Success or Failure: On Business Friday
“Success is hard by the yard, but is a cinch by the inch”—Don Feltner
I’ve often said that success is hard but failure is easy but you can stack the odds in your favor by providing competition-crushing customer service to your clients. While this may sound like tactics from Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War,” it’s more like common sense and common courtesy. The only problem with both of these commodities these days is that they’re not so common anymore, which is part of the reason why customer service for most consumer and even b-to-b goods and services has all but evaporated. That may sound bad but is really the good news. The best way to improve your customer service is to turn your last personal customer experience around 180 degrees. Then, you’re off to a good start.
Nobody like angry customers and a verbally abusive client can be difficult for some photographers or their employees to deal with. When faced with such situations the only thing to do is ask in a calm voice: “What would you like me to do?” At that point, if they insist on being an idiot, there’s really nothing more you can do for them. One of the realities of business life is that some individuals find it impossible to go through life without making everything difficult for themselves and all those about them. Sooner or later, you’re going to run into one of these customers and the best thing you can do for your business is to politely bid them adieu as politely as you can and send them on their way. Sometimes these seemingly disgruntled customers come back…it happens all the time.
After you ask that million-dollar question, most reasonable people will want to work with you and, more often than not, what they really want is simple and easy for you to provide. Sure, sometimes you may have to eat a little of your profit and perhaps they may never come back again but the odds are in your favor because a happy customer only tells one or two people if they have a favorable business experience, unhappy clients tell ten people. That happened to me recently with a new car purchase in which there was a transcription error in the paperwork and the finance manager asked for more money. I had polite conversations with them and the owners agreed to “eat” the difference. A classy move and I feel good not just about this dealership but their others as well.
What’s more, you will find that when you ask that question, most customers are so amazed that you actually want to work with them and solve their problems—and don’t be naive, some problems are inevitable—that they will not only spend more money with you but will become life-long customers. One irrefutable business truth is that the manner in which customer complaints are handled is the mark of a company that has respect for their customers and themselves and are not the tactics of a fly-by-night, take-the-money-and-run operation that only cares about short term profits. Remember that you started your studio because of your passion for photography, don’t let it evaporate because of the failure to ask a simple question.