customer service

How to Avoid a Challenging Customer

Aaron Montgomery has been involved with the garment decorating and personalization industry since 2000 and the digital printing industry since 1997. He is very actively involved in the industry trade shows via speaking, attending, and exhibiting for the last 16 years. He also writes articles for industry magazines and blogs on topics that include marketing, social media, the personalization market, and garment decorating techniques. He is dedicated to helping small businesses grow and succeed. You can find Aaron co-hosting the industry's oldest and most listened to podcast - 2 Regular Guys . You can also find blogs about a wide range of topics on his own website at

Long-term clients can be a boon to apparel decorators, and help bring in steady business for shop owners of all sizes. In some instances, those frequent contract jobs even help a business expand into a bigger, busier production facility. But how do you accommodate a long-time customer who might be taking an excessive amount of time to approve a job, or is just generally being indecisive? If the artwork is taking a while to be approved, or a price quote still hasn't been okayed, it's undoubtedly going to hold you up. This is a tricky situation since you obviously don't want to hurt the client relationship, but also need to make sure the work is worth yours, and your employees' time. 

The best way to tackle this is to have clear expectations set before getting to the point where the customer is going to hold up your production. Make sure you are clear about what the customer must do on their end before the job will even get put into the production schedule. This could be something like the proof being approved and the payment being made. It should also be clear to them that any changes after approval will come with additional fees or consequences of some sort. The clearer you can be with them from the beginning of the process, the better off you will be.

Even though this is a long-time customer, and maybe you have let them slide in the past, it is still OK to tighten up workflow going forward. It could be as simple as a fresh explanation of what you need and why. When working on things like this, it is important to avoid using negative words like, “unfortunately,” “sorry,” and others that will put the customer on the defensive. Instead, describe it in a positive manner by telling them how they will benefit by working with you on what you need to be efficient.