Daily Wire Tip: Customer Satisfaction

By on November 27, 2009
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Daily Wire Jewelry Making Tip

Question:

If taking an order for a custom piece, when finished, it isn’t what the client wanted, how do you charge for your labor and supplies, other than saying upfront it isn’t refundable.  I try to guarantee client satisfaction and this can become an issue.

Answer:

I agree that this is a difficult situation, however if you are ‘up-front’ and firm about your ‘custom order’ policies, your client should appreciate your honesty. One sure way to state your custom order policy is to either print it on the reverse of a few business cards that you hold back just for this type of order, or on a separate card with your contact info that you can give to a client. My personal policy is to take full payment, which guarantees my customer that I will pay for any necessary shipping and insurance, and that I cannot refund their money if they don’t like what they have agreed to, until I actually sell the piece they had me create just for them.

The best way I can respond to your question is based upon my experience. This is how I personally take a custom order (which is also what I teach my personal students). Use a triplicate order pad. Have the customer fill in their personal info, including shipping/mailing address, phone numbers and if available their email. I then write out exactly what the customer would like (based on our conversation) including what metal(s), their stone or mine, their preferred style (if possible, the name of a piece I may already have that they like, which I also take a picture of with my cell phone in case it sells) what embellishments they prefer if any, and a quick sketch. I then go over their order in detail again, jot the approximate delivery date on the form, and when they are satisfied I have them sign the order slip. I add my contact info to the bottom and give them the top/original order slip as well as my card. When their order is finished, I include the second slip with their order when I either deliver it by hand or ship it to them. (If shipping the item, I also call or email this customer to let them know their order is on the way, with the tracking numbers.)

And before you ask, yes I have had a customer who was not happy with her order and I did send her a refund check when I sold the item about seven months later, along with a thank-you for her interest in my work. She has since become a regularly returning client.

Answer contributed by Dale “Cougar” Armstrong

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27 Comments

  1. avatar

    Debi Woods

    November 27, 2009 at 11:15 am

    Hello,
    I used to do the same way. But one time I was at a week long show and was taking orders and making the items there. I had an order for a necklace set, and when it was finished, the man did not want it.
    My tent was full of customers, and when the man walked out, I had 4 people offer to buy the set. I sold that set, and made 6 other sets that day.
    I realized that it did not matter if the original people took the jewelry they ordered, I was going to sell it anyway.
    So now I will take the order, make it, and if they do not take it, it does not matter. Your items will sell.
    Hope this also helps you out.

  2. avatar

    Audrey johnson

    November 27, 2009 at 12:29 pm

    On your answer to the question how do charge fo labor and supplies and the customer is not satisfied. What if I have a 100% guarantee of my customers satisfaction on a custom order? They are not satisfied and want a refund. Is it right for me to keep payment for my labor and supplies?

    • avatar

      dalecgr

      November 28, 2009 at 9:44 am

      Hi Audrey,
      If you have a ‘100% Customer Satisfaction’ guarantee with regards to a custom order and your client is not happy with their order, morally I would say that you have to follow your own ‘set’ guarantee which means eating the cost of a specialty piece they are not pleased with, until you actually sell it to someone else. If you are in the habit of taking a lot of expensive custom orders, my advice would be to change your policy.
      Dale/Cgr

      • avatar

        Karen N

        February 28, 2012 at 9:08 am

        Would it be appropriate to charge a certain percent as a restocking fee and put that in your policy. If you have your own website and they order online you could have a box that they check that they understand.

        • avatar

          dalecgr

          February 28, 2012 at 9:19 am

          That is definitely an option, Karen (other stores do it). Good thoughts, thanks!

  3. avatar

    Beth Johnston

    November 29, 2009 at 11:29 am

    How do we handle it if the stone was brought in by the customer? Can’t really hold on to their stone for months and often replacing it is not possible because it has some sentimental value. I had this happen and ended up with a lot of scrap gold with no stone.

    • avatar

      dalecgr

      November 29, 2009 at 11:40 am

      For Beth,
      I do quite a bit of specialty work using items customers bring me. Fortunately I have not yet had this situation occur, but you did make me think about how I would handle things if it were to happen. I am going to have to reword my ‘custom order’ policy to say something like: ‘if you are not satisfied with the finished item, you will still be responsible for the cost of materials used in its production, and your item will be returned to you immediately after paying for such material cost.’ I cannot honestly say that I will charge for my labor, as most often custom pieces require a learning curve that I do not charge for anyhow (as I consider that a type of profit for me). Thanks for making me think this morning!
      Dale/Cgr

  4. avatar

    Elaine Gill

    February 28, 2012 at 7:46 am

    Good information…thank you! Has anyone ever charged a deposit on this type of special order if they feel unsure if the customer is serious about their order?

    • avatar

      dalecgr

      February 28, 2012 at 9:15 am

      As I mentioned, Elaine, personally I require payment in full for a custom order.
      Dale

  5. avatar

    DeLane

    February 28, 2012 at 8:07 am

    Dale, Thanks for making ME think, too. I have always had the 100 percent customer satisfaction policy. Luckily, I have only had one unhappy customer, and was glad to refund his money after a second attemp at making his piece work. My custom pieces are often their stones. So now, I’m going back and re-think the policy. AND I’m going to publish it plus post it in the display area. I also have forms in dupicate for custom orders, and the disclaimer will have to go on there, too. At the current cost of materials, jewelry artists cannot afford to do otherwise than ask for partial payment, or refund only upon sale of custom item. I usually ask for a 50 percent downpayment, the remainder upon completion. That has worked for me. Again, thanks for the thoughtful post.

