My career is built on a foundation of respect for Customer Service. In the 70’s I was in Polaroid Customer Service when the first SX-70 cameras had a 300% defect rate. We offered walk-in service, phone support, written responses and if all else failed roving-rep calls. A roving rep call was essentially a house-call by a rep to help a consumer understand how to use the camera.
But you’re not dealing with a 300% defect rate on your images. So, here are some ideas on how to avoid anything that feels catastrophic:
• Always answer your phone quickly and with a smile. You can tell, even on the phone, when somebody is smiling and willing to help you.
• Listen, listen, listen! Before you assume what the problem is, give your customers a chance to vent. This is where you get to empathize, and it can be as easy as just starting out the conversation with: “I can’t blame you for being upset. Let’s see what I can do to help.”
• Respond quickly to email, letters and even callbacks you have to make to clients. It’s human nature always to assume silence is bad. When a consumer doesn’t hear back from you quickly, frustration starts to build. Don’t let your clients think something is wrong just because you haven’t responded.
• Come up with valuable solutions. When you do have a problem, resolve it with ways you know your client will feel value.
• Delegate authority! If you have staff, give them the authority to make decisions in resolving issues. Giving them the authority will speed up closure and increase customer satisfaction.
• NEVER argue with a customer. You don’t have to always agree, but don’t add fuel to the fire by fighting with them. I know there might be an exception here and there. Not every client is reasonable, but you’ll accomplish nothing in an argument.
• Do a few fire drills! Here’s where it’s okay to be negative. Role playing can be incredibly effective in helping you develop your Customer Service style. Take the time and think about all the things that might go wrong during a portrait sitting, delivering prints, shooting a wedding, etc. Each scenario will help you strategize and think through potential solutions.
• Don’t be afraid to ask for help. This is where your network comes into play. It’s those relationships you’ve worked hard to build outside of your business that can be helpful when you’re stumped on a solution.
My buddy Tony Corbell, talking about his first studio once said, “I wasn’t the best photographer in town, but I was determined to be the nicest.” The best way to handle Customer Service challenges is to establish a great attitude on the front end. Even the best business models sometimes hit a “speed bump”, but building a reputation based on exceeding client expectations is the best way to put strength into your brand. Just remember to always go the extra mile!
There are no traffic jams on the extra mile!