"The professional takes that extra step - they follow up, even when they don't have to!"
by Skip Cohen
We're down to the last month of the "slow season," and if nothing else, you should be thinking about everything you can do to make 2022 one of your best years ever. While the pandemic brought an incredible level of stress and a collection of challenges for every business owner, it also created opportunities to demonstrate leadership.
I admit it's like the expression about banging your head against the wall because it feels so good when you stop, but out of the difficulties of the last couple of years came a renewed sense of family. As a result, there's a new focus on imaging and your ability to help people capture and cherish their most important memories. As I've written so many times in the past - photographers are the magicians of the world, turning intangible moments into tangible memories people can appreciate for a lifetime.
So, here's my favorite place to start when building success into the year ahead - exceed expectations! Start with a look at your entire business, not just your skill set in creating beautiful images, but how you communicate, the functionality of your website, the strength of your brand in the community, and the experience clients have when working with you. Exceeding expectations isn't a policy but a lifestyle that should be built into everything you do!
As I was thinking about 2022 and my optimism for this new year, I started thinking about the role excellent service will play for every business. Your success is about going the extra step and staying in touch with your clients, even when you don't have to. Excellent service isn't just about solving problems. It's about being proactive and creating top-of-mind-awareness with your audience - so whenever they think about photography, your name is right on top.
I shared this video a while back - it's from Shep Hyken. I'm a huge fan of Shep's and his focus on Customer Service. Shep's a Hall of Fame Speaker, NY Times Best Selling Author, and a Customer Service and Experience Expert. He walks the talk with his regular closing line of "Always be amazing."
The short version of our friendship is I shared a quote of his on Twitter. He responded; I called him, and he took the call. Since then, we've been on each other's podcasts and even caught breakfast together in St. Louis several years ago.
There are hundreds of videos on Shep TV on YouTube. Here's the link, and it's jam-packed with content to help you rebuild your business in the new year.
There are no traffic jams along the extra mile.
by Skip Cohen
It's Marketing Monday and as you build the foundation for a great year ahead, pay attention to everything under the Customer Service umbrella. Customer Service isn't just about your active clients but all your interactions with your target audience. It's about building a reputation for excellence and a brand known for exceeding expectations.
Just for a second, think about your favorite restaurant. Sure, it's great food to start, but it became a favorite because of the service, atmosphere, pricing, and quality. Of course, the same applies to places you shop, whether live or online.
Amazon is good example. We do a significant amount of shopping online through my Smile.Amazon account. Why? First, I can usually find anything we need. Second, Amazon ALWAYS delivers. At a time when USPS and FedEx have been horrible, Amazon is consistently delivering. Next, they're price competitive most of the time, and buying through their "Smile" program I'm able to direct a percentage of every sale to our favorite nonprofit.
Last but not least - their Customer Service team is pretty remarkable. I can call their 800 number, express my disappointment with an order, and have it resolved in minutes. And there are often times when I don't need to even return the defective or damaged merchandise to receive credit. THEY EXCEED EXPECTATIONS!
Here's a check-off list for your business:
Here's the bottom line, and I'm paraphrasing what I've learned from good friends Tim and Beverly Walden over the years. Working with you should be an experience. You're not selling a portrait session, or for that matter, an album, prints, or video - you're selling the fun of working with you and building trust with your audience.
Tony Corbell says it best when he talks about things he did when he first started his business, "I wasn't the best photographer in town, but I was going to make sure I was the nicest!" He's never strayed from that philosophy, although today, he really is one of the best too!
"We're not happy until you're unhappy!"
Suggested new slogan for Frontier Communications
by Skip Cohen
I'd love to take credit for that quote above, but it's thanks to a good buddy who suggested it for one of the airlines many years ago. Here's the saga and short backstory:
So, there are a few lessons here.
Lesson 1: Don't get caught without Internet access! Part of my problem has been my new computer and not being able to get online. For whatever reason, using my hot spot on my phone wasn't working, but our daughter-in-law is visiting and had a Netgear wifi base that saved a little of my sanity. But me working without a net, is like any of you shooting a wedding without backup gear.
