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How Important is Customer Service?

26th June 2008

How Important is Customer Service?

The short answer to the question in the title is simply this: very important.  The longer answer is that customer service may be the thing that has the most impact on the success or failure of your business.    You can offer the best products and prices in the world, and that may make some people endure poor treatment, but those people will probably be in the minority.  If you want to keep your customers not only happy, but buying from you, you need to provide truly superior customer service.  Here are some ways to make that happen.

Provide Options – There will be times when a customer will call looking for a product you don’t have or requesting a service you don’t provide.  A company with average customer service will simply say “Sorry, we don’t do that” and move on.  A company with superior customer service will go the extra mile and provide the customer with options.   Some companies are reluctant to provide this service, because they think they’re simply sending business elsewhere.  When it comes to services or products you don’t provide, that business is already destined to go elsewhere.  If you provide the information and save that potential customer some time, they will remember you, and most likely will call you back when they need something you can provide.

Take the Extra Time –  I’ve learned a lot from watching our customer service representatives.  One of the things I’ve learned is that taking a little extra time can pay big dividends.  Obviously, like every company, we want to maintain a certain volume of calls handled, and we don’t like to make people wait.  At the same time, I’ve noticed that spending a minute or two chatting can bring forth a wealth of information and also makes customers feel more connected to our company.  Formulaic customer service won’t get the job done.  You have to do more than make the customer think you’re interested, you have to actually be interested.  The extra minute or two that takes can really pay off.

“I Don’t Know” Stops the Conversation –  We get asked about a lot of products and services.  Some of these questions are easy to answer.  Other questions are harder, and we may not have a clue what the answer is.  Regardless, everyone here knows that you never say “I Don’t Know” unless you’re following it up with “I’ll Find Out”.   Adding that second phrase gives us a chance to provide additional service to our customer and an additional chance for customer contact.  If you simply answer “I Don’t Know” the conversation is dead.  There’s nowhere else to go.

The Bar for “Above and Beyond” is Different for Each Person –  It’s a pretty standard customer service phrase, “we go the extra mile for our customers”.  The trap that a lot of companies fall into is thinking that “the extra mile” or “above and beyond” is the same for every person.  One customer might think a simple phone call is top notch customer service.  Another customer might expect you to do everything but sign his credit card receipt for him.   Providing truly superior customer service requires that you know your customers, and can tailor the service to meet individual needs. 

 You’ll Never Please Everyone-  This probably sounds a little counter-intuitive when talking about customer service, but it is probably one of the most important tenants of superior customer service.  Providing top notch customer service takes time and effort and there are some people who won’t be pleased regardless of what you do.  There has to be a point where you cut your losses, and that point may be different for each customer.   You have to be ready to make the call as to where that point is when necessary. 

Providing truly superior customer service is not for the faint of heart.  It takes time and thought and effort.  The results, however, can be well worth it.

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25th June 2008

How We Know What We Know

One word:  experience.

 Ensign Emblem was founded in 1974.  Since the day the doors opened, the company has done one thing, create emblems and other garment decoration products.  We have embroidered acres of fabric with miles of thread.  We’ve dealt with customers both large and small and learned the lessons that come with a diverse customer base.  We’ve worked with many different types of embroidery machines, both single and multi-head, and learned that each machine has a unique personality. 

When you’re dealing with a supplier, it helps to deal with someone who understands the issues and concerns you might be facing.  In 1974, our parent company, Ensign Emblem, was the new kid on the block.  Over time, the company grew and expanded, but in the beginning, the company founders had the same concerns and the same hopes that everyone who starts a new business has.  After a lot of time and hard work, Ensign now has 5 plants in the United States, and has now gone on to found EnMart.   We know the value of being a good supplier because we have suppliers that helped us get to where we are today.  Our goal is to help our customers to achieve the success and longevity that our company has.

If you have a question about our products or about embroidery in general, feel free to give us a call.  Our knowledgeable customer service staff will answer your question, or will connect you with someone in our organization who can give you an answer.  After 34 years in business, we have people on staff who know a lot about garment decoration and embroidery, and a lot about running a successful business.   We want to share that knowledge and expertise with our customers. 

