10 Tips for Providing Superior Service to Clients

Question: What is more important, service or quality?

If I had to choose one of the above, it would always be service. Why? You could be the best technical and artistic photographer or illustrator in the world, but if you were rude, bad with deadlines, or were unresponsive to your client, they would most likely find an adequate substitute to replace you on the next shoot.

Of course, there may be the odd occasion when a less experienced photographer shoots so poorly that a client has to have another photographer reshoot the job. My post assumes that you are professional and proficient enough with your skills.

What is Service?

Let’s define “service” for the sake of this post. To me, service is the chain of events that lead up to a client’s overall impression of you. And like marketing, service is an ongoing effort.

Ever wonder why some of your illustrator or photographer colleagues, who may not be as accomplished an artist as you, are always getting more jobs? Most likely it’s because they’re providing better service, and possibly marketing themselves better – but that’s another discussion.

0n the campaigns he works on, the photographers being considered all are qualified to shoot it, so it comes down to personality as the deciding factor.”

APhotoEditor.com‘s Rob Haggart, referring to Mike Kohlbecker, associate creative director at Crispin Porter + Bogusky, Los Angeles.

My Tips for Superior Service

This is in no way a comprehensive list, but if followed, it should give you an edge over your less-refined competitors.

  1. People like doing things with their friends. Wouldn’t you rather be shooting for your best friend too, if given the choice? If you can create friendships, or at least approach projects and relationships in a friendly manner, people will want to work with you more often. Another way of stating that: be enthusiastic – it seems to work for Chase Jarvis!
  2. Respond promptly to phone calls and emails.
  3. Show up on time for shoots.
  4. Deliver initial and high-res files as quickly as is reasonable.
  5. If there’s a dispute over a contract, invoice or anything at all, try not to take it personally and try to consider things from your client’s perspective. Note: that’s not the same as being a pushover.
  6. If you can’t give a full reply to an email or a phone call, at least reply promptly to let someone know that you received the message and will get back to them ASAP. State a timeframe if possible, and perhaps mention if you’re on a shoot.
  7. On creative calls and projects requiring sophisticated concepts, really try to step back and look at the project as a potentially satisfying opportunity or challenge. Offer ideas beyond what is expected, as long as you’re not stepping on your client’s toes.
  8. When conflicts arise, don’t assume that the client doesn’t know what they’re talking about. It will keep you open to the possibility that they are correct, or at least frame the dispute in a less-confrontational manner and provide a helpful resolution.
  9. Be polite. I have a 2-year-old boy, and everything we discuss is about please, thank you and you’re welcome. Common niceties can go a long way and good energy never hurt anyone. My intent here is not to turn you into a “goody two shoes” either. I’m just pointing out that politeness and positive energy can also affect your bottom line.
  10. Send thank you notes, emails and promos – and send them often. Show your gratitude for your client’s continued support and remind them that you’re still interested.

Tip 10 reminds me of an experience that I had about three years ago. A photo editor from one of the most prominent business magazines in the country called to ask if I could recommend a portrait photographer to shoot in Southern Vermont. I emailed them several appropriate URL’s, and the photo editor replied almost immediately: “Oh, [Joe Photographer]! I’ve hired them before and they did a great job. Thanks for reminding me!”

So yes, even keeping in touch with clients is providing them a service. They otherwise may have tried somebody untested and needlessly taken a risk on a photographer that they didn’t already have a relationship with.

The Bottom Line

There are many excellent photographers out there. Your client may have initially picked you for your excellent portfolio, but they’ll stay with you for your great service!

A few more posts on good service – in this case, both from ASMP’s useful “Strictly Business” Blog:

Practice “Active” Listening, by Selina Maitreya

Reduce your Competition Through Loyalty, by Charles Gupton

About Neil

Neil Binkley is a photographer’s marketing and portfolio consultant. He co-founded Wonderful Machine, where until 2010 he was Marketing and Publicity Director, his work garnering winning entries in Print Magazine’s Regional Design Annual and PDN’s Photo Annual. Neil has shared photographers’ work with top ad agencies, magazines and corporations, and he regularly appears on industry panels, photo contests, and portfolio reviews. Neil Binkley

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