Lesson 2: How's your sense of Customer Service? The frontline staff at Frontier are all nice people, but they can only be as good as the team backing them up. So, how's your Customer Service set up? Even if you've only got one other person working with you, do they have the authority to make decisions and not make customers wait for a solution?
Lesson 3: Are you easy to contact? Getting to a live body at Frontier almost requires an act of God. They've become so focused on numerical defaults that you wind up going through recording after recording to get to the right person, and even then, you're likely to need to be transferred. On one call, I had at least eight numbers I had keyed in to finally get to somebody.
Lesson 4: When you've got an upset customer tell your staff what's going on. I just got a call from the technician, who should be here within thirty minutes. "Can you tell me what's wrong with your service - there's nothing here on the ticket?"
I like trying to learn from my mistakes, one of them going with Frontier Communications, but at the time they were the only choice. There's a great quote I wish this shipload of fools would learn:
The true test of business's customer service fitness is not when things are going right-
but rather what is done when things go wrong.
Frontier spends a lot of time doing surveys and telling us how much they care on their website, but when it really comes down to it - I'm not sure they could be more out of shape when it comes to customer service fitness!
Customer Service - Going the Extra Mile
"The professional takes that extra step - they follow up, even when they don't have to!"
by Skip Cohen
I'm a huge fan of Shep Hyken's and his focus on Customer Service. Shep's a Hall of Fame Speaker, NY Times Best Selling Author, and a Customer Service and Experience Expert. He walks the talk with his regular closing line of "Always be amazing." The short version of our friendship is, I shared a quote of his on Twitter. He responded; I called him, and he took the call. Since then, we've been on each other's podcasts, and even caught breakfast together in St. Louis two years ago.
I have so much respect for his expertise in Customer Service. Chamira Youngs and I recently had him on as a guest on the Platypod sponsored podcast Beyond Technique.
As I was thinking about 2021 and my realistic optimism for the new year, I started thinking about the role excellent service can play in the months ahead. It's simple - your success is about going the extra step and staying in touch with your clients, even when you don't have to.
As we all work to get out of the pandemic, now is the perfect time to keep in touch with your clients and your audience. It's about giving back, being helpful, and growing your strongest marketing tool, relationship building!
Excellent Customer Service isn't just about solving problems. It's about being proactive and creating top-of-mind-awareness with your audience - so whenever they think about photography, your name is right on top.
There are over 800 videos on Shep TV on YouTube. Here's the link, and it's jam-packed with content to help you rebuild your business in the new year. I wanted to share the short video below because it's so perfect for what your mindset should be right now!
Hunkering down is about your health, not about your business, skill set, relationship building, or CUSTOMER SERVICE! Start being proactive with your audience, especially your past clients.
"The greatest technology in the world hasn't replaced the ultimate relationship building tool
between a customer and a business...the human touch!"
by Skip Cohen
There was a long window of time when talking on the phone seemed to be on its way to extinction. Everyone was texting and emailing. And as a consumer, if we called any major company, we were put through a barrage of defaults, often in menus that made little or no sense. You know the drill, "Please listen closely because your menu has changed. If you're calling about ______ press 1, and I always wanted to hear, "If you'd like to talk to somebody who cares, call another company!"
Okay, maybe it wasn't always that bad, but the pandemic came along, and today, excellent communication skills are more critical than ever. We're a word of mouth industry, and personal contact with clients will be restricted for some time. That puts how you handle yourself over the phone at the top of the list of critical marketing tools.
I remember when the phone company, "Ma Bell," used to do classes for business clients on phone etiquette. As I look back on it today, those classes were really about how to have a conversation - so, the same way you carry yourself with somebody face to face or (mask to mask today), is a foundation for how you communicate on the phone.
And it's all just as much about Customer Service as it is verbal communication. NOW is the perfect time to strengthen your communication skills with the phone.