In the end our value as a supplier isn’t only about the prices we can offer or the products we can sell.  It’s also about the help and information we can offer.  Let’s face it, there are a million companies out there selling thread and backing (although we’re the premiere distributor for Iris thread in the U.S.) so what makes one company stand out from the rest is the added extras that company brings to the table.

We invite you to experience the added value that EnMart can bring.  We’re sure, once you do, you’ll see the value of being an EnMart customer.

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24th June 2008

Choosing the Right Vendor

In the June 2008 issue of Stitches there is a very interesting article which gives tips on picking the right suppliers for your business.  Making the right choices for vendor partners can have a big impact on the success or failure of your business, and so the choice of vendors is not one to be taken lightly. 

In light of this article, I wanted to talk a bit today about why we think EnMart is a good choice for a supplier partner.  

One of the first things the article mentions is that it is a good idea to do online research before selecting a vendor partner.  EnMart has both an extensive informational website and a store where you can check prices and view the sorts of products we offer.  We also have this blog, which will let you get to know more about the company, the people who work here, and what it might be like to work with us.  We also provide multiple ways to contact us should you have any questions.

EnMart is also backed by over 30 years of embroidery experience.  We know what it’s like when a machine breaks in the middle of a large order.  We’ve worked nights and weekends to get that big order out the door.  We’ve also run millions of miles of thread and dealt with suppliers ourselves.  After 30 years we know what works and what doesn’t work, both in the area of machine embroidery thread and other supplies, and in the area of customer service.   In EnMart, we’ve developed a way to give our customers the benefit of our knowledge and experience, without having to put in 30 years of learning time themselves.

Based on our experience, EnMart is also able to provide tips on how to get the most out of your thread and other supplies, and out of your machines.  Many of the tips are included on our web site or discussed here on this blog.   We also write for industry magazines and newsletters on occasion, so we can share our knowledge with the industry as a whole.  EnMart also employs top notch customer service staff, some who have been with the company almost since the beginning.  These people are able to answer many embroidery questions and can provide assistance to our customers who need help. 

Overall, EnMart is dedicated to customer service.  Our goal is to provide you not only with top notch product, it is to provide you with top notch service.  We will do whatever it takes to make sure our customers are satisfied. 

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19th June 2008

Will Oil Prices Effect Polyester Thread Prices?

These days rising fuel prices seem to be having an effect on everything.  It costs more to fill up your car with gas.  It costs more to heat your home.  Food costs more and package delivery fees have gone up.  Everywhere you look the high cost of fuel is causing prices to rise and as a result is taking a bigger bite out of your budget. 

One area that has not yet been effected by rising fuel costs, but may be soon, is the price of polyester thread.  This type of thread is a petroleum product and the rising cost of oil may well have a negative effect on the cost of the raw materials used to make polyester thread.  For those who don’t know, polyester thread is made from the components that result when crude oil is broken down.  The hydrocarbon that results is mixed with other chemicals and then condensed and extruded.   After the polyester is refined, it is shipped to thread manufacturers for spinning.  Obviously, if crude oil becomes more expensive, than making polyester thread becomes more expensive as well. 

Some manufacturers have already adjusted their prices upward to accommodate the rising cost of petroleum and other raw materials required for manufacturing polyester thread.  These price increases may not have been passed on to you, the end user,  but as the price of petroleum continues to rise,  the cost of selling the thread will rise as well.  That could mean increased costs for consumers.

If you use a large amount of polyester thread, now might be a great time to stock up.  The thread we sell, Iris thread, is still at the price it was at when we began selling it.   As a reminder, we offer polyester machine embroidery thread in 5500 yard cones and 1100 yard spools.

posted in Thread | 2 Comments

17th June 2008

How to Embroider Knit Fabrics

There are many types of fabric that can be embroidered.  Each type has its own characteristics and special needs if your embroidered garment is going to be successful.  Today I want to talk about knit fabrics, which can be a popular and profitable choice for things like golf shirts or polo shirts.   They also, however, are more stretchy than other fabrics, and can provide an unstable surface on which to embroider. If you do a lot of machine embroidery on knit fabrics, some of the tips given below may be of help.

Tip 1:  Make sure you use the proper backing-  Because knit fabrics are stretchy and light, they need a strong foundation if they are to be embroidered successfully.  There is concern that too heavy a backing will be uncomfortable for the wearer and drag the fabric out of shape.  Many embroiderers who embroider knit fabrics choose a mesh backing, like EnMart’s Super Poly Mesh, for use when stitching knit fabrics.

