Inky’s T-Shirt Printing blog, featuring all our latest news and information, and even some funny stuff once in a while. Although if you just want funny stuff, you should see our funnies section.
“Customer IS King” – But how do you deliver excellent customer service when you have so many customers?
Added Friday January 18th, 2013
Inky’s founder Dave Thornton
When I was 16 I got a massive education in world of customer service – in the form of the “Have a nice day” culture of McDonald’s (as it was in the 90′s). For 4 long years I was flipping burgers and serving customers, under a constant bombardment of customer service training that was designed to be replicated at their thousands of restaurants across the globe. Back then I actually thought it was a great thing, that the huge company I worked for wanted to put across a friendly image that sincerely understood the importance of making customers feeling welcome and that their business was appreciated. However I was baffled at why my co-workers were never as enthusiastic about it as I was.
Sure, it was very demanding work for a very low wage. But the way I saw it was that if you try to enjoy yourself and make people smile while you’re working, it makes the job a whole lot easier, and creates a positive energy instead of a negative tension which most of my colleagues seemed to relish in. This rubs off on the customers too: They are far more likely to come back if they like the staff. And they will like the staff a whole lot more if they are warm friendly people who seem to be enjoying their day, because people WANT to be around people like that, even if they are only serving them a Big Mac and fries.
Fast forward to the present day (some 15 years later) and I am still perplexed at why whenever I go to buy a quick snack or a coffee, there is never a guarantee that the person serving it will have a smile on their face. It’s usually up to me to make them smile (fine by me). To a large extent I can understand why it’s hard to smile when you’re working your ass off for a minimum wage, and having to deal with rude & stupid customers all day (let’s face it). But when you’re tucked behind a glass screen wearing a Virgin Trains uniform selling me an £8.70 ticket for a 20 minute train journey, enjoying all the benefits of working for Richard Branson’s reputedly excellent company, I would really appreciate some form of politeness. The girl who sold me a ticket last time I was at Birmingham International station after arriving in the country after 3 months in Europe, really put me on a downer, quite understandably. And by the way, yes I do love to rant!
It’s a shame that business get so big that the staff are simply doing a job, and that the people working in that job have no sense of ownership in the business. To them, it doesn’t matter how you treat the people you come across in your daily business because they will still get paid, and their bosses will never find out how each interaction went anyway. The company has become “too big to care”, and you can say the same about any bank, supermarket, or utility company.
When I started Inky’s, I wasn’t sure if the company was going to get “big” or not. Right now things are certainly heading in the right direction, and we are dealing with more customers than we ever had when we were operation physical shops and were meeting our customers face to face. The challenge we have is to give each customer a personal service while the whole ordering process is done online and we never actually get to meet the customers face-to-face.
This is how we do it
- We answer each customer enquiry promptly and personally, usually via email. Each customer knows the name of the staff member who is looking after them, and we really mean “looking after”. Other printing businesses have automated software that will generate a quote based on the information the customer provides. However we like to look at each customer’s requirements individually to assess how we can best provide for their needs. We take into account the customer’s deadline, their budget, and many other factors.
- We encourage customers to contact us via email instead of over the phone. This means that we are able to handle enquiries quickly, saving customers being put on hold and also reducing the cost of serving them (no call centre). The saving is passed onto the customer in the form of lower prices.
- Customers can request an SMS text message to alert them when we have replied to their email enquiries, so they know to check their email inbox.
- We employ minimal staff, who have access to the full customer/order database at their fingertips, wherever they are in the world (literally!). Customers are never passed from department to department, because all of the information about each individual order is right under the nose of whoever takes the call.
- In order to manage such a large volume of enquiries and followups, some degree of automation was needed. So I developed an application which runs behind the scenes, which does a number of things that save us a load of time (in fact it does the work of 2 full time staff).
- One cool feature is that it alerts us when we haven’t heard from a prospect for a few days. We then look at our email conversation with each customer to determine which stage we’re at, and get in touch asking if they need any assistance or find out if they decided not to order. Our customers seem to appreciate the gesture, as they often forget to actually finish placing their order, when meanwhile their deadline is fast approaching. This means that we don’t miss opportunities to make a sale, and the customer gets what they wanted. Winner!
- A couple of days after we have dispatched the order, the customer gets an email from us to check that the parcel arrived and that they were happy with the contents. We also ask them to give us a “rating” and feedback so we can check that they are happy with the service, and find out which areas we need to improve. This email is generated automatically by the order management software application I developed.
Want help improving your customer service?
