What does it really take to make a client truly happy with you and thrilled by the services you provide?
Surely, if you do what you say you’re going to do, when you say you’re going to do it, that should be enough to thrill anyone, right?
Isn’t “good service” enough to generate powerful word of mouth marketing?
Sorry, but the answer is, “probably not…”
A Blurred Line
In addition to owning a business, you and I are also consumers — customers of other businesses.
Because we’re so often on the buyer end of the stick, we have a pretty good idea about the kinds of things that make us unhappy.
But it can be a little trickier to fully empathize with our own clients sometimes, to clearly see what lies on the other side of the dividing line.
It’s as though the line itself is blurred and fuzzy.
However, you need to make sure you bring that line into sharp focus if you’re to keep your clients thrilled with you.
Exceptional Service Requires Exceptional Care
The key to keeping the line in focus between a thrilled client and an unhappy one is to be exceptional and provide a level of service and attention to detail that she would never expect.
When you do provide someone with exceptional service a strange thing happens.
Your attention to every tiny detail is (correctly, I hope) translated into a perception of exceptional care.
This is of vital importance to your relationship with your client.
Because it shows that you’re more interested in the well-being and happiness of your client than in simply providing them with a minimum level of service.
Exceptional care requires far more dedication and attention to detail than just doing what is asked, or expected, of you.
You must go the extra mile to provide something additional that you know your client will appreciate.
Few businesses these days will even go the distance they’re supposed to, let alone the extra mile.
Therefore, it’s quite noticeable when someone goes out of their way to do so.
The funny part about it is that it’s not difficult, and it can be fun and rewarding into the bargain.
You Can Do (A Lot) Better Than Just Right
In this fast-paced world we live in these days, “just right” is about the best that most companies can seem to manage.
This is is a shame for them, but a great opportunity for you.
For example, suppose you have a client meeting scheduled for 10am on a Monday morning at the local coffee shop.
Most people would arrive at precisely the right time.
After all, there’s no point in being there early since the client wouldn’t be there to notice, so what does it matter?
Don’t Get Tripped Up By Flawed Thinking!
What happens if you apply exceptional thinking, and arrive 10 minutes early?
You find a suitable table, sit down and wait for the client to show up.
Nothing out of the ordinary there, except that when they do arrive, your presence sends them a host of unconscious and subliminal messages.
You greet them with a welcoming smile, show them to their seat with the offer of a drink, and you appear relaxed and prepared, with no visible signs of stress from having “just made it with seconds to spare”.
The meeting gets off to a great start, possibly concluding with a favorable outcome.
For another example, consider the way you deliver your finished products.
If your plans go perfectly, and you deliver everything on time and in the amount expected, how thrilled will your client be?
Putting aside the natural thrill of the photographs themselves, will the client be bowled over by the fact that you delivered exactly what you promised, when you said you would?
But bowled over?
It definitely seems that you should be able to do a lot better than “just right” most of the time, don’t you think?
Always Deliver More Than You Promise
The secret, which is no secret at all, is to consistently deliver more than you promise in everything you do for your clients.
That means every interaction you have with them should be geared towards producing or delivering something more exceptional than they ever expected.
This demonstrates to them that you care about them as people, not just as more customers.
There are lots of ways you can do this:
- Arriving early and being prepared for a meeting…
- Taking time to learn everyone’s name for a portrait session…
- Showing a sincere interest in our clients and their family…
- Sending a hand-written thank you card in the mail…
- Delivering finished work a week earlier than expected…
- Giving a few extra prints or additional bonus products…
- A follow-up telephone call to say thank you…
- Sending an unexpected gift…
- Wishing them a happy birthday…
- Opening the door for them and walking them to their car…
This is by no means an exhaustive list.
I’m sure there are a lot more examples out there where photographers have demonstrated exceptional care to their clients.
I believe that one of the keys to doing this successfully is to treat them like you would a member of your own family.
The Cardinal Rule
I’ll finish up with what should be the unbreakable rule in business, although I see examples of it being broken on an almost daily basis!
The rule is simply:
Never make a promise to a client that you can’t exceed, or at least meet…