    • avatar

      dalecgr

      February 28, 2012 at 9:16 am

      Happy to help, DeLane, and thanks for sharing your policies!

    • avatar

      Gina

      February 28, 2012 at 10:37 pm

      These have all been good things to know. My custom order policy reads “50% non-refundable deposit” that way my materials are mostly covered. I think I will add “until item is sold”. That sounds more customer friendly.
      Thanks again.

  6. avatar

    Kathleen

    February 28, 2012 at 8:10 am

    Thank you soooo much ALL of you, All of these ideas will come in handy for different situations. I’ve been making and selling jewelry for 5 years now and only had two occasions of this. One of which the customer was sent refund because she didn’t like it and because I knew her, I mailed the refund because she said she was sending the custom ring back. Well for some one who didn’t like it, she never sent it back. I’m a dummy with a lesson learned there for sure. She is no longer a jewelry client. But I will keep all these things in mind for the future.

    • avatar

      dalecgr

      February 28, 2012 at 9:17 am

      Sadly Kathleen, the most trouble I have heard from folks is with customers they thought they “knew”! Hard life lessons.

  7. avatar

    Moraima Annandsingh

    February 28, 2012 at 9:09 am

    Thank you for all the advices I read today, I will take notice of them, because these are things that had happened to me also, and as the first friend say: “it will be sell” but it take time.

    Thank you to all

    Moraima

  8. avatar

    Robin Burns

    February 28, 2012 at 9:56 am

    I’ve been an accountant for many years and would suggest keeping that original (top) version of the 3-part order form for your own records. In the extremely rare event that it comes to a small claims situation you would have the customer’s original signature in hand, not a copy. The first carbon copy would be quite clear enough for the customer’s reference when the order is placed, and the second copy to be sent with the order when it’s completed. You would be working from the original as well, which would be the clearest version. Some great suggestions here, and something for me to think about in my own jewelry business!

    • avatar

      dalecgr

      February 29, 2012 at 9:34 am

      Excellent advice Robin! Thanks so much for giving all of us a “heads-up”, we really appreciate you sharing :)

  9. avatar

    Samantha Graybill

    February 28, 2012 at 10:40 am

    One time I did not get a payment in full before I made a custom order for a customer but I did tell her the cost of the item with sales tax. When the custom came to pick up her item, she loved it but began explaining to me she didn’t have enough money and wanted to negotiate the price of the piece. I took a few dollars less for the piece but learned a valuable lesson.

  10. avatar

    Dorothy

    February 28, 2012 at 11:30 pm

    Thanks so much for this discussion. So far, I haven’t had many custom orders, and those customers for whom I’ve done custom work have been happy with the end result. With the jewelry already made, it’s all sales final, unless there’s a flaw in the construction. But I’ve never had anyone ask to return something, so I’m happy to have this information to consider before it happens.

  11. avatar

    Ellen

    February 29, 2012 at 9:17 am

    Wow! all of this is such good information. I know I will be changing some things on my Policy Page. Does anyone have a form template to use to print up the policy and discalimer and add to their order when I send their piece to them. That way. they also have a reminder right there when they open the piece.

  12. avatar

    Pam

    April 10, 2012 at 12:48 pm

    I too would be interested in a form template. Great ideas and experience shared here. Thanks y’all.

  13. avatar

    Alice Ryan

    September 18, 2012 at 9:38 pm

    I googled “return policy” and found a free form at docstoc.com from Deans Art in Australia that they are sharing as a template. It would be relatively simple to make it fit anyone’s jewelry business, including the ideas mentioned in all these wonderful messages. Hope it helps some of you.

  14. avatar

    Gail Chambers

    October 23, 2012 at 6:48 am

    Dale, What good advice. I, too, have been in this situation. In fact, I was busy at the time with other clients and thought my customer’s request would be an easy one, so I had her fill out the information, including email. I didn’t take payment of any kind, as it wasn’t an expensive piece she requested. ugh…After I searched for days for the just the right materials and made the piece, I couldn’t find her. She just wouldn’t respond. The lesson for me was to not get in a hurry when my booth is full. Now I take full payment and tell the client that each piece is an individual and custom pieces have a no return policy. I do, however, like the idea that they can return it for refund when it sells. Thanks.

  15. avatar

    Vivian Liotta

    December 16, 2014 at 12:42 pm

    I am new to all of this I am taking a college class for making jewelry. The info offered is so good I know I can use it when I really get started.

  16. avatar

    Chrissi

    December 30, 2014 at 4:46 pm

    I had a customer wanted me to custom make a set of 12 in cast silver pieces – I couldn’t cast them myself as I hadn’t the equipment so I had to cover that too- she never came back nor could I ever contact her on any of the numbers I took from her-and I had quite a few repairs and alterations went that way too – as well as one the woman took one look and decided I could keep it- After I’d bought stones specially to match those she lost from the original ring and to her request – with repairs though can you ask for deposits ? as after all you have their goods

  17. avatar

    Barb

    February 16, 2016 at 9:03 am

    Thanks so much for all the helpful tips. I especially enjoy doing custom work and will create a policy statement.

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