I built Inky’s from scratch, and implemented all of the customer service ideas described above myself. If you’re interested in finding out how I can help you to retain more customers by offering an excellent customer experience, and convert more browsers into buyers, please get in touch with me personally via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tips For Organising A Stag Do Without The Headaches
Added Wednesday November 21st, 2012
Avoid all the usual stag do nightmare situations by following our tips, written by somebody who has been involved with more stag parties than most people have had hot dinners…
- Too many options = More difficult to choose = The whole thing takes a lot longer than it should.
Imagine it: You’ve got a large group of guys who all have strong opinions on what they think is the best thing to do on a stag do. You all want it to be the best weekend ever, but nobody can agree. It’s like going to a restaurant where the menu is absolutely HUGE and you just can’t decide what you want, for fear of choosing something other than the PERFECT meal. The fact is that whatever you choose from a shortlist of your favourite 3 options will be just fine. It’s not necessarily the location and activity of your stag do that makes it memorable, it’s the whole vibe of the experience. You could even go to a ballet dancing performance and have the time of your life, if you’re with all your best buds with a few beers down your neck. So, don’t waste too much time trying to get everyone to agree from a load of choices, instead just pick 2 or 3 options and then go to the next step:
- Set up a facebook group so that you can communicate with the whole party easily. If any of the lads in the stag tour are not facebook users, that’s their problem. Nominate somebody to keep them informed by text. Set up the group and then do a poll, so people can choose what they want to do out of the options you’ve researched. For example, are we going to Newcastle, Amsterdam or Budapest? It’s a good idea to have a low budget and higher budget option, so that stags of all income levels/financial means get a chance to join in the fun. So you might have a regular pissup in your local as the cheap outing, and then a full weekend somewhere pricey like Amsterdam for the main celebrations.
- Stop asking people what they want to do, and just tell them.
Facebook is great for this. Use language like “The minibus is to the airport at 2pm, from the Rose & Crown. When we get to Amsterdam we’re going to the hotel to ditch the bags and then we’re going to X bar”, instead of wasting time asking people what they would rather do. Last year we had loads of stag t-shirt orders cancel at the last minute because they couldn’t agree on what they wanted printed on their t-shirts. “Shall we get t-shirts printed?” is a bad start. Instead just decide yourself if it would be fun to pull a load of funny custom printed t-shirts out of your case for everyone to wear. Chances are, the stag himself will appreciate the effort that you went to. There are 2 ways you can go with t-shirts – either something really outrageous and shocking (bright colours, funny/risque slogans and nicknames etc) or something a bit more low-key and tasteful – whatever you choose, our designers will put something together for you that really looks the part – and we won’t print anything until you’re completely happy with the designs.
People actually appreciate having things organised for them and just going along with the flow. Of course, there will sometimes be a few people in the group with ego’s – they will want to have everything their way just so they can show their loyalty to the stag, but that’s not your problem. You’ve been given the job of organising the stag do, so just get on with it. As long as you’re within budget and and there is beer involved, good times are guaranteed.
We Want Your Photos! (and stories!)
Added Wednesday November 21st, 2012
We print so many t-shirts and hoodies for customers that we often wonder what happens to them once they leave our back door and get taken to the post office. We’re sure that many of the garments we print go on to live wonderful and interesting lives, and we’d love to hear about them. So if you had something printed by us recently, why not take a photo of yourself wearing your new t-shirt or hoody and send it to us? We’d also love to hear what you thought about our service, and the quality of the items you ordered in general.
Please email your pics and feedback to Dave (email@example.com). With your permission, we’ll publish your photo and story right here on the website. Every month we will pick the best photos and send those customers a special free gift (a teddy bear wearing an Inky’s t-shirt!).
The UK is going crazy for our stag & hen t-shirts!
Added Sunday June 3rd, 2012
We are busier than ever before thanks to the stag and hen party season which is now in full swing. We are having fun creating custom designs for groups celebrating their “last night of freedom” in the cities of Europe or closer to home in the UK.
Did you know?
- Ladies usually plan well ahead and allow several weeks or even months to organise custom t-shirts for a hen party. Thanks, girls!
- With blokes it’s a different story: Most lads will get in touch with only a couple of days to spare before they go away on their stag do, even though they have usually known about the trip for months. This usually ends up meaning that they go away with no printed t-shirts at all!
Ideally we need about a week to fulfil an order at this time of year, although please don’t let that put you off contacting us for a price quote if your deadline is shorter, as we can usually accomodate last-minute requests (and in some cases we can even deliver directly to your hotel). In May we invested in a whole new set of equipment, doubling our capacity and allowing faster turnaround of orders. We have also moved into new offices, giving us more space and a better environment to work in, which results in us being able to get a lot more work done each done.
