Tag Archives: customer service

Real World Real Lessons: A Customer Service Example for Photographers

Earlier this week at SkipsPhotoNetwork.com I published a post about Matthew Jordan Smith’s new site, built by SmugMug. The site looks terrific, but what I liked most about it was the process. It wound up being a fitting reminder of how we all need to pay attention to every aspect of our business, especially the customer service side.

Like every post I write, there were a few different lessons to pay attention to:

*Matthew made it a point to be directly involved in the development of his site. So often I’ve heard from photographers who didn’t feel it was their job to really get involved. They told the developer what they wanted and then ceased to be there. In the end they were disappointed. They didn’t allocate the time the project really deserved for their personal input.

*SmugMug spent a lot of time listening to Matthew and what he wanted. In the same respect, you have to listen to your clients. Don’t assume you understand them and know what they want.

*Matthew has been listening closely to his clients and understood exactly what they wanted. He built a site that served their needs not his. If anything, he recognized their needs WERE his needs.  Remember Dean Collins’ old favorite, “Beauty is in the eyes of the checkbook holder!”

*Last on the list, SmugMug finished the project not only on time but ahead of schedule. They exceeded Matthew’s expectations.  You’ve got to do the same with every client. Give them more than they asked for – learn to exceed their expectations and you’ll become habit-forming!

Professional photography is a word of mouth business and nothing spreads faster than the words of a happy satisfied client! Your goal is to make every client an ambassador for your business!
This post sponsored by Album Epoca

Photographers: Four Tips for Great Customer Service

Think about all the choices consumers have today and especially your clients. If you’re not taking an aggressive role to exceed every client’s expectations then you’re missing a serious opportunity to grow your business. 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 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.

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! Our good buddy, 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, but there is no substitute for terrific customer service.

“If you work just for money, you’ll never make it, but if you love what you’re doing and you always put the customer first, success will be yours!” Ray Kroc, founder of McDonalds

This post sponsored by Album Epoca

Real World Real Lessons for Photographers: All It Takes Is a Smile

A few months back I was in NYC and while standing and waiting for my security clearance for a meeting it seemed to take forever. I was getting pretty irritated and impatient to get going.  The security guard looked at me and said, “You know it takes twice the muscles to frown than it does to smile?”

Okay, so I didn’t believe him and hit Google.  The actual count, according to Snopes is 37 to frown and 22 to smile!  So at least we can all be accurate when we use the expression it takes more work to frown than to smile.

At the risk of sounding like I’m trying to be SNL’s Deep Thoughts by Jack Handy…think about the response you get with a smile and a little laughter.  It’s the number one biggest secret in great customer service – just being able to empathize with your customer.   The angriest of customers can be often be neutralized with a just smile and a little kindness.

We all know the customer isn’t always right and your customers know that as well, but so often they’re only looking for somebody to listen to their concerns.   One angry customer today has the power to influence thousands of other people in forums, blogs, tweets and wall posts.  You don’t have to give in all the time, but you do have to listen.

Think about recent challenges you may have had with a client and then do an inventory of your customer service skill set. Are you listening more than talking? Are you smiling and projecting empathy? Did you do everything you could to resolve the challenge?

With businesses, you go to the same places because you like the service, you like the people and they take care of you. They greet you with a smile. That’s how people want to be treated, with respect. That’s what I tell my employees. Customer service is very important. 

Magic Johnson

A customer is the most important visitor on our premises, he is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption in our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider in our business. He is part of it. We are not doing him a favor by serving him. He is doing us a favor by giving us an opportunity to do so. 

Mahatma Gandhi

Only on the Internet could you find quotes from Magic Johnson and Gandhi that say the same thing!

This post sponsored by Adorama – More than a camera store

Are You Leaving Potential Customers Out In The Cold?

Warning: In this post, I intend to be rather harsh because sometimes you need stiff medicine.

I hear all sorts of news about how bad the economy is. But why? Could it be because we live in a world where people have been trained to think they deserve a trophy simply because they showed up to 90% of the games?

