Printing Rush Orders: You Want It When?

Screen Printing Rush Orders

Every t-shirt printing shop is faced with a client who "needs it yesterday!"

Every t-shirt printing shop is faced with a client who "needs it yesterday!" My sarcastic answer is, "Then why don't you order it tomorrow?" Balancing between keeping your customers happy, & keeping your staff from quitting isn't easy. And this is an all-to-often business reality for any print and imaging company. Rush orders can throw any production shop, weather it is a traditional screen printing, embroidery, or direct-to-garment operation into chaos. Speeding a job through, and jumping other orders, puts pressure on your art department and printers to complete the scheduled jobs, along with the new rush order. Your sales staff has to quickly handle a demanding customer. Your usually peaceful and happy print factory turns into a hive of angry wasps with short fuses. Still, if handled properly, rush orders can provide extra profit and generate solid customer loyalty. It's simply good business to accommodate what we know is absolutely inevitable in the imprinted sportswear business.

Here are our 5 "Rush Order Rules":

Only take the order if you can deliver.

Sometimes, you just can't fit that emergency print order in the schedule. Trying to do so will cause more problems than the order is worth. Bringing your staff in on the decision will show that you value them and their opinion. It's better to turn a customer down with an honest apology than face them with an unfinished job, and lose their business forever.

Evaluate job realistically.

A standard rush fee might sound great at first, but what will it really cost you to get the job done? Will you have overtime costs if you can't do it during regular hours? Do you have everything you need on hand, or will you have to overnight a bucket of special lime green plastisol ink? Do you have to stop other production to make new screens? Or are you slow enough that a rush won't be any problem at all? Always tailor your rush charges to the job.

Use your customer relationships to make everyone happy.

Can you accommodate a rush order by pushing another order back? Start with your rush customer, do they have other jobs in house they might be willing to wait a little longer to get? If not, do you have another client that would benefit from a small discount in exchange for a longer wait? Shifting jobs around can take a lot of pressure off your staff.

Money isn't everything.

When the order comes in at 2:00 pm and the customer needs it by dinnertime, it's okay to triple the price, tack on an extra fee, and request custody of their first born child. You're providing some truly extraordinary service and your customer knows it. If you get two whole days to do the job, don't gouge your customer. Cover your additional costs with a small fee - and remember, you'll earn more in the long run by making that customer happy. And...blasphemy...if you can do the occasional job with no extra charges... Do it. Your customer will stick with you forever and say nice things about you to everyone they meet.Finally, treat your crew to pizza once in awhile. Showing extra appreciation for their work makes a little chaos easier to handle.

Wrangle the bears.

Rush orders should be the exception, not the rule. Eventually, most clients will need one and you will need to accommodate them. However, some customers will take unfair advantage of the service. Chronic rush orders from the same client will eventually feel like a hostage negotiation between you and your staff.Sit down with your client and explain your standard production time. Find out why everything is a last minute rush for them. You might be able to save the relationship by offering suggestions, designing an order form for them, or helping them install a calendar app on their phone. Sometimes they simply aren't aware they are causing a problem. If they can't (or won't) submit orders that work with your schedule, weigh the value of the client. Someone that does high volume and happily pays extra might be worth adjusting your idea of "rush". A customer that wants everything in three hours flat, and with a discount, might need a referral list of other shops. Don't be afraid to fire a client to keep your staff happy. It can be done respectfully by saying you don't feel you can accommodate their needs properly - sometimes firing a client is worthwhile.

Until someone actually invents a time machine, rush orders will continue. Mastering the screen and/or digital print order will keep your staff, your clients, and your accountant happy.

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