Customer service should be the cornerstone of your business. Yes, you’re a photographer and that is your ultimate proposition and what your business is built around. But if you’re not able to establish strong relationships with your customers and then retain them, it’s going to be challenging, if not impossible, to build a successful business.
It may sound obvious and that we are telling you to suck eggs somewhat, but it’s amazing just how many people forget how crucial this is when they are busy getting their business off the ground and even when it is up and running.
Here are our six top tips for creating successful relationships with your clients and becoming their trusted photography partner. And as ever great communication is ultimately at the heart of it all.
Get to know your client and their business well
Be an expert on that your clients and their business, knowing them well will help you to talk to them using their own lingo and build great rapport. Try and understand what makes them tick when it comes to the photography they like and regularly use and what they don’t like. Understand how they interact with suppliers and their expectation of those suppliers. By understanding these things you will be able to tailor your service to ensure the customer achieves what they need to.
It’s important that your client recognises you are actively listening and understanding what they are saying. Don’t assume you already know what they need or looking for and switch off; they will pick up on this and wonder how important they are to you. Give them their moment, listen closely, show you understand by repeating what they have said back to them and of course always have a friendly smile.
Your client will develop an opinion of you based on whether or not you meet a deadline. This will certainly be a key factor when dealing with businesses.
Your client will be relying on you to complete a job on time so they achieve their own deadline. There is no easier way of ensuring that you don’t receive further work in the future than causing them to miss it.
Discuss the deadline for a project upfront. If they don’t bring it up then you definitely should.
Establishing an end date for the project will also help you to manage your own workload and prioritise. And means projects are less likely to drift.
So be sure you are organised and prepped for all shoots and projects and ready to hit a deadline no matter what. Your reputation as a reliable photographer will depend on it.
Communicate clearly and often
Clear communication with your client is crucial for a strong relationship. Communicate regularly and tell them what is happening at each stage of the photography project. It’s also just as important to let them know about any problems as soon as possible.
Get back to them promptly when they are looking for information from you, even if initially it is just an acknowledgment of their message. Then you can also manage their expectations about how long it will take to get back to them with your answer, if you can’t do it straight away. The key is to make them feel as if they are the most important client for you. In fact every client needs to feel this way, be inclusive!
Clients will often have an idea of what they want. But don’t dismiss their reasoning even if it’s not necessarily what or how you would do it. Be accommodating and discuss it with them - manage their expectations and use your expertise to deliver a product that fills their need.
Go the extra mile
Communication and understanding customer expectations are essential for going the extra mile.
If you take property photography as an example, the estate agent will know what the less obvious selling features of a property are e.g. a third bedroom, storage, a local park at the end of the street, which will be a big selling point to the agents young families customer base. This is the type of information you need to find out about so you can put together shoots package of shoots that will exceed expectations and give your customer the best possible service.
Once you have gauged your client and you know what type of relationship you can build with them, you can then also think about the personal touches, such as a sending a Christmas card, talking about personal achievements, like a new baby in the family and engaging on social media.