From the experiences I have, the economy is slow – no doubt. But the reason it is slow might just have more to do with lazy, untrained, under-educated, unmotivated, self-important, and unfocused business owners and employees than anything else. And that’s a shame. Because there’s no excuse for it.

Here are some examples. A year ago last week I moved to Las Vegas. In the course of that move I bought a house, rented commercial space, bought several cars, furnished my new house, found a new dry cleaner, doctor, dentist, etc. I hired or bought from more than 100 new vendors in this process and came away generally feeling like few of them cared about earning my business.

If the economy is so bad, you’d assume that people would jump at the chance to get new clients. Here I presented myself ready and able to buy, and had lots of trouble even getting vendors to return phone calls, let alone do the jobs they promised to do on time and on budget.

I was in a nice restaurant – not a fast food place and within a time frame of less than 30 seconds, the waitress had to ask me for my order three times. She simply couldn’t muster enough concentration to remember one simple thing for 10 seconds.

I bought a non-stop plane ticket from Las Vegas to Seattle and my luggage was shipped to Rome!

I could go on but you get the point. I am sure these things happen to you daily. It’s as if we’re caught in the 2007 movie Idiocracy.

From car dealers who sold cars they knew nothing about to drapery installers who failed to make appointments, I came away with the distinct impression that it’s not the economy – it’s that we suck!

How does this apply to professional and emerging photographers? Simple. DON’T SUCK! Be the one business that actually cares about its customers. You’ll stand out that way. Return phone calls promptly. Know your product. Understand and be good at your craft. Think about your prospects’ needs ahead of your own. Keep your appointments no matter what. Develop policies and procedures that make it super easy for your clients to do business with you. FOCUS. PAY ATTENTION. DO YOUR JOB. DO IT WELL. Don’t fall into the trap of mediocrity. You don’t get a trophy for just showing up. You get a trophy for winning.

This post sponsored by Album Epoca

Somebody Just Fired Their Photographer

(And I Changed Dry Cleaners Today)

Okay I get that these two items don’t seem related but I promise they are.

You see, customer service (or lack thereof) caused both. I have no details on the first event. I just know that everyday, somebody, somewhere, decides their photographer isn’t cutting the mustard so they replace that person with someone new.

Just as yesterday I decided that the dry cleaner I was using wasn’t all that interested in my business so I switched.

Is this a big deal? Not to me. But the fact is, I dry clean just about all my clothes. I spend hundreds of dollars a month on this. The guy who just lost my business lost that income. While I can find a dry cleaner on every corner, there are only so many customers.

I can tell you that had he worked harder to keep my business, i.e., if he had better business hours, payment policies and had friendlier, more attentive staff, I might have stayed. I spent 14 years using the same dry cleaner in Gig Harbor. I am looking for that kind of relationship in my new home.

The same thing goes for photography. If your policies aren’t meeting your prospects’ needs, then they will find someone who will meet their needs. I guarantee it.

While most of you think you won’t make it as pros because your work isn’t good enough or it’s priced too high, neither is the case. In most cases, you’ll miss the opportunity because your business, marketing and sales skills are unsatisfactory.

There’s still time for you to do something about it. My dry cleaner missed the boat. He can’t get me back and I am off to try someone else today. Make sure that isn’t happening to you too.

This post sponsored by Adorama – More than a camera store

Photographers – 
Mind Your Manners

Guest Post by Catherine Hall Follow Catherine on Twitter

My mom is a typical Southern belle from North Carolina – and she always carries herself with impeccable grace and greets everyone with genuine warmth and a smile. And like every Southern lady worth her salt, she never stands for poor manners – and my siblings and I would get a serious tongue-lashing if we ever misbehaved. Her ability to maintain grace, empathize and stay above it all has greatly influenced how I run my photography business.

