan says.
Photo by Stark Screen Printing
We’re all human. We’ll make mistakes. In the end, your goal is to keep your customers happy. Go the extra mile to communicate everything they need to know. If you do make a mistake, own up to it. Taking responsibility will build credibility with your customers. Learn from these situations and you might not have to deal with them again.