Most brides have been dreaming about their wedding long before they get engaged. They dream of how their wedding will look, what type of dress they will walk down the aisle in, imagine their first dance. In their minds, it’s all a beautiful fairy tale. They have no idea how stressful the planning can be. They don’t think about how disappointing it will be to find out that their dream wedding is going to cost 5 times their budget, and every single decision they make is going to be giving up a little part of their dream, another budget cut. It’s no wonder perfectly pleasant people can become ‘bridezillas’ without meaning to.
The experience of planning a wedding on a budget that does not match your vision combined with family dynamics can be incredibly stressful on a bride. What steps can you take to diffuse your client’s anxiety and create a great experience that will keep your clients happy and positive?
Keeping your client happy is the key to longevity in your career, success with your work, and a less stressful environment for you and your staff. Some key points for us in managing a successful photography studio are:
It is extremely important to keep your relationship with your client positive, friendly, and professional from the get go. Making sure that your client feels taken care of by you, serviced to their expectations, and you are giving them a sense of ease in the process is critical to your success. Taking on the attitude that the “customer is always right” by you and your staff helps to keep any tense, stressful, or possible disputable moments with your clients in a positive light – even if they are wrong. This does not mean offering free products to clients when the balk at pricing, simply a pleasant attitude. Remember that your client has hired you to perform a service, to document a moment in their life that is so important to them that they need a professional, and so always being sure that your attitude reflects their care and concern is critical to your success.
You must always ensure your client feels heard in their demands – listening and compromise are the two key components to making sure that your customer feels they are being taken care of and respected during the entire process. Maybe they don’t want their profile taken because they are uncomfortable about their nose, maybe they don’t want their images on the blog, maybe they are uncomfortable with their weight…whatever it is that the client is expressing to you, good or bad, you need to listen, document, and respect. Your attitude should always feel to them like they are right – even if you don’t agree. It is important to voice and guide your professional opinion about lighting, setting, style, attire, and the overall general nature of the shoot to a client but remember that the client is ultimately always right about how they want to be photographed since they are paying you for your services. Use grace, kindness, respect, and care in how you respond to anything they are expressing to you and usually you will find that you can even talk them in or out of any idea that doesn't seem to reasonable. Avoid combative, harsh, negative and aggressive tones as this will only concern the client and make them feel uncomfortable.
Sometimes brides just need someone to talk to. They need to be able to vent a little bit about their frustrations, and really just need a good listener. If you can connect with your clients in this way, you will build their trust and friendship while building a strong business relationship.
Of course, there are going to be situations where clients act inappropriately. Clients can from time to time debate your policies, billing, and overall service. It is always important that you don’t let yourself be treated like a doormat either but usually if you are listening, respecting, caring, and gently honest you can avoid a potential negative experience. It is important to listen to what they are saying, evaluate from a neutral standpoint and make your final decision on the outcome of what you can do to resolve any issues they have with a positive, professional, client-friendly attitude.
Most clients generally debate billing and invoice issues over anything else; it is important to keep a positive attitude with them, even in expressing that they are incorrect and a balance is due. Do not allow clients to set your prices or intimidate you. It is important to draw the line in the sand, stay firm with your policies and procedures (after all, they did sign the contract that expressed all this in writing). I'm sure you've heard the statement, “give them an inch and they’ll take a mile” and it is true that certain types of people use aggressive complaining as a method to get what they want such as free products and sessions.
Even when dealing with combative types, remember that using a gentle, compassionate, caring, and concerned voice is key to making your client feel and think that they are valued, even if you disagree or have to say no to them. Just because they are acting out does not mean it is OK for you to meet their behaviors with unprofessionalism. It is a critical component to working out a client dispute to pick up the telephone if you possibly can. This avoids possible tone misinterpretation and it is quicker to resolve issues and get to the heart of the matter in person or by phone.
Make your customer feel as if they are first and foremost to anyone else with your words, actions, work, and behavior. They will appreciate it and hopefully recall this service should any issues come up.
Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comments below. What have you found to be especially helpful in keeping your clients feeling confident and happy?