I love the latest gadgets – and strive to learn more about the fast-changing photography world daily. When running my business, however, I prefer not to forget old-fashioned values. The world might have changed, but people’s desire for high quality and a trustworthy service provider remains the same. Here are a few old-school values that have helped me in my life and my business:

Build long-term relationships
When you build relationships for the long term, you build a reputable brand and the client base to support it. Too many businesses worry more about profit margins than the people they serve. If you take care of your clients, they will recommend you to friends and family and support the growth of your business. I firmly believe that the real proof of a successful business is when you consistently exceed client expectations creating outspoken “evangelists” for your company. A referral truly is the greatest compliment and strongest marketing tool.

Make something that lasts forever
My mom has an exquisite jewelry box that she’s had on her dresser for as long as I can remember. I love new things and I’m not big on nostalgia. But I do miss craftsmanship, where every item was a work of art and a result of dedication and conscientious effort.  A lot of photographers are influenced by current trends of retouching, which seem really cool at the time of production, but your clients end up with images that might not stand the test of time. Be conscious of the difference between innovative advancements and passing trends to create timeless art that you can be proud of – 2, 5, 30 years on.

This seems like a no-brainer, but sometimes, we allow our ego or impatience to get the best of ourselves. You might not understand the specific needs of your client so take the time to listen. Then, reflect on what they are saying so you can understand things from their perspective. The key is communication and finding a solution that works for both your business and the client.

Honesty – still the best policy
We live in an age where people are fed so much data and so many sales pitches that in many ways, they’ve become jaded and skeptical. Be honest and completely transparent in all client communication (or all communication for that matter). Communicate your style of photography and pricing to the client, and you will attract the right people. You should not compromise on your style of photography or the value of your work for the sake of gaining a new client.

All these old-fashioned values require you to treat people with respect and recognize that you have to take time to nurture client relationships. Treat your client the way you wish to be treated – and you will not only build better and long-lasting client relationships, you will also build a better public perception of your brand.
This Post Sponsored by Animoto

Step by Step: The Art of Customer Service for Professional Photographers

There’s nobody on the planet who at one time or another hasn’t had a fight with one of the major corporations in our lives. The most common are the phone and cable companies, but here’s a different way to look at the challenges. Each bad experience is a lesson in helping you understand how to work with your own customers.

I’ve often wondered if customer service is simply dead in America. Then, I have something amazing happen that restores my faith in humanity. Okay “humanity” is maybe going a little too far, but how about “retail”?

We’re big fans of balsamic vinegar and last December we got a gift from a company called Old Town Oil in Chicago. Well, our oil and vinegar supply finally ran out and I decided to check out the company and go on line. I found what I needed, but wasn’t sure if it was the same products we’d had.

I called and got all my questions answered along with a few great suggestions for other products. I placed the order on line and seconds later had a welcome email, followed by an order confirmation and information on future orders and setting up my own personal data base with the company.

Between the outstanding response to my phone call and the email confirmations along with the quality of Old Town Oil’s products, I’m completely hooked. It got me thinking about the ingredients for great customer service:

•    Exceed expectations!
•    Be cheerful! I know it sounds basic, but you can tell when somebody is smiling, even on a phone call.
•    Give people the answers to the questions they’re asking.
•    Make your customers feel like their order, no matter how small it might be, is important. They need to feel you value their business.
•    Always give them more information than what they ask for. Disney is the best at this. I know I’ve written once before about it. If you ask any Disney staff member “When is the electric light parade?” They’ll not only answer you, but they’ll give you a great suggestion on where to watch it. Be engaging!

We all have things that make us feel good about our shopping experiences. For example, you can buy the same Polo shirt at Macy’s or Nordstrom’s, but think about what makes people enjoy shopping at one store versus the other.

Now, take those same ingredients and apply them to your photography business! Obviously the quality of your images has to be outstanding, but don’t underestimate the power of providing a great experience for your clients! It’s the greatest tool you have to separate yourself from your competitors.

“Your customers won’t love you if you give bad service, your competitors will.” Kate Zabiskie
This Post Sponsored by Animoto – Buy One Month Get Two Free – Limited Time Only