Customer Service has come up a lot lately both here on GoingPro and on my blog at SkipsPhotoNetwork.com. As I recently wrote to the president of Time Warner, for the second time in my life, it got me thinking about how customer service in America is a dying concept.
Just think about my Time Warner issue and how frustrated I must have been to write to the president of the company. I’m so tired of talking to people in India, the Philippines and Guatemala. I understand the cost benefits for the companies going outside the US, but what I don’t understand is their inability to understand how damaging it is to their brand!
I recently shredded my AirTran Visa with Barclay Bank because I couldn’t get them to understand a credit I never received from a retailer. They put me through the process for six months until finally issuing a $79 credit! At one point a woman in the Philippines actually hung up on me for using the word “stupid”. I told her that not having the ability to send her a copy of my receipt, showing the credit via email because they didn’t have email was “stupid”. She did warn me…
“If you say bad things about our company again I will hang up on you!” Well, that was all I needed and the word “stupid” somehow snuck into my vocabulary. I accept that I’m going to hell for using the “s” word, but honestly – this is customer service basics and I’m tired of so many of these phone reps never attending class!
So, here’s how to take my rant this morning and apply it to your own business. Photography is a service business and if you can exceed customer expectations no matter what the issue, we, as an industry, just might be able to raise the bar for the rest of the world. If nothing else you’ll stand out from a lot of other companies in your community.
Think about all the choices consumers have today and especially your clients. Here are four simple tips to help make you a star:
Fast response time: When somebody contacts you, how quickly do they hear back from you?
When they do hear back do they get a custom response or what looks like a form letter/email? Custom responses will always score higher and a personal phone call will really go a long way.
Does your website provide a way for a client to call you directly? We’re all bored with responses that lack any personality or originality. Give your clients a way to talk to you personally. Ansel Adams was legendary when it came to answering his own phone. I’ve heard so many stories about people who called to ask a question about a workshop, for example, and wound up talking to Ansel himself. You need to put yourself out there.
When you have a “screamer”, is your initial intent to duck the problem or do you tackle it immediately? The most disarming approach to any unhappy client is to be proactive. Sure, there are some people you can never make happy, but when you know they’re upset, there’s nothing that beats a direct phone call with an opening greeting of “I understand you have some concerns, how can I help?”
Think about the retailers where you enjoy shopping. What are the ingredients making you want to spend your money at one store, but not another? Pay attention to how you’re treated, the presentation of the products you shop for and the attitude of the sales staff. At those stores where you love to shop you’ll find a common formula for success to apply to your own business.
These days it’s as much about the service you provide as it is being competitive in your pricing and products offered, but great service will win out every time! Tony Corbell talks about his attitude when he first started as a professional photographer, “I may not have been the best photographer in town, but I was determined to be the nicest!”
There are dozens of ways to stand out, not just in customer service, but in community involvement, presentations, your website, newsletter, special events and the list goes on and on. We’ll be talking about all of these and more at Skip’s Summer School when Melissa Ghionis kicks off the workshop with some ideas on state-of-the-art Customer Service and being proactive instead of reactive.
See you at Summer School!
This post sponsored by Album Epoca