Celebrating Your Stag Or Hen Party Abroad?
Added Sunday March 4th, 2012
With the weather starting to warm up (a little!), the stag & hen party season is almost in full swing, and many of our customers are ordering custom t-shirts to wear on what will hopefully a spectacular and memorable night out or weekend away. Many are celebrating overseas, particularly in Europe where cities such as Amsterdam, Budapest, Berlin and Prague fill up every weekend with British funseekers. Having travelled to all of these cities recently (except Prague) I thought I’d offer a few tips, as a way of helping our customers have the best possible time…
- TRAVEL MONEY - Buying Euros from the bank or post office is pretty expensive and inconvenient. And if you buy from the airport from a booth (such as Travelex) you’ll be paying way over the odds. I use my FairFx card – it’s a card you can top up online and it only costs £1 to make a withdrawal from a cash machine abroad. The currency exchange rates are always better than the high street, and it’s super-convenient. If you sign up through my referral link, you will avoid their account opening fee of £9.95, and if you top up more than £250 in your first transaction, you’ll get an extra £2.50. Click here to check it out (and tell your friends!).
- BEWARE OF LOCAL SCAMS! Eastern and Central European cities attract hordes of Brits at the weekend, many of whom are easy pickings for unscrupulous and unsavoury characters who try to rip off and scam the tourists. I’ve met guys who were lured to bars by girls they met in the street in Budapest (pretending to be tourists)- they ordered drinks and when the bill came at the end the prices were super-inflated (£40 for a beer etc) – and you are expected to pay for the girl’s drinks too. Normal price for a beer is about £1 in Budapest. The way to avoid scams like this is to google the name of the city you are going to, followed by the word “scams”. There is lots of info online about all the local tricks used to separate you from your money.
- IN AMSTERDAM? HEAD OUT OF TOWN! I practically live in Amsterdam, but I rarely bother with the city centre and the area surrounding the famous “Red Light District”. Amsterdam is already expensive, but this area in particular is even more so. Expect to pay 6 euros for a beer in most places. Most of all though, you’ll have more fun by venturing to the Leidesplein (very easy to get to) where there is a much cooler international crowd (i.e not just Brits – what’s the point in going all the way to Holland to meet yet more British people?). By avoiding the obvious tourist places you will find bars, restaurants and other hangouts with more class and style, more fun, and a friendlier atmosphere – and you’ll pay less for the experience.
That’s my “stag & hen party abroad” tips for now. If I think of any more, I’ll add them here. Have fun!
Fancy A Free T-Shirt?
Added Saturday February 4th, 2012
Everybody loves a freebie. And here is your opportunity to get a free custom t-shirt, from Inky’s! Business is going great here but we could really do with some help to spread the word about who we are and what we do. So we are looking for bloggers and website owners who would like to order a custom t-shirt from us and then write a review of our service, on your website. When the review is live on your site, we will refund the price of the t-shirt AND give you a £15 credit so you can order another one for free! So in effect you will be getting 2 free t-shirts!
If you’re interested in this offer, please get in touch via the contact page for the full details and conditions of this offer. Please give us the link to your website, and let us know what you would like printed on your t-shirt. It could be your logo, it could be a t-shirt for you to use as a giveaway in a competition to your subscribers… anything you like really.
Please note that this offer is limited and we reserve the right to withdraw it at any time. We also reserve the right to select who we allow to participate in this offer. This offer is only open to people with an established blog or website.
We’re Ready For The Stag & Hen Party Season Rush!
Added Friday January 20th, 2012
From around about March until August, t-shirt printing businesses across the UK enjoy their busiest season. Every year our organisational & production capacity and pretty much all of our limits, are put to the test as we deal with a constant flow of customer enquiries day and night. Efficiency is the key to handling the peak season trade well while offering great service without seeming rushed off our feet to the customer, and we’ve been trialling some new systems in recent months to make sure that we’re as prepared as we possibly can be.
It’s interesting to note the yearly “cycle” of the wedding season. It seems that lots of people proposed marriage at Christmas or on New Year’s Eve, because since the first week of January we have had hundreds of ladies contact us to organise t-shirts for their hen parties, which are usually held a few months later. The same thing happens just after Valentines day, when the stag & hen party season really starts moving. The lads however tend to leave things til much later – for example last year most requests for stag party t-shirts came in about 2-3 days before the date of the stag night itself! We’re hoping the “best men” out there will be a little more organised this year and plan ahead more. Whatever happens, we’ll be taking a much-needed holiday as soon as the season dies down.
