A photographer may see a great photography service as simply providing great images for a client. Their mythical goal would be a client knowing what they want, ordering it, turning up for the shoot on time and leaving with great photos. This is simply incorrect, as amazing as photography you maybe your clients are the foundation of a great photography service and a great service should revolve around them.
Regardless of how well and detailed the information is of a service is advertised, clients will almost never read it. For the few clients that do read it, they will still want to check to be sure what is being offered is how they have understood it. Letting your clients know what they are going to get builds an expectation. Clients need to be educated on what services you provide. Teach them the best way to achieve this outcome, recommending locations, equipment, financial resources needed, outfits they should go for this helps bring a personalised service.
Some clients are not confident using technology. In these modern times we expect people to know how to fill a form, or navigate a website. In my service experience I have had to help troubleshoot the simplest of problems. I did this because I wanted my clients to have a pleasant customer journey. You must do your best to help you clients have easy access.
A client will need to be shown how to pose for the portrait. Taking the time to show the client what to do, what not to do and how to do it will improve their confidence as they wont feel overwhelmed by the experience.
A client needs to be educated on your terms of work. I have had some unpleasant experiences with people who view themselves very highly. In their mindset they have completely ignored how I operated and focused primarily on what they wanted. Looking back on these times, I was afraid to speak up and say no this is what I expect from you. After all it was my responsibility to ensure the client knew what I expected from them. Keeping silent can sometimes lead to problems so it is best to make sure they are on the same wave length.
Knowing your product
Understanding your product links closely with educating your client. You can only educate a client if you know what you offer. By confidently explaining what you offer your customers will gain confidence in you. It also helps you to sell, if you have a service that maybe better for your client's needs tell them all about it! They may not of realised that what they really needed.
Knowing your product can be tedious as it means stripping down your services, working out your costs, the resources needed and how much profit you intend to get from it. However knowing your services gives you a base to stand on.
If dealing with prints, knowing about your paper, where it's sourced from, how long it is likely to last, the sizes of your products are essential information. This level of detail shows you pay attention to your product and knowing about the quality means you care about what you have to offer. Sometimes we feel the need to cut cuts by purchasing inferior products, this is not good, customers want quality, if you want to lower your costs find other ways of being efficient.
Clients like things to be confirmed and if advanced bookings have been made they need to be reminded that everything is ok. Times, addresses dates sometimes need to be repeated. Sometimes doing this exposes an error made or a miss-communication. For clients who have a lot on they may realise that the date is no longer doable and may need to reschedule.
Clients need to be shown how to access your service, shown how to navigate your site shown how to communicate with you. Clients need concise information they can refer to.
During the shoot a client needs to understand what to do, it amazes me still to this day that you can tell a client to only move their head and nothing else but yet they move their whole body. Sometimes communication needs to be clearer than normal, hand gestures and sometimes showing the look by doing it yourself. Positive communication throughout the shoot will keep your client comfortable especially if they are anxious about their appearances. Compliments go a long way in putting a client at ease, making them feel good gives them a great experience.
Doing what you say, when you say how you say. Your clients want what you offered to them. They wont want less, they have paid you with their hard earned money therefore they should be treated with respect. Being on time and prepared is a necessity. Plan to be early, even if you don't tell them, this means if something goes wrong you have time to adjust for it.
Sometimes things are out of your control, I once had a job for a major event, I was 20 minutes early and arrived at the designated meeting place. Unfortunately the location the client was at was different and hard to get to, it took me 40 minutes to get to the new location even though I was meters away due to a long crowded diversion I had to take. I let the client know via email and tried to call, of-course the client was fine as they admitted that there was nothing that could be done about that situation and apologised to me.
The client wants to receive their images on time. They do not want to be waiting months for the images. It is better to over deliver on a service than it is to under deliver. Makes sure the time you deliver bears the client in mind. Let them know if there is going to be a delay, delays should not be your norm.
Like many photographers I take time to invest in my learning. I realised a long time ago that I am on a journey and that I can always improve. Your images are the first thing people see, though your client may not be able to explain what makes a good photo they sure know it when they receive it.
Depending on the style of photography you do depends on how your product is going to be viewed. The crop, the focus, the vibrancy should all reflect what you sold the client in the first place. Each image may not be award winning, however it should not fall below a reasonable standard of service. I personally delete images that fall below a standard. The exceptions for this is a moment that is special and unique (this is because of the tremendous value it will have the client for events). However in general I do not keep images that are poor quality, I want my clients to get the best.
Some clients think they want as many images as possible, this is usually based on a fear of not getting their monies worth. It is your duty as a photographer to give them your best quality and and not quantity. This can be hard with a client who views you as a click, download and delivery service, but if in doubt let them know the time it takes to edit, retouch. Do not lower your standard of work simply because your client wants to cut cost.
I am an advocate for not over editing an image. I don't think peoples faces should look like dolls, I believe that editing and retouching should be subtle and give an accurate reflection of a subject. The golden rule I follow is to remove temporary blemishes if retouching, but scars and other unique features are kept (unless the client insists). I personally think offering a service to client should enforce to them how amazing they are without digitally giving them plastic surgery.
The photography experience is what will bring new clients and obtain great reviews.
Listen to your clients, but lead them with your experience, if you know something is not going to work educate them. Take ownership of your brand and show the values you stand for. Enjoy your job! Don't feel that you have to be lifeless, you are your brand and no one likes to be served by a miserable worker. Think about your hygiene and appearance, no one wants to be around you if you look or smell undesirable. Engage with guests, let them know who you are and feel comfortable if shooting events.
Sometimes you will get clients or subjects that are difficult to deal with. Try to be patient, assertive and communicate what you expect from them. Sometimes saying no is a bad idea, the last thing you want as an outsider is a guest kicking off about declining to take their photo. However at the same time it is not always possible to say yes. Sometimes by saying please wait until after this or explaining that the client has asked for something not to be done and referring them to the paying client you can resolve a matter.
There were a few occasions I have had to be adaptable to unique situations. One was when I took a photograph of an undercover police officer another was when I took children that were fostered at an event (images put both at risk). In both occasions I discarded the images, however with the children I decided to not stop taking their photo. I felt treating them differently would impact them emotionally. I still deleted the photo afterwards and explained to their carer that I did not want them to feel less important than the non fostered children at the event.
A great customer service as a photographer is not based around your needs but the need of the client. It is your job to educate them through your system and to make it as enjoyable and pain free as possible. The end result should be a well informed client who has had a great experience with you and has received great images. By being professional at all times, communicating with them your expectations your brand values are demonstrated.