When a client emails you, how long does it take you to respond? What does your response say? When a client calls you, are you answering your mobile phone while driving your car - or are you seated at your desk in your office - focused on your job?
When your clients order from you, do you mail them them your prints, or do they come in and pick them up from you? When you show up to shoot a wedding, are you dressed in a suit, or do you wear jeans and a polo shirt?
Regardless of your answers to the above questions, do you know what each says about you? Everything you do in your business says something about you - and your business. The way you take care of your clients - and the way you interact with them - are so important to the way they experience your business.
Often, I think that photographers believe that they deliver photographs, and that our work (and the value it brings to people) is based on those photographs. I would suggest that the value we bring to people is based not just on our images - but on the entire client experience.
At our studio, we work really hard to create an experience for our clients that includes everything from the way we handle their inquiry, the way we schedule and conduct consultations, the way we follow up, the environment we meet them in (our studio), the way we photograph their wedding, and the way we sell, produce, and deliver products. We are intentional in every aspect - because everything we do says something about us.
Here's a few of the things we've singled out to focus on intentionally - because we believe they really impact the way our clients experience our business.
1. We respond to every client inquiry within one business day. We always respond within one day, because when someone is interested in engaging us in business - that person deserves the courtesy of a prompt response. At the same time, I don't respond to inquiries IMMEDIATELY, even if I'm just sitting there reading a blog or something. I respond to inquiries either at the end of the day, or at the beginning of the day (depending on when they come in). My time is valuable, and it's reasonable to demonstrate that by setting boundaries for your client communication.
2. Our studio is ALWAYS CLEAN. When clients come over, our space is immaculate. It's clean, everything is where it belongs, there's no clutter, there's nothing that might distract from the fact that our clients are visiting a high-end studio space. We get to make sure clients see the types of work we want them to see, we show them the product we want them to see, and we have everything we need right there.
Whatever your space is (wherever you meet clients), make sure it's perfectly suited towards having clients visit. The last thing you want to do is have to make an excuse - either for why the space (coffee shop, your living room, etc) isn't clean - or why you don't have something you need (an album, etc).
3. We make people feel at home. When people come to our studio, we want them to feel as comfortable as possible. As I've mentioned many times - we make everyone fresh baked chocolate-chip cookies, and serve gourmet coffee. We like for people to feel like they want to linger in our space. We greet people at the door, and when they arrive (even if they're a few minutes early) - we're ready for them. We want them to feel like they're the most important people in the world while they're interacting with us.
4. We ALWAYS deliver when we say we will. We usually deliver more (or earlier) than we say we will, but it's a non-negotiable for us to deliver when we promise. After a wedding, we let our clients know when to expect to see their images, and we have them ready early. When they order an album, we tell them how long it will take, but then call them to let them know it's here a week ahead of schedule.
When there IS a problem, we NEVER wait for a client to contact us to ask what's going on - we are proactive about letting them know. People appreciate and understand that things happen, but by the time they get around to asking you about it - they're already irritated, and anything you say sounds like an excuse. By contacting them first - and letting them know exactly what to expect, people know that you respect them and they feel valued.
5. We make it easy to do business with us. We make it easy to email or call us. Our email and phone number are on our website, and on every piece of marketing material we give a client. Clients are welcome to choose the method that works best for them, and we honor that. We also use technology to make it easy to book us right online, and place re-print orders online. If people want to give us money - we make it easy. If we don't, someone else will.
It's worth it to stop and look at your business, and the experience that your clients have when they interact with you. It's worth it to ask yourself "what does this say about me and my business?" If it's not saying what you want - maybe it's worth it to figure out how to change that!