We’ve added lots more information to the site, about our hen party t-shirts and stag do t-shirts. On those pages you will find lots of examples of our stag & hen party t-shirt designs. So please do take a look, and get in touch for a personalised price quote for your stag & hen shirts plenty in advance.
Secret Santa Mayhem!
Added Friday December 23rd, 2011
This December we have been kept very busy producing custom one-off t-shirts for “secret santa” gifts. We’ve printed pretty much every kind of in-joke you could imagine, and many more you couldn’t. Everything from mildly amusing to downright weird! Even with so many people leaving it very late to order, we’ve had no trouble printing & posting t-shirts same day so our customers can get their orders delivered in time for when they’re needed. It’s been really nice to get so much positive feedback from customers, do take a look at our customer reviews page to see what I mean! I’ll reveal one of our secrets as to how we get orders completed so fast: We are located directly opposite our local post office! Sometimes we get orders coming in at 4pm which we can print & post straight away, which is great for our customers when they receive their order the first thing the following morning!
The photos show a couple of examples of secret santa t-shirts we’ve printed, and also our resident production-meister Jimm Wilson hiding behind a sheet of vinyl! See that tidy-looking desk in the background? I won’t post a picture of how it looks now, after the pre-Christmas rush!
I must pass on a big thank you to all of our customers for keeping us so busy in what is usually a fairly quiet time of year for t-shirt printing companies. We’ve barely had a chance to sit down all month! We’ve got big things (and I really do mean BIG) planned for the new year, kicking off with our “boss gone mad” January Sale, and then the stag & hen party t-shirts season which will start shifting up a gear in Feb-March. I’m already preparing for the big spring rush, by making sure that we are offering the very best t-shirt printing service in the UK in terms of fast turnaround, print quality, great looking designs and great value prices.
We have recently starting using a new database-driven order management system which has enabled us to process orders much more quickly than ever before, and handle enquiries super-efficiently – and all this with zero paperwork involved! This was really put to the test this month, and now I know we couldn’t live without it. It’s a massive help, and a vast improvement on our mostly paperwork-based systems. We’re using far less paper than ever before, and all the information about our customers & their orders is now at our fingertips. The benefit for our customers is that we our production capacity is now actually far greater, because we can access our information much more quickly. So, we can now turn your order around even more quickly than ever before!
Wishing all of our customers an enjoyable festive season and a hangover-free new year’s day!
Inky’s T-Shirt Printing
T-Shirts Printed for Scruffy Murphy’s Rock Pub in Birmingham
Added Friday November 25th, 2011
We’ve just delivered 100 screen printed t-shirts for Birmingham’s most popular rock pub, Scruffy Murphy’s in Dale End. The pub itself is iconic not only in the local community but much further afield as unsigned bands from all over the UK and Europe play here. They also attract celebrity rock stars who have been known to pop in for refreshments after doing shows at the bigger venues in town.
The t-shirts were screen printed front & back with the pub’s logo. We’ve been supplying Scruffy’s with t-shirts since early 2010 and they have always been a big hit with staff and customers alike, who love to buy them as a souvenir or to show their loyalty to their favourite drinking haunt.
First Week In Our New Premises
Added Friday November 18th, 2011
I’d love to be able to report that everything went smoothly in the first week here at our new office here in Wolverhampton, but as usual with something as major as a complete re-location, headaches and unforseen problems are unavoidable no matter how well you plan for them.
The main issue we’ve had is with a certain supplier (who I won’t name this time round) taking forever to process an order for the essential equipment we need to print t-shirts, and also sending us a faulty roll of vinyl. Thanks guys! This meant it took much longer than normal to process our customers’ orders, and having to apologise for “circumstances beyond our control”.
On the brighter side, we are now up and running properly and my new business partner Jimm Wilson has got the production office set up nicely. We have a nice new heat press in operation and we’ve had plenty of great customers this week keeping us very busy.
I’ve been working on the website while manning the livechat until late in the evening, which is a bit of a unique thing for a t-shirt printing company. I’ve been answering customer enquiries & taking orders sometimes as late as 11pm, while the competition are tucked up in bed. I think that offering a service like this really sets us apart and caters to the huge number of people out there who don’t do business exclusively from 9 til 5.
So, a big thank you to our customers for bearing with us this week while we adjust to the changes in our business. And hello to everybody who is reading this having just discovered us for the first time!
Inky’s T-Shirt Printing