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3 Tips to Handling Unhappy Clients

One of the worst moments as a screen printer is the moment after a customer opens a box to find red shirts instead of orange ones, a glaring spelling error in their design, or adult sizes instead of the youth they ordered. In their mind you had one job…and it’s wrong. How you handle the problem can mean the difference between retaining a happy customer or losing an angry one, along with all the other potential customers to whom they will go out of their way to tell about the awful experience they had doing business with you. Knowing your options before the situation happens will put you in a much better position to salvage the relationship without losing out. With that in mind, here are some factors every screen print business owner needs to keep in mind when dealing with an unsatisfied customer.

First, know your costs. The amount that you put in to produce the order is the bottom line you should try to protect when working out a solution. Giving up only your profit is much healthier for your business than giving up both your cost and profit. With that number in mind you know exactly what kind of deal you can offer your client to fix the problem, and you can work through a series of steps to arrive at a solution.

Apologize immediately. Owning the mistake might be mortally embarrassing, but you’ll survive. You’ll also create a climate that will smooth the path to resolution. A customer that has to argue about fault is not going to be willing to meet you halfway.

Identify the mistake.
A. If the mistake is obviously internal, accept the fault and move on without trying to wiggle out of the blame.
B. If the mistake was made by the client, produce the proof. Signed orders or emails that show you did the job as requested will shift the weight of the issue off of you and make your client more willing to work out a deal.
C. Reassure your client that the mistake won’t happen again.

Offer some solutions that will please everyone. (Think outside the box here.)
A. If the client can overlook the imperfection, you can offer a discount to encourage them to take the misprints. Offering a number that will cover your cost is ideal.
B. Offer to reprint the order at cost if they accept the misprints at full price.
C. Sometimes, you can correct a mistake by adding to the artwork. Add missing information to the back or sleeve of the shirt. Print a box to cover a mistake, and print the corrected version on the box. This can be slow and laborious work, so knowing your costs is crucial. It may be cheaper to reprint the order from scratch.
D. Offer an incentive on future orders, such as free screens or an extra print color at no cost.
E. If the mistake was made by the client, technically they should accept the order. But, offer to reprint the order correctly quickly and at a discount. As long as your costs are covered, you can afford to be generous helping them out.
F. If the misprints are completely rejected, keep them. You can recover some of your cost by donating them. Look for charities that will pick them up and ship them out of state to avoid conflicts with your client.

Giving a little to retain a client when correcting a mistake is a sound practice that will produce future profits. Being ready to handle problems when they arise will put you in a good position.


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