Today I want to talk about customer service for event and wedding photographers. In particular the first point of contact and how in general photographers are slow to call new customers back.
I had a bride contact me and say that she had been emailing and calling different wedding photographers for 2-3 days, and I was the first photographer to answer her enquiry.
This is a worry!
I’m seeing a growing amount of new customers contacting me, saying that they’re glad I answered their enquiry, because the other photographers they contacted never got back to them, either via email or by phone.
I find that mind blowing! because we all know how hard it is to get customer leads, good quality leads that is.
I felt very bad for this customer that called me last week. She said that she spent three days trying to contact a photographer for her wedding.
I don’t know the circumstances of the other photographers, and it could have been their day off. Maybe they could have been shooting elsewhere, who knows.
But the fact that nobody got back to her after almost three days, is just bad customer service and it gives all professional photographers a bad name.
Table of Contents
- First interaction with a client is the beginning of your photography workflow
- Set expectations on your contact page
- Using templates to streamline your customer service workflow
- Never use email autoresponders
- Customer service is everything to your photography business
- If you have time for social media. You have time to respond to your customers
- Customer service for a new photography business
- Customer service for photographers conclusion
First interaction with a client is the beginning of your photography workflow
Let’s start with the basics of customer service, setting expectations.
My idea of a photography workflow is from the moment you interact with a customer, to the moment you deliver the final product.
If we can just look at how customers contact us, and our websites are probably one of the most common ways that we will receive leads.
It doesn’t have to be complex, it just needs to be repeatable regardless of your workload. This means, listing one to two ways your customers can contact you and will receive a response within 24 – 48 hrs during your hours of operation.
Set expectations on your contact page
What I do is put a couple lines on my contact page, that says,
“Please fill out the form below and I will be in contact within 24 hours. If you wish to speak to me sooner, you can contact me via phone.”
This does two things. One, for the people that aren’t in a rush, they’re more than welcome to use their email and they will know that I will get back to them within 24 hours.
If it’s something a little bit more urgent, because they need to move their wedding date, which has happened many times to me, having my mobile number on the contact page is convenient for them.
Plus I have seen a growing number of new clients that simply prefer to talk over the phone and not deal with email.
Setting the expectations of how long the client has to wait for an answer, is one area you can start to improve your customer service. That is if you don’t already list it on your website.
Using templates to streamline your customer service workflow
Using templates, for when a prospective customer contacts you, will help to be consistent with your customer service. It means that regardless of how busy you are, the service you provide will be the same.
If someone contacts you via email, and they’re asking about pricing or availability. There’s no reason why you can’t have a simple template on our phone to answer the question in a clear and concise way.
I’ve had 20 templates for different parts of the customer onboarding process for all my event photography businesses.
There are templates for when I’m booked, letting them know I’m not available and who else they can contact. If I’m available, where my prices start.
Also templates to gather information about the client, for the contract and when their photos are ready, are just a few to name.
We all have smartphones, using the notepad that comes with your phone will do just fine. You could use something more sophisticated, like Evernote to sync between devices.
Personally i like to use the simplest app and just a simple text file. One document that has all of my templates, and it’s served me quite well for over 17 years.
You should always personalise a template. It’s good to have a base, for 80% of what you need to say and including your signature, greetings, and the information you are constantly repeating.
Then, all that is needed is to fill in the blanks and fine tune the communication.
If someone goes to the trouble of explaining a little bit about what they want, you can add that to the emails so they can see that, “Oh, this person’s actually read my inquiry, and they’re responding accordingly.”
This shows professionalism, and goes a long way to give excellent customer service.
Never use email autoresponders
I never use an autoresponder, because you can easily forget to turn it off and the message you send is never personal when you do use one.
It’s very easy to set up when you go on leave, and next thing you know you’re back for three months, and it’s still sending out.
I think that if you’re going to send something back to a person, make sure it’s you personally and not an automated email saying you’ll contact them within 24 hours. That information should be on the contact page. Plus what happens if you forget to send the email, that’s just bad customer service.
Customer service is everything to your photography business
Remember, customer service is everything to the success of your photography business. We entered the industry as photographers because we enjoy the creativity of being a photographer.
Otherwise, we would have just gone to a regular nine to five desk job.
When we run a small business, we wear multiple hats. We do the customer service, the accounting, the photography and of course, we do our editing to name a few tasks.
If you can’t manage the customer service, or you’re not very good at it, there’s no reason why you can’t ask somebody else to help you.
There are virtual assistants that you can hire to do your emails for you, they can do your editing, they can answer your phone. In fact you can even hire someone to take the photos for you.
But, for this situation, you can certainly do it yourself and it’s very easy to meet people’s expectations, as long as you set boundaries and guidelines of how you operate.
Just like when you enter a store. You expect to be greeted, you expect to be shown and explained about a product. Well, the same thing should apply for your photography business.
Even if it’s a side business. If you want to grow it, to earn extra money, you should be treating it like a business. As if it was your main source of income.
Customer service first, photography is always up there in regards to importance. But you win customers with your customer service. Photos, anybody can take photos. But if you can treat your customer like gold, it will go a long way for them, especially when they refer you to their friends.
We’re so fixated with social media worrying about what everyone else is posting, or even posting our own photos from our sessions.
Just take five minutes, even on a day off, especially when you have templates ready to be used. You can simply copy & paste the bulk of the information you need to give a customer and be done within five minutes. Potentially winning a new customer, that may bring in thousands of dollars to your photography business.
If you are worried about customers expecting you to respond out of work hours and on your day off.
Gmail has the option to schedule the send of your email at a later time. You can write up your emails and get it to send during your core business hours.
Outlook does a similar thing, but you need to be logged in to Outlook for that to work. You could potentially create a draft, and then put yourself as a reminder to send that email at nine o’clock the next morning if that’s what you’re worried about.
Customer service for a new photography business
I wrote an article about starting a new photography business, and one of the points was customer service.
I suggest you read if you’re a new photo business, as it gives you some pretty good tips.
I’m hoping that this post doesn’t come across as a rant, but more as a reminder to all photographers to check their processes for all customer interactions.
I know when I first started over 17 years ago, it was very different for me as well.
Yes, I always got back to customers, but what I wrote back to then was not consistent. By using little tricks like templates, and making sure I’m letting people know when I will be getting back to them, they were happy to wait for a response.
Customer service for photographers conclusion
As photographers we’re creative people and are eager to be paid for our art. But the customer interaction process is something a lot of us don’t necessarily think about.
But when we go shopping, we demand it ourselves.
The best way to plan out the customer experience is to write it out on paper and create a process for every task that you need to complete for the customer.
Add the recurring tasks as templates and set the customer expectations on your contact page for when you will contact them.
If you do that you will have all your bases covered.