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Everyone makes mistakes. Here’s how to learn from them.

‘It Was a Printing Nightmare’

The Problem:

40,000 T-shirts. All of them custom cut, dyed and sewn. That was the lucrative, high-volume order Ashley Mauldin, key account executive at The Icebox (asi/229395), was providing to power the promotional punch of a nonprofit’s awareness campaign. Since the shirts were being made from scratch, Mauldin had no shortage of challenges to contend with to coordinate their creation and deliver them on time. Still, all seemed to be going well until a little way into the campaign when she and the client discovered a problem. Prints from the front of the shirts were “leaching” through onto the back of the garment, creating a kind of shadow outline. “It was happening mainly with a specific color shirt – silver,” says Mauldin.

The Solution:

Initially, The Icebox team started running tests in their facility and working with the manufacturer to see what was going wrong. While possible issues were identified, including that the dye house may have failed to perform its work properly, establishing a definitive cause for the leaching proved elusive. Nonetheless, that didn’t stop Mauldin from making good without delay: The Icebox replaced the approximately 2,000 defective shirts at no cost to the client.

Paying for the new shirts sliced into margins of course, but was more than worth it: The client was impressed by the way The Icebox swiftly and decisively delivered a practical solution that kept the awareness initiative running strong. Thanks in part to that performance, the nonprofit placed another 40,000-shirt order to fuel a similar campaign the following year. “We don’t hang our partners out to dry,” says Mauldin. “If something goes wrong on our end, we fix it. Our clients are not disposable, and we go above and beyond to make sure they get what they want.”

The Lesson:

The leaching shirt saga hammered home the importance of being diligent at the onset of the order process – especially custom apparel jobs – to ensure “the product you are promised is the product you receive,” says Mauldin. This diligence includes doing everything from thoroughly vetting production partners to getting and testing sample garments to ensure that they will hold up – all measures The Icebox performed to make certain the nonprofit’s subsequent order was glitch-free. Furthermore, the experience reinforced to Mauldin and The Icebox team that they’re proceeding wisely in putting clients first, even if it means losing a few dollars. “We may have taken a hit on our end, but we proactively addressed the issue and we continue to partner with this extremely important client,” she says.