The phone is one of your very best marketing tools. How you communicate is all under the umbrella of great Customer Service. Being a great communicator is just as important to build your business as meeting client expectations with the quality of your images!
"Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower."
by Skip Cohen
There isn't a professional photographer on the planet who isn't struggling with what's become the new normal! Quarantines, social distancing, sheltering in place have all become a way of life, but out of chaos and the pandemic crisis have come some remarkable new extensions for business.
A month ago, I shared a short video of JP Elario at his computer doing FaceTime portraits. Channel 13 in Albany, NY, picked up the story, and I have to share it here. I wish there was a way to make every artist watch this short clip.
JP's part of a father/son business and Joe, his Dad, and I go back to my early Hasselblad days. They're both remarkable artists specializing in wedding and portraiture, and exceptional service is part of their signature. Keeping in line with their never-ending quest to meet their clients' needs, JP starting doing online headshots.
These are challenging times, but who knows what other new ideas will come out of the pandemic crisis?
"Do what you do so well that they will want to see it again and bring their friend."
by Skip Cohen
This is one of those posts I wish I could get EVERY small business owner to read. So many of you underestimate the power of exceptional service, not just to build a more substantial business but to sustain it as well. This is a short post this morning and focused on one of the very best tools you have to make 2020 your best year yet - customer service.
Last year while searching the Internet for reliable statistics to share in one of my ClickCon presentations, I wandered into groovehq.com. It was jam-packed with statistics supported the importance of customer service. And the way it was presented made so much sense - unlike statistical sites that could put a rock to sleep.
For example, I pulled three key points from their information:
Everyone is always in search of new databases to grow their business. Too often, you forget about the goldmine you've got right at your fingertips with your past clients.
And that brings me full circle to my point. There is NO substitute for excellent service and nothing will build your brand better. It's not just about great products and on-time deliveries, but the entire customer experience. It starts and ends with you!
Click on the banner below to visit Groove. You'll be surprised at the impact excellent service can have on so many different aspects of your business!
I love it when the real world provides perfect examples of how NOT to build a reputation. We've all been through the challenges of bad service in trying to contact many of the major corporations, especially when it comes to finding a person to talk to. Here's an example with a live body, face to face that left me speechless. But, thanks to the Union Station Hotel in St. Louis, it did give me something to share on this Marketing Monday.
Here's the backstory:
I ran out of deodorant while at ShutterFest. No big deal, I went down to the "Market" in the hotel where they have one of those small pegboard displays with toiletries. The way the store is set up, there's a series of products, from food items to cookbooks and souvenirs across the entire back wall and at the far end a Starbucks-like coffee bar which has the only register.
There were at least 20 people in line, and only one person working the register. Since the line only moves one custom coffee order at a time, I was not going to wait half an hour to make my purchase. So, I left the store with my deodorant and headed to the front desk to see if I could pay there. On the way, we caught up to one of the hotel managers.
When I asked if there was someplace else where I could make the purchase and told him he needed more staff in the Market, he couldn't have been more indignant. He actually said, "There are four people working in there now!" When we told him he was wrong, he listed the responsibilities of each, including stocking, inventory, etc. It didn't matter if they were in the back - there was only one person visible in the entire store who was working with customers.
But then he hit the motherlode of stupid comments, "You have to wait your turn! People expect to stand in line at Starbucks!" We responded - "We didn't go to Starbucks, we went to the Market! All I want to do is buy this!" In a huff, he said, "Well just keep it," and stormed away.
And there you have it, how not to treat a customer!
So, the next time you're dealing with an upset client, whether they're right or wrong, be empathetic. One of the very best neutralizers is to say, "I understand you're upset. The buck stops here. How can I help?" Then, kick back and listen.
"Your customer doesn't care how much you know, until they know how much you care!"
While the Union Station Hotel has some genuinely nice people working there, this last trip brought out some of the biggest mistakes in customer service. From the front desk to the restaurant, it was an adventure in what NOT to do. And, with this confrontation, all the manager had to do was agree to look into the problem and help me pay for my purchase. Instead he chose to argue and defend the concept of how they've chosen to run their store.
