This week’s post is a guest post from Matt & Katie, Queensland, Australia wedding photographers. I asked them to share this story with you after hearing it as I thought it was an amazing post that you might enjoy and learn from!
Over the last few months Katie and I have been putting in a new kitchen and new bathroom into our house. All up it’s costing us about $50K for materials, appliances and labor.
It’s been an exciting and frustrating experience. And a huge learning experience for us, not just as first time renovators but also as owners of a customer service based business.
The whole experience reinforced some valuable business and customer service lessons.
Take Home Lesson #1 – Always remember that this will most likely be your client’s first experience dealing with a professional photographer.
Our builder didn’t do a very good job of setting our expectations and guiding us through the process.
The builder has done hundreds of building projects. This is our first.
And yet he has treated us as if we are as experienced as he is. We had to push and pull to get information and deadlines and details out of him. He wasn’t very good at putting himself in our shoes to hold our hand through the process.
Put yourself in your client’s shoes. Don’t assume anything. Think of every aspect of your business from your client’s perspective.
Hold their hand through the process and set very clear boundaries and expectations along the way. By doing this you’ll let them know exactly what to expect. The potential for misunderstandings or miscommunication will be significantly reduced, or even eliminated.
To continue the story, we returned home to Australia after spending 3 weeks in America doing some teaching and going to WPPI. Before we left Australia, our bathroom was really close to completion. Naturally, we were super excited to see our finished bathroom upon arriving home.
During the 14 hour flight from LA to Australia, and then the 2 hour drive from the airport to our home, I dreamed of turning on the shower for the first time and of washing away 30 hours of travel grossness in our gorgeous new bathroom. Katie dreamed of filling the bathtub, dropping in a bath bomb, and then soaking for hours of bathroom bliss.
Maybe we were wrong to expect our bathroom to be finished when we arrived home. Maybe not. We’ve never done a renovation before or worked with a builder before so we didn’t don’t know what to expect. Is it our responsibility as the client to clarify expectations? Or does it fall to the person who is providing the service?
Either way, because we weren’t told otherwise we created out own expectations. We expected the bathroom to be finished. After all, it was sooooo close to be finished when we left.
Take Home Lesson #2 – Set your client’s expectations. Otherwise they will set their own. Leave the door open for them set their own expectations and you may not like what they come up with.
Your client’s satisfaction with the service you offer (photography) is directly connected to the expectations you set before you even take a photo. Almost every problem or drama you could have with a client comes back to lack of clear expectations.
Don’t blame your client for whatever craziness they come up with if you haven’t clearly set their expectations in the first place.
Your clients have never done this before. You have.
We get home and rush inside to say hi to our cats. Then we went right for the bathroom to check it out.
It looks like a construction zone. There’s tape on the mirror. A ladder in the shower. Grit and grime and dirt all over the tiles we so painstakingly spent hours choosing. There are scary looking tools scattered around on the floor.
Is anything working? Is it finished? We have no idea. We’re too scared to touch anything.
I asked Katie to call the builder because I’m too cranky to make the call. Jet lag plus an unfinished bathroom had stretched my diplomacy skills. First world problems right?
Katie makes the call. The builder says yes, everything is working. Toilet is working. Shower is working. Bathtub is good to go.
Cue my internal rant because I’m too nice to grab the phone from Katie and give the builder a piece of my mind. “Well, you knew we were coming home today so why didn’t you put away all your tools? Why is there a ladder in the shower? We’ve paid you $30K and you don’t even care enough about us to clean up after yourself? To sweep the floor or even leave us a note? You care so little that you can’t even think to yourself that Matt and Katie are getting home and wouldn’t it be awesome if their bathroom looked amazing?”
Take Home Lesson #3 – Care about your clients. Care about them as if your life depends on it. Care about your clients enough to put yourself in their shoes and ask, “How would I want to feel if I was the customer?”
“What can I do to make them feel special and amazing and important?”
“How can I confirm that their decision to choose me is one of the best decisions they’ll ever make?”
So, instead of us being amazed at how awesome the bathroom looks and the great work the builder has done, all we see is the mess, the ladder and the tools.
And then the flaws start leaping out at us. The slightly crooked tile, the imperfect grouting in places, the tap that’s not screwed on properly. Minor things really, but in the light of our disappointment they become huge!
All the great work the builder has done is lost because of the bad impression we’re left with because of poorly set expectations.
These minor flaws that would have been barely noticed are now huge glaring mistakes that we can’t help but focus on. All we see is the bad instead of the good.
Now imagine this scenario instead: we arrive home and excitedly greet our cats. Then we rush to the bathroom to check it out.
And instead of it looking like a construction zone, the bathroom is spotless and sparkling and amazing. Maybe there’s a few candles scattered around and a bottle of wine with a hand-written note from the builder.
“Hey Matt and Katie. Welcome home. I hope you love your new bathroom as much as I’ve enjoyed building it for you.”
How different would we have felt? How different would our first impression have been?
Instead of being delighted, we were disappointed. We began to see every flaw, mistake and crooked tile. We even started to actively look for mistakes and flaws.
Instead of grudgingly and angrily picking up the builder’s tools and cleaning up the mess, maybe we’d be soaking in the bathtub, sipping a glass of wine. Maybe one thing leads to another … 😉
Take Home Lesson #4 – We cannot ever, EVER take our clients for granted. We owe them everything. Never forget that they pay us thousands of dollars of their hard earned money for a non-essential luxury product.
Apart from a car, a house, big screen TV or a renovation project, there aren’t many non-essential luxury products that carry the same price-tag that photography does.
Think about it, what else could your clients do with that $5,000 that you want them to spend with you? I can think of a dozen things.
We should never forget that this is a big freaking deal to our clients, even though we’ve done it hundreds of times before.
We need to do everything in our power to make our clients feel special and important and significant and valuable. Every single time.
Strive to be delightful
A few people have said to me, “Matt, you know your talking about builders right? Builders aren’t known for their sensitivity and caring nature.”
Sure, that’s a fair observation. But what if a builder did go over and above for their clients? Wouldn’t it be memorable? Wouldn’t it make people talk, “You will not believe what our builder did for us!!!”
Shouldn’t it be a no-brainer for us as photographers to find creative ways to surprise and delight our clients? In an increasingly competitive and saturated market I don’t think we can afford not to be doing this.
Which experience would you rather be giving to your clients? Do you have dramas with clients and then bitch about them as if it’s their fault? When, in reality, it’s actually your fault for not setting the right expectations in the first place?
What are some ways you can surprise and delight your clients? How can you demonstrate to your clients that they are more than just a pay-check to you?
Matt and Katie are a husband and wife team from Queensland, Australia. They’ve run successful photography businesses together for over 6 years now. In July and August they’re doing a workshop tour of the US and Canada which you can find out more about on their blog.