Tip 2:  Digitize Your Design for Knits – Stitches can sink into knit fabric, which is not the look you want your embroidery to have.   A key to stitching a good design into knits is using the proper underlay.  A fill underlay will help keep the stitches on top of fabric where they belong.  It will also add less stitches to the design and less risk of puckering the fabric than increasing the density of the design would do.

Tip 3: Use the Right Needle- Knit fabric is lighter and more porous than other fabrics.  The needle can pass through a knit fabric more easily.   When embroidering knit fabric, you need to use a needle which will not punch large holes through the fabric.  We recommend a ballpoint needle, like EnMart’s Chrome DB-K5BP.

Tip 4:  Choose the Right Design – Generally less dense and weighty designs work best on knit fabric.  A dense design with a lot of stitches may cause the fabric to pucker or pull. 

Here are some additional resources that give additional tips about embroidering knit fabrics:

How to Embroider on Thick, Thin, Stretchy or Stable Materials - Impressions Magazine

Knit Wits, Sew News

Machine Embroidery: A Marriage of Fabric and Design - Threads Magazine

posted in Machine Embroidery Tips | 4 Comments

16th June 2008

Why Companies Should Have Logo Wear

One of the mainstays for many embroidery businesses is corporate logowear.  Many companies, from the gigantic, like Land’s End, to the local embroidery shop down the street, may make a good portion of their profits from creating custom logowear.   Sometimes, getting this business is easy.  The company is accustomed to having logowear and may even have a design already set up.  Other times, you may have to sell your customer on the idea of having logowear before you can sell him or her on the idea that you’re the one to create the logowear.  The question of why companies should have logowear is one we’re going to attempt to answer today.

One reason a company should have logowear is unity.  The companies that work best are the ones where employees feel they are part of a team, and that everyone is working toward the same goal.  Logo wear helps reinforce the team concept.  It also allows individual team members to know who is on their team.  Finally, logo wear allows corporate employees to present a unified appearance to the outside world.  If everyone is wearing the same corporate logo, it is easy to identify who belongs to the team and who does not.

Another reason for your customers to have logo wear is advertising.  An embroidered or screenprinted logo on an employee’s shirt may get worn all over town, giving the business a lot of free advertising.  Easily recognizable logos may also stick in a potential customer’s memory leading them to visit or call the business next time they are in need of that business’s  particular product or service.  The more the logo is seen, the more likely it is to be remembered.

Finally, logo wear makes a great reward or method of recognition.  Many companies have special logo wear categories like jackets which they give to people who have had a certain number of years of service with the company.   Other companies may give out event themed shirts at the annual company party or when the company achieves a certain sales goal. 

The thing to remember about getting a logo wear account is this, the client may not always know what they want or how logo wear can be used.  Having this knowledge yourself and being able to make suggestions about creative ways to use logo wear can turn one order into multiple orders. 

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12th June 2008

Pay It Forward, Pass It Along

If you’re a new embroiderer who is just starting out in the business, there are a lot of resources to help you.  There are blogs, forums, magazine web sites, and small business web sites,  all of which can provide you with information and guidance.  Trade shows can be another great source of information and help, whether you simply walk the show floor or attend a seminar or two.  Organizations like the Small Business Administration or SCORE can match you with a mentor who can guide you through the first few months of starting your business.   If you’re willing to spend the time and do the research you can probably find all the help you need.

Fast forward half a year or a year or two and you’re now an established businessperson.  Your embroidery business is doing well and you’re making a small profit.  You’ve learned a lot and gained a ton of valuable experience.  You’ve probably made a few mistakes as well.  The question is what will you do with what you’ve learned, and how will you pay your debt to those who took the time to help you get where you are.  If you’re interested, I have a few suggestions about how that can be done.

One way you can pass your knowledge along is through a forum or a blog.  I write this blog in hopes that it will help embroiders learn more not only about our company, but about the world of embroidery at large.  I have access to people who have been doing embroidery for over 30 years.  They know a lot and, if I ask the right questions, they can help me help you run your business more efficiently and more profitably.

