Managing Customer Expectations: Heat Transfer Edition

It is essential that you and your customer communicate and understand the details of their order

When you are in the apparel decorating business, you will get different requests for custom apparel from different types of customers. Some job inquiries are quick and easy. Others, not so much. Customers who are newer and unfamiliar with ordering custom apparel will likely require more attention, or the customers familiar with ordering custom apparel are unfamiliar with your decorating methods and processes.

To make your job easier as a decorator and give your customers the best user experience, it is essential that you and your customer communicate and understand the details of the order. Not understanding the order can lead to back-and-forth questions throughout the process, taking up valuable time and likely a costly mistake or two.

As a heat printer, you will probably be fielding a lot of the same questions as other decorating methods, but there are some that you will probably get more often as a heat printer.

Define your turnaround time

The most common question you will receive about heat printing custom apparel is about turnaround time and pricing. Unfortunately, you will have experienced customers who need their custom apparel order delivered quickly, sometimes within the same week. Many factors go into how quickly you can produce the final product that customers often do not understand. Your method of heat printing, whether it is using screen printed transfers or cutting vinyl, requires details about an order before a turnaround time quote is given to your customer. Details like the quantity needed, artwork complexity, and your shop’s capacity, are all factors that can determine your turnaround time.

If you are ordering screen printed transfers or have to order rolls of vinyl, you have to work the shipment of the materials into your turnaround time as well.

Give them an idea of why your price is what it is

Another common aspect that customers don’t understand is the number of factors that go into pricing a custom apparel order. Custom pricing quotes can be difficult. Often customers compare the prices of your custom goods to that of retail merchandise. Heat printers will hear from customers, “We can get a T-shirt at the local department store for only $5-10, so why are yours so expensive?”

The important thing to communicate is that your work is custom and not a stock design produced in high quantity bulk like offered in department stores. Most of the same factors that help determine turnaround time also contribute to pricing the custom apparel, such as the heat printing method, quantity, artwork, and speed. It’s best to get all the information up front from the customer for the order, to help clear up some common customer questions. This initial conversation allows for an accurate quote and estimate of turnaround time for the customer and helps them understand what all contributes to the time and pricing of their custom apparel.

How many shirts do they need? Is the artwork full-color or spot-color? Is the artwork complex with high detail? These questions help determine the printing method and also the transfer type. What fabric type is the apparel they are choosing? Certain types of fabrics require different transfers, which also affects pricing.

Let them know about the different process, garment type, and artwork

Depending on the heat transfer type that you choose for a particular job, customers may need to understand that their artwork may not be able to be printed as is. There are artwork limitations with each heat transfer type.

Most of the time, customers just do not realize there are different print methods. A detailed explanation really isn’t needed into all the different transfer types, except teaching them that there are different processes for different types of artwork and various kinds of apparel, which can change the pricing, depending on the materials and labor.

One tweak to the order details can change the pricing significantly. For example, the size and position of the artwork are the essential details to understand before quoting a price. Size changes the amount of material that is needed or the number of gang sheets you need, which will also reduce the ‘per print’ cost.

Simply educate the customer and walk them through the process of ordering. After explaining that these factors contribute to your printing process and pricing, the customer will understand and have everything prepared ahead of time for the next job they bring you.

Don’t give it all away

As an apparel decorator, you don’t need to give away all the ways and details of your printing processes. Just enough for customers to understand what affects pricing and turnaround times is sufficient.

If your customer is aware your method of decoration is through heat printing, they might be hesitant at first. Some customers have a misconstrued perception about heat transfers, thinking that they are less durable or of less quality, and the design will wash off after one or two wears. We all know is not the norm, especially with today’s printing advancements.

Your primary job will be to educate the customer about the quality of your work. Show samples of your printing by testing samples of the different heat transfers. Samples can help your customers feel at ease about their apparel being heat printed.

In the end, your customers are looking to you to help them understand your products’ benefits, limitations, and different processes needed to get the job done. The best thing to do as a heat printer is to gather all of the details up front to provide an accurate pricing and turnaround quote.

Mike Romano

Mike Romano is on the marketing team at Stahls' Transfer Express. He's largely designed graphics for the company's website and trade show booth, but also writes articles for the company blog. 

View all articles by Mike Romano  

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