With every disappointed customer you have in your business, regardless of what the real issue might be or how serious, you have a unique opportunity to build the relationship. Listen, empathize and then solve the challenge and you'll pick up points every time for demonstrating how much you care.
Thanks to so many of you, what started as a short weekly feature of ideas to help you run a stronger business is now well into its second year. And, every time I think I'm out of ideas to share, a new one comes along.
Remember why I started Fast Food Friday - most of you are right-brain creatives and you don't take the time to pay attention to the operational side of your business. Early "blue-plate specials" at the SCU diner were fundamental building blocks for your business. However, over the last few months, we've shared some ideas that aren't always fast and easy to do, but rewarding, always aimed at helping you build a stronger business.
Today's is a little of both - it's an idea to help you build stronger relationships but at the same time pure fun in the benefit of establishing stronger friendships.
In photography, we always talk about how the Internet changed everything, especially the way people share pictures and video. It’s made the world a smaller place for all of us, and we’re able to keep in touch with old and new friends alike.
But, today's Fast Food Friday special isn’t as much about the Internet and social media as it is thanks to social media, with some suggestions on how to make your life/business more productive!
Putting the "Social" in Social Media
Let's start with the backstory:
Every morning I share an inspiring quote usually about business, success, etc. Over a year ago I shared a quote by Shep Hyken a customer service and experience expert, author and speaker. He’s a NY Times best-selling author and one of the leading experts on the importance of customer service.
A few minutes later he retweeted my quote, and I was surprised. It’s not very often any of my quotes are noticed by the authors themselves. And here’s where social media stepped aside and opened the door for good old conventional communication.
I picked up the phone and called him to say thanks. We probably talked about customer service for half an hour. That led to Shep being a guest with Chamira Young and me on the Mind Your Own Business podcast, and a couple of months later I was a guest on his podcast.
Since then we’ve talked a few times on the phone, shared a little content and yesterday grabbed breakfast together before Sheila, and I hit the airport in St. Louis to return from ShutterFest.
And that brings me right to the point of this morning’s post – social media is an incredible tool to communicate, gather information and stay in touch, but it’s also a gateway to something far better. Social media is one dimensional; phone conversations I could argue are two, but meeting somebody you admire and getting time in face to face is three dimensional and a real building block in relationship building.
ShutterFest was great, but Sheila and I grabbing a quick breakfast with Shep and Cindy Hyken topped off the trip like a great dessert after a good dinner.
I read an anonymous quote about cyberspace recently:
There are no strangers here, only friends who haven’t met!
Here are a few easy tips to help you expand those cyberspace relationships:
Use your social media reach to build your network and expand your abilities to communicate, but don’t miss the opportunities to connect with people you’ve only met in cyberspace.
Are you interested in the very best customer service blog in business? Check out Shep's blog. It's always packed solid with excellent content to help you raise the bar on your skill set in service. Click on the cartoons below to link to a couple of my favorites from his archives.
You know how to focus your camera, but are you doing everything you can to focus on your business?
It's hard to believe we've been able to share a new Fast Food Friday almost every week since last February! And, while it started as a way to share quick ideas to help you raise the bar on your business, today's blue-plate special is a lot more than just "fast food."
Today is a full entree, but it's also an opportunity for you to change one aspect of your business - how you communicate with your customers.
Just like the Internet changed the way we share photographs, our phones have changed the way we communicate. We're all texting more and more. I'm using text messaging all the time. From our local CVS Pharmacy to dinner reservations to updated airline information when we're traveling, texting is fast becoming one of my most efficient methods of communication.
Why? Because it's fast, and when done right I have instant fulfillment to my questions, along with a visual copy to refer to later on if needed.
Texting is here to stay, but sadly, so few of you understand the benefits and the many things you can do to engage customers faster, improve customer service and establish an ongoing system for demonstrating customer appreciation.