I also spend part of each day on the T-Shirt Forums.  I’m there partly to learn, it’s a great place to see what embroiderers and screen printers are talking about, and what they want and need.  I also give advice and answer questions.  There is no way I’d claim to have all the answers, but I have learned a few things.   Passing that information along may save someone from making a mistake I’ve made, or may help someone get to success just a little bit faster.  When I was starting out, people helped me.  I now fell an obligation to pay that help back by passing my knowledge along.

Another great way to help others who are just starting out in business is to consider being a mentor.  One way to do that is to join an organization like SCORE.  You might also let your local Chamber of Commerce know that you’d like to mentor someone who is just starting out.  Lots of Chamber of Commerce organizations have Meet and Greets or Business After Hours functions.  These events can be great places to network with others or to meet people who are looking for help and advice.

The main thing to remember, whatever you choose to do, is that doing something is better than doing nothing.  Almost no one ever got to success on his or her own.  If you’ve been helped in the past it’s time to help others now.  The results will be well worth the time it takes.

posted in Machine Embroidery Tips | Comments Off

10th June 2008

Can You “Sell” Your Embroidery?

It’s a fact of life that a part of every business is selling.  If you can’t sell your product, you can’t make any money, and if you can’t make any money, you won’t have a business for long.   For some people, selling their product or service is the hardest part of owning a business.  For others, it’s the best part.  No matter where you fall on this spectrum you will, at some point, have to convince a customer that they want what you have to offer.  Here are a few tips to help you do that.

The first thing you need to do is determine what your company has to offer.  The answer is often more complex than embroidery.  Do you have a digitizer on staff?  Do you have the fastest turnaround in your area?  Do you have many years of embroidery experience?  Many companies will often get multiple quotes for the same job.  Figuring out what features make you the best bargain while helping you stand out from the crowd will go a long way toward helping you secure the job.

 The second thing you need to do is remember that the people you’re selling to may not understand anything about embroidery beyond the fact that it will go on their shirt.  You need to be able to explain the details that your customer needs to know in simple, non-technical language.  You also need to decide what the customer doesn’t need to know.  They may need to know that designs with higher stitch counts cost more because they use more thread.  They probably don’t need to know that designs with higher stitch counts also cost more because they take longer to sew. 

The third thing you need to do is determine what the customer wants to know.  This is where your people skills need to come into play.   Some customers will want to know every detail and may even want to watch you sew a few shirts.  Other customers won’t want to know much of anything beyond what the price will be.  It’s your job as the supplier to figure out where your customer’s comfort level is and to provide information at that level. 

Finally, and this probably goes without saying, you need to make sure you’ll do what you say you’ll do.  This means providing the exact shirts the customer ordered.  It means delivering the order when you said you would deliver it.  One way to generate referrals and to keep customers coming back is to provide service above and beyond what they expect.  If you do that, not only can you sell your embroidery, but you’ll have loyal customers for years to come.

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9th June 2008

Tips for Embroidering with Metallic Thread

As many of you may already know,  EnMart offers Iris Metallic thread in gold and silver.   Today, I wanted to share some tips on how to embroider using metallic thread.  If you want to get the best possible appearance from your metallic embroidery, you need to know the techniques that will help your metallic embroidery go smoothly.

 The first thing you need to understand is that metallic thread is different than ordinary thread.   Metallic threads are generally made with a center core which is wrapped in metal foil.  Metallic thread that is poorly manufactured can be a headache for any machine embroiderer.  Some metallic threads may require special tension settings or thread feeding set-ups to get the best result.  Unlike many metallic threads, we’re proud to say that Iris metallic thread is very easy to use and runs smoothly and easily through most machines.

One tip that will help you get the most out of your Iris Metallic Thread is this:  use a needle that has been specially designed for metallic thread.  Needles that are specially designed for use with metallic thread will help prevent shredding and breakage.  EnMart offers the Chrome DKxK5 90/14 Metallic Needle in packs of 10 or packs of 100 on our web site.

You should also keep in mind that designs which use metallic embroidery thread need to be programmed into your machine correctly.  If your stitch density is too high, you could have breakage.  Stitch length and the fabric into which you are sewing should also be taken into account.

For more tips on embroidering with metallic thread, you should read Impressions Magazine’s “8 Tips for Embroidering with Metallic Thread“.   Using the tips in this article and Iris Metallic Thread should help you achieve trouble free metallic embroidery.

posted in Thread | 1 Comment

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