Sunday, May 26, 2019Embroidery's Voice and Vision

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Erich

Expand your understanding and hone your technical skills as veteran award-winning digitizer, e-commerce manager and all-around technophile Erich Campbell explores and explains the intersection of embroidery, technology, creativity and business. He’s the go-to guy for stitches and tech at Black Duck Embroidery and Screen Printing in Albuquerque, NM, one of the Southwest's largest screen-printing and embroidery firms. You can find him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/erich.campbell, follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/blackduckinc or e-mail him at ecampbell@blackduckonline.com.

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When Not to Sweat the Details, or, Fighting Customers Means Defeating the Purpose

I've talked about all manner of customer relations issues before, and given tips on how to educate your clients, how to stand together with your company to make things right when faced with a fouled-up order, and even on how to redirect problems with your customer's requests into possibilities for better work. In doing all this I've given you great guidelines, though I must admit something that I'd rather not: I've likely, through my use of jargon (albeit usually amusing jargon) and through my own occasionally florid language, made things sound too complicated. And the sad thing is, I'm not the only one.

Decorators, particularly those of us who’ve been in the business for some time, have a bad tendency to make things sound too complicated for customers. Now, I'm certainly not one to throw stones in my glass cubicle; I can get technical with the best of them. I am often found explaining the difference between raster and vector art or the minimum acceptable width of a satin stitch to an (hopefully) interested client. That said, there is a line one can cross where one has simply made things sound too technical, too difficult, and thus too uninviting to the client.

It's a fine line to be sure, and it changes from client to client. Some self-described artists love to spend their afternoon hashing out the details of a print or stitch-out with you, discussing options for their garments, tweaking color palettes and the like – but there are many that would just as soon let the experts do what they do best. Moreover, there are those clients that will be frustrated and angered by “doing your job for you” if you press them for too much detail, input or to make too many decisions.

Before I continue, let me first remind you of the wonderful place you inhabit in the grand chain of decorated apparel and accessories. You are the expert. Ultimately, you hold the key to the creation of the images that your customer wants. When they look to you for an order, they know this, and they expect you to have mastery over your domain. What does this mean to this discussion? You have the power to make this easy.

So, how do you exercise that power? That too, is easy.

First, gauge your customer; ask how much input they want to give. Find out what their vision is or if they are relying on your expertise. If they have a need for decorated apparel but no ideas as to how it should look, be ready to provide them with options. Asking this sort of customer too many questions will feel to them like an interrogation.

Second, limit their options. I know, this sounds like a terrible idea on the surface, but let me clarify. Start them out by offering to suggest a few popular and/or appropriate options for their garments and decoration. You can make sure they know that there exists a plethora of options, but offer them only a few at a time. Slapping a full catalog on the table will make for a time-consuming and frustrating experience for you and your customer. Think about it: Given several pictures of fairly standard polos, would you as a layperson really know the difference between them? Let alone how you would feel once you add all the other kinds of garments in the catalog!

Last, but certainly not least, make it easy for them to give you their art. Ask for the best version you can get, but once you've found that they really don't have anything more than the dreary, pixilated banner from their Web site, stop fighting. Cheerfully explain the charges they'll need to pay for reworking their art if necessary, or if the art is entirely unusable, why and how you will come up with an image for them. Just remember, leave out unnecessary details. Unless you have a client who is interested in your process, such elaborations will fly swiftly over their heads, serving only to waste their time and yours.

If I were asked to sum up all of these concepts in a single, pithy sentence, it would be this: Don't make it hard for your customer to spend their money with you. That's really the essence of the thing. Though you may have the power of expertise, they have the power of the dollar – a power that you need if you'd like to continue being an expert. Your customer knows this, and whether or not they say it, they know that your competition does, too.

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