To protect your business, you want to make sure you’re doing everything you can to avoid miscommunication with customers and maintain a good reputation. Not having strict regulations can lead to gray areas and ambiguity in customer service, which can then cause customer dissatisfaction, and cost you money.
It’s important to have contracts in place to not only protect your work but layout clear policies your customers can agree to. If you aren’t sure where to start, don’t worry—they’re easy to build.
Here are four policies to include in your contracts that will help with the basics of managing a custom apparel business.
1. Sample approvals
The best way to start your contract and protect your work is to create a sample approval policy. You always want to provide your customer with a sample of what the design will look like before you start to fulfill their order. This way, your customer can make changes, cancel the order, or choose a different design before you spend time and materials creating the order.
By having your customer sign off on a stitch-out or product design, you’ll have visual proof of what the customer agreed to and something to compare the finished product to if the customer is not satisfied. This policy also keeps customers from being able to change their mind about colors, placement, or design while you are in the middle of the project. You can decide based on your workflow, whether you will allow customers to make changes after the initial approval. Once you make that decision, you can incorporate these details into your policy.
2. Turnaround time guarantees
The most asked question you’ll get from customers is, “How long will it take to receive my order?”
Before we go into generating timeframes, the most crucial detail overlooked by most embroiderers is making sure the customer is aware that the production process does not start until after they’ve approved the sample.
Be sure you do not agree to a timeframe you can’t keep if the customer takes a few days to get back to you with the sample approval. State clearly in your contract that guaranteed turnaround time does not include the time it takes to receive the customer’s approval.
Waiting for the sample approval is not the only thing that can affect your turnaround time. If the customer wants to make changes after you’ve started, have a clause in the contract that states last-minute changes may affect the initial estimated turnaround time. Remember, contracts serve to make your life and running a business easier.
Now, when it comes to creating turnaround times, make sure you are giving yourself realistic timeframes based on workflow because everyone works at a different pace. It’s better to set a longer turnaround time than disappointing a customer.
If you are not able to complete the order on time, make sure to set an agreement with your customer about emergencies and unforeseen circumstances.
3. Specialty garments
Embroidery can be a little tricky. Mistakes can happen, which is why we always advise embroiderers to practice, trace, and stitch-out the design before embroidering the actual product. However, if you have extra blanks, you can always grab another and start over if something goes wrong.
But, how do you handle the garments customers bring in? What do you do if you mess them up? Do you replace the garment?
When your customer brings in a unique or expensive garment to embroider and customize, it turns into a risky order that you have to get right on the first go when using that garment. In this case, we’ve seen embroiderers add a “no guarantee” policy in their contracts for the items customers bring in. This policy protects you and warns the customer that the garment might get damaged.
Offering to replace the garment may work in some cases but not in others. This is something that should be decided on at your discretion. However, you should have everything in writing in the event there is an issue with a specialty garment.
The most important thing is to communicate with your customer the risk and explain why the garment can’t be guaranteed. Do not leave your customer with the impression that they can expect everything to go fine and then be shocked when it doesn’t.
Due to the nature of custom apparel, many companies do not offer refunds, and exchanges are more commonly done on a case-by-case basis. Since you cannot refund the time spent on creating a garment, refunds put you at a deficit.
Whether you decide to offer refunds on a case-by-case scenario or set a hard no on offering returns, the customer needs to be very clear on your policy.
If the finished product does not reflect the approved sample, we suggest offering to exchange the garment for a replacement or a different product. An exchange may take more time, but it’s the right thing to do for your customer.
We also suggest setting time limits in your return/exchange policies that give your customers a timeframe for return/exchange eligibility. If a customer comes back several weeks later unsatisfied with the product, you can avoid exchanges or refunds if you included a timeframe in the contract. Reasonable expiration dates can help you avoid any gray areas with your customers and mitigate any potential issues.
Embroidery and apparel customization is the business of referrals. Not only do you want your customers to come back, but you also want them to refer your services to their network.
Not having clear, concise policies and contracts could leave room for misunderstandings with customers. It could even make your business seem less credible. You also don’t want to implement different policies with different customers. You want to protect your reputation by maintaining fair and equal treatment of all your customers with well-crafted contracts.
Now that you have an idea of what kinds of policies you should implement, it’s time to start writing your contracts. You can download contract templates here.