Five Things that STOP Potential Clients from Making Contact
In the last few weeks I've been introducing you to Phototexting.com, a new SCU partner. I'm excited about what they offer and in fact, I'm using one of their applications myself when teaching/speaking. While they're an incredible developer of marketing apps for photographers, they're really a communications company and they're changing the lives of business owners every day.
I "borrowed" the five points below from their website introduction to share in today's Fast Food Friday, the top five things that stop potential paying clients from contacting your business.
1. Today's consumers do not like email and will avoid filling out forms. Solution: Potential customers may not be ready to engage in a personal call with you, but they will text you. The option to text your business phone number is faster, easier, and preferred by consumers. Texting starts more conversations, more conversations means more bookings.
2. Consumers want answers to their questions NOW. Solution: Answering inquiries instantly is expected and offers great customer service. With PHOTOtexting Text Chat, you are notified instantly that you have a business text and you can respond immediately from your phone, from anywhere.
3. Consumers dislike waiting for additional company information they're promised. Solution: When a lead is asking for more information about your pricing or services, they are close to making a buying decision. PHOTOtexting provides you unlimited smart apps of all your services that you can instantly send to their phone.
4. Consumers appreciate follow up and will respond. Solution: Once a consumer contacts you, they are automatically added to your company mobile list. This makes it easy to send automated alerts and promotions to consumers, keeping them updated and engaged with your company.
5. Consumers want a deal. Solution: Let's face it, everybody wants a deal. A simple added value can move a potential customer closer to booking your business. Need a spike in your business? Send out a text blast alert or promotion to all of your leads with one touch.
I know there are plenty of skeptics out there, but here's a statistic I shared in a post a few weeks ago: 82% of text messages are read within 5 minutes, but consumers only open 1 in 4 emails they receive.
Check out everything PHOTOtexting has to offer. There are so many different applications and ways for you to build stronger brand awareness, increase sales and expand your reach.
Check out four of my favorite ways to use PhotoTexting.com and test drive the process yourself with a text to the number below.
Fast Food Friday is all about things you can do to build a stronger business. Each "blue plate special" here at the SCU diner, and there are 33 of them to date, is meant to help you identify those fundamental building blocks you need in strengthening your brand.
I started this series in February because it's so obvious how many of you want to be successful artists, but fail to recognize the importance of critical ingredients to pave the road to success as a business owner. So, with the help of Excire Inc. we expanded the weekly selection with a menu that was more extensive.
Although today's special is out of the SCU diner archives, it's the perfect entree for November. We're into the fourth quarter and it's the busiest time of year for all of you. Albums, reprints, sittings for family portraits, fine art prints, etc. are all part of holiday gift ideas and hopefully the demands on your time are starting to ramp up.
At the same time, as a business owner wearing multiple hats, you're pulled in different directions. Stress is rearing it's ugly head and the pressure for a strong finish to 2018 is nonstop.
I'm having fun with this Fast Food Friday today, just like a chef trying out some new ingredients. I've shared five mistakes so many of you have made in the past in the hopes you don't repeat them. There's even an audio bonus. Think of it the same way you'd get a singing waiter!
Happy Fast Food Friday and as always, wishing everybody a terrific weekend.
Wandering through the Internet several years ago I came across Desk.com and a list of "Five Annoying Customer Quotes" written by Allyson Stone. Today the site is called Salesforce.com and it's loaded with a lot of good content. Reading her five quotes, I wanted to put them into perspective for the business of photography.
Here's the thing about excellent Customer Service - it's about your attitude. It's not a department that's part of a large corporation. It's meant to be the foundation of everything you believe in business and about your customers. Excellent Customer Service is about making yourself habit-forming and exceeding customer expectations. Every client needs to feel like they're your most important customer.
"Your customer doesn't care how much you know until they know how much you care!"
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Check out "Why?" one of the most popular features on the SCU Blog. It's a very simple concept - one image, one artist and one short sound bite. Each artist shares what makes the image one of their most favorite. We're over 100 artists featured since the project started. Click on the link above and you can scroll through all of the episodes to date.