Technical mastery of the screen-printing process is no guarantee that a steady stream of customers will come knocking at your door. You also need to ensure that your facility looks professional, clearly identifies your business, and provides a place where customers can view samples of your work and discuss details of potential jobs.
By Mike Ukena
A good customer area should have the following attributes: It should be quiet and well lit, display examples of your work, display examples of blank goods (if you provide custom printing), be completely separated from production, and provide a place to sit and conduct business without distractions. When your customer area meets these criteria, you will go a long way towards completing most of your sales before you even open your mouth. A comfortable environment that is situated away from production is not only the absolute best way to present your company, but it is also the best way to minimize order mistakes.
Think about mistakes that your shop has made on orders. How many of them were a result of writing down the information wrong in the first place? Was the person taking the order distracted by a printer yelling to someone else in the shop? Was the music in the shop so loud that the salesperson heard the customer incorrectly? The quiet setting is the best place for the customer, for you, and for your staff to conduct sales.
Some printers have told me that the reason that they rented a warehouse-only shop instead of one with an office in the front was that it was much cheaper. Was it really? Think about what the real cost of not having that separate space really is. Mistakes made on orders that lead to wasted time, labor, and material is one costly repercussion. Another is the loss of business because the customer was less than impressed with your operation. I have seen some highly creative and inexpensive ways to set up a customer area. Here are a few prime examples:
• Use old, manual, wooden frames as picture frames to display good work. Stretch the shirt over the frame tightly and hang it on the wall. Some that I have seen are stretched so that the ink-stained edges of the frame still show (it looks better than it sounds). Either way, frames are a great way to present your work, and you can take them down from the wall so customers can take a closer look. They can be rearranged as new examples become available, and they can be sorted in themes to make it easier to explain design options to new customers.
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