The custom shirt printing industry is not exactly desperate for new entrants and, on the surface, doesn’t look like it allows for a lot of innovation. And yet Shawna Meyer, co-founder of 24 Hour Tees, looked at the market and saw an opportunity to do things differently—and give customers the experience they deserved.
“A lot of times people come in here and they’re either emotional because of sadness, emotional because of happiness,” says Shawna.
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So 24 Hour Tees—a “mom and pop shop” based on bringing improved customer service and automation to the custom t-shirt industry—was born. Founded in 2013, the company has grown from a boutique shop handling mostly small orders to a sophisticated print design house fulfilling corporate orders for thousands of units. And yet despite this growth, they’re able to manage the business with a total staff of six people. How? By investing in technology.
“What I love so much about 24 Hour Tees is the evolution it’s went through in the last six years since being open,” Shawna says. “We started off as just a paper-pushing-type company, and now we’re very integrated into technology.”
“Our mission has always been to make the process of designing and ordering shirts frictionless and fun for our customers,” says Chais Meyer, Shawna’s husband and business partner. “But as the company grows and the orders get both more frequent and more complex, fulfilling that mission gets trickier.
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The secret to getting instant feedback from customers…
24 Hour Tees has been able to grow exponentially with minimal staff by focusing on two values: providing incredible customer service and automating processes wherever they can. At the heart of both is their communications platform. But it wasn’t always that way—when the business initially launched, they relied on standard landlines. However, after having used RingCentral at a previous job, Chais knew that there were better options out there.
“When we are able to text a customer that we’re waiting on them for something versus sending an email and waiting several days, a text gets a near immediate response and that helps us be as productive as possible. So it’s easy for us at the end of the day to put out 50 unique, 70 unique, orders because of the instant feedback we get from customers.”
These automated personal touches are made possible through use of RingCentral’s API. With the RingCentral API, 24 Hour Tees uses intelligent message routing to send customized messages to customers in response to status requests. “When someone texts in a specific question—for example, ‘What’s my order status?’—our system can do a search of our database for that number, then check to see if that person has an active order and what its status is.”
“Then we can send an immediate response, a pre-written note with our 24 Hour Tees fun tone, which no one in the company has to manually write in that moment. This saves us from needing a call center rep to answer questions like these.”
“I’d estimate this automation with the RingCentral API has saved us the need to hire about four additional full-time employees.”
For the employees that do work at the company, they’re able to focus on work that matters—boosting employee morale and satisfaction. “A lot of people look at automation as some sort of enemy. And I think the reality is we’re automating the stuff that no one wants to do anyway,” says Chais. “We’re automating the things that don’t provide joy to our staff’s life. And I’m happy to let RingCentral take that load.”
“The whole process takes place via text”
For a boutique t-shirt printing shop, 24 Hour Tees has managed to use technology to communicate effortlessly with customers—without needing them to ever set foot in their storefront.
“A lot of times customers have examples, which are really easy to reference, and I can just take that and make a refined version. Our goal is always to make a custom version of what they want, even if it’s something they might’ve found online,” says Molly, one of the designers on staff.
“The whole process takes place via text. By sending them an example, we have an approval link system in place where they can see the example and then request a change. So they can just type out a modification, but that whole link is texted to them. And then when they put it in, it’s like “Great, we’re going to make your modification.” That’s an automated text. And then when I send them that revised version, again, it just texts them again, “Here’s that updated version, let us know what you think.” And that’s a lot of stuff I do not have to do manually, except manually design.”
24 Hour Tees uses RingCentral’s automated business SMS to overcommunicate with customers, guiding them through every step of the journey. “As soon as they leave, they get a text on their phone, letting them know that we got the order. They feel as if we’re communicating with them through the entire process,” says Shawna.
“They always have a sense of knowing where the order is being placed at, whether it’s going into the design process, whether it’s being approved, mocked up for printing, going through the printing process, whether it’s completed, whether it’s ready to be picked up. Thanks to RingCentral and all of our integrations, they know exactly what’s happening through the entire process.”
Providing customers with these updates doesn’t just help keep them informed, it builds a stronger relationship between them and the 24 Hour Tees brand—something that pays off with customer referrals.
“Word of mouth marketing is probably one of our best at this point in our business, and has always been. And so if we can get the customers talking really great about us and how easy the process was, how we were very creative, and we helped through the entire process, then that’s the best thing for us with customer service.”
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What advice would you give yourself if you could turn time back?
“Advice I would have given myself 12 years ago, I’d say don’t be scared of cloud-based software. Don’t be scared of automation. It’s a very small learning curve, and once you get through that learning curve, you can be an artist with business systemization. If you want to be efficient as a business, you have to systemize. There is no way. And if you want to efficiently systemize, you have to automate, and those things are critical to small and medium business success,” says Chais.
By putting RingCentral at the center of their business, 24 Hour Tees has been able to drive business growth, reduce overheard, and bring joy into the lives of customers and staff alike.
“Part of our mission as 24 Hour Tees is to provide joy to our customers on a daily basis. If we are unable to provide joy to them, then what is the point of a customer working with us? Any one of our interactions that is either manual or automated needs to be high, positive, pleasant. It needs to leave a positive taste in our customer’s mouth. So if we can provide joy to our customers, provide joy to our team, then we all win.”
Originally published Apr 24, 2020, updated Aug 23, 2021