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If the service fits
Feature: 4/3/2010

 

hen garment suppliers win new contracts it is often after exhaustive tendering and hard-fought negotiations over price. It goes without saying that quality matters but in these rather tight economic times customers are looking for more innovations. And it is crucial that suppliers realise that their would-be customers are not just looking for innovation in the products. The fresh “blue sky’’ thinking should also apply to the service that is being offered.


It has often been the case that a good product at the right price has been the key to a deal. And it is probably fair to say that while that has been the way of our business in the past and the present, it may continue to be so in the future. But to an increasing degree, the service offered – and anything unique about that service – can make or break a deal.


While it may sound obvious, it sometimes bears repeating. If you want to win a deal you have to be better than your rivals. Product, price and service are the arenas in which you are doing battle. And if you want the thumbs up from a potential customer you have to ensure you are as strong on service as you are on product and price.


When a potential customer is about to make a decision between equally matched suppliers, there has to be something on offer that distinguishes you from your competitors. And by making sure your service is innovative and cost effective, you can help make that distinction between yourselves and your rivals in the field.


Recent advances in uniform web ordering now mean that employees can be presented with their uniform online. Once they have selected their sizes and quantities, they can be guaranteed that their uniform will be ordered and dispatched as agreed. They can even track their order online.


Of course, to be able to do this they need to be able to access the internet and know their sizes. So here’s the rub. How many men actually know their sizes? I know it sounds sexist, but for many men it’s their wife or partner that has historically bought their clothes.


It’s also a fact that some people prefer a larger size in some garments, typically outerwear, but smaller sizes in items that require a snug fit, such as light thermal styles. This means that it can be difficult to get these online orders right first time around without a good knowledge of both size and garment characteristics. So while web ordering of uniforms certainly makes sense and can achieve great savings there is also the need for accurate size information to be used. Otherwise exchanges and returns just go sky high, countering any efficiency and simplicity advantages gained by having online ordering.


To get over this issue, some suppliers offer a sizing kit. But this can, of course, cost more money, especially if many locations or depots are involved. And it is not ideal if rivals offer a sizing service as part of the contract.


Those suppliers not wanting to commit to sizing kits have traditionally, as part of their contract, offered a sizing service whereby every employee is personally measured and this information used as the basis for their uniform size selection. This process can involve many onsite visits, followed by form filling and orders being typed in back at base. The result is an order that takes days or weeks rather than hours.


 

With more and more customers demanding both better service and faster uniform issue to their frontline employees, there has been a demand for an alternative way of doing things. After all, you would not expect an employee to start work without a uniform. And this is critically important where the employee is the public face of a company. So time to issue really does need to be measured in hours rather than days.

At ApparelGMS we provide Apparel users with fully-integrated web ordering and back of office uniform order processing. We can pull orders straight off the web into Apparel without any retyping, and get the whole processing of embroidering and personalisation automated to completion in minutes, rather than hours. But we realised more could be done to make on-site measuring a slicker operation.

Many mobile phones are like PDAs, as they offer easy-to-use touch screens and seamless synchronised data exchange. They also offer the benefit of being cheap to buy and run. For this reason, we realised that we could offer a solution that would allow mobile measuring and garment ordering to be done on-site at the same time - with the garment order going straight from the phone into Apparel within seconds.

This not only saves time at the point of measurement, it also eliminates any form filling and manual order processing. Each uniform order can be confirmed in seconds and the full records of each order can be transferred from the mobile and retained for order tracking and delivery information.

Suppliers want to win new orders. They can do this by offering a better service. And by going mobile they can reduce sizing mistakes and speed up garment creation and delivery. And that is the kind of service that wins customers.

 

Graham Helliwell

Author: Catherine Christie
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