Why we should be listening to our clients' wants

I’ve been in print production for over seven years at a manual press shop that has since added transfers and DTG to the mix. In that time, we have had countless clients ask us to do the impossible to get something they wanted. Not “needs” like having an order in a week or a sleeve print. But “wants”, like two shirts with five colors or next day printing. And because of expense or lack of knowledge or innovation, we had to pass on those jobs. The ones we didn’t pass on usually ended up losing us money.

But I always listened to our clients when we had to pass. And you can guarantee I cataloged where we were losing money.


The reason was simple: people were going to keep asking for these services. And rather than stagnating and complaining about the audacity of our clients not seeing or doing things our way, it made sense to look for solutions that solved both our problems.


We added DTG as an answer to the increasing number of people asking for one-offs, wanting a web store with no upfront cost, and needing to add one-piece to a completed order. The cost was not exactly chump change for our small shop, but when we checked the notes we were keeping, we found that it was costing so much more not to innovate. The choice became easy at that point.

Before we added DTG, there was talk about adding an automatic press. But again, our clients weren’t giving us orders that an automatic press would serve. By listening to what they were saying we instead focused on lowering our set-up times and working toward turning around low-quantity orders quicker and with better quality. Our existing customers told us not only how to keep them happy but how to get more work.

But we had to listen.


The dynamic we fall into by default is to view the print game as a conflict. That leads to defensive thinking on both sides.

I believe there should be a certain level of tension. We shouldn’t be willing to chase fads or change our core beliefs simply because one client has a problem. Not having a foundation is dangerous and make it difficult to instill standards for employees.

That doesn’t mean, however, that the tension has to lead to a stalemate. Instead, by being willing to change based off the needs at hand rather than sticking to the comfortable because it’s comfortable, we can do some cool things in the future.


What is something you pushed your shop to do because you kept your ear to the ground? I would love if you left your thoughts in the comments.

Thank you for your time and attention.