Tuesday, October 7, 2014

You're the expert

I recently received an email from a customer.  She was asking for personalizations on the backs of some jackets and her closing comment was, “I really don’t know what is the best size for the names on the backs.  Please give me an opinion because you’re the experts.”

My first reaction?  “Tell me what you would like.”  (I have edited that particular comment, which had far more words and far more emotional content.)

A couple of days ago we had another distributor visit the shop to talk about a design going on some caps.  We were discussing the options he had along with the client’s ultimate choice which really was the least attractive choice in my opinion.  I realize that this is all subjective.  We try to do what the customers want.  Both our customer and I laughed about the final choice and then he got serious and said “The customer is always right.” 

I disagreed.   “Not really.  In fact, hardly ever.”

The truth is that no matter how long we have been in business, twenty two years on November 2, we will never be experts in the eyes of some of our customers.  They will always give us recommendations as to how best to embroider a garment, how the design should be created, what we should do on the front, back or sleeve of a shirt and how we can get more customers.  While it is true that I don’t know everything, sometimes I wish that someone would find me a little bit knowledgeable.    

The dark recesses of my brain tend to gnaw on small incidents like the above and alter the form and content into usable and more digestible lint bits.  Sometimes the lint gets together and forms a hairball which then makes its way to the front of my brain where it is dispensed as, well, understanding.  This occurred a few thoughtful days after my encounter with the distributor who claimed that the customer is always right.  It goes like this.

In my mind, I rule the embroidery world.  My years of working with apparel and material and designs qualify me to have the last say in all matters embroidery.  Customers will ask for advice and accept it without question.  I am the expert as it were.  If there is a problem with a design, I’ll fix it.  If the customer changes their mind after I’ve done a design, they willingly pay for my time to make the changes.

Sadly, most customers only call me an expert when they wish to offer up an opinion.  A translation of “You’re the expert” would go like this:  “Let’s see if you can guess what I really want and then I’ll tell you afterward if you are right or wrong.”   The setup time and the sample time have no value to them.  The adjustments that have to be made should be simple, after all.

Once upon a time, I was asking one of our customers to pay a little bit faster than their norm of around seventy days.  Rather than face that particular issue and apologize, the customer came up with one of the worst responses ever, in the history of the world.  He said, “At least I give you projects to do.”

He is no longer a customer. 

These days, the people that we choose to work with value the services that we provide.  I don’t expect for the world to operate with me at the center of the embroidery expertise.  I also can’t do away with the little guessing games taking place in certain clients’ minds.  I do, however, choose when to keep a customer and when to toss them back into the pool of available clients.  Other decorators may see them as a good bet. 

Heck, we all have to be right at least once in awhile.   
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