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Tips & Tricks

Phenomenal Customer Service Is Premeditated, Not Happenstance

By Brandon Perron on October 30th 2014

I doubt any of you reading this want to deliver anything less than stellar service to your clients. We, as paid photographers, live and die by clients and them continuing to either return for business or refer other business to us. Obviously, doing what you say, delivering the product/service they expect, combined with a positive attitude, usually goes over well.

However, I have always been a bit more purposeful and deliberate in ensuring that I can deliver on blowing my customers away. I live by the creed of “under-promising and over-delivering.” I purposely set expectations, with the mindset that I will be able make those expectations my b*tch ;-). To accomplish this, you must have a very firm grasp on how you are able to deliver your service in a consistent manner.

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Examples of Under-Promising & Over-Delivering

1. Turnaround Time On Getting Client’s Images

*Note: for me and my business, this is probably the biggest place where I am able to under- promise and over-deliver*

In my contract and all conversations with clients, I usually tell them 4-6 weeks to see images from each stage of the process. Stages are basically the progression that images are formed and delivered. So, the first stage is capturing the images and getting them to proof stage, 2nd stage would be customers picking images for print and me fully retouching them, 3rd stage is ordering them and them being delivered. So each one of these stages can potentially take 4-6 weeks each.

However, I have my work flow down to a science, in which, I can turn a wedding of 3-5k photos into a client viewing gallery in roughly 5-6 hours depending on upload time (this is culling images and bringing them into proof stage). This allows me to get client’s images up before the next weekend and send them the link to view. BAM, I destroyed their expectations. I under-promised (on purpose) 4-6 weeks and over-delivered (on purpose) by having them up and ready for viewing in less than a week. It’s the same for when they order prints…I know how long 98% of photos will take for me to fully retouch them (which really isn’t much, folks). I am usually able to have photos not only done, but ordered and delivered (my lab is super quick and I can count on them to have prints printed and shipped in 2 business days) in about 2 weeks’ time.

[REWIND: How I Get Clients To Give 3-5 Hours of Shooting Time During the Wedding Day]

2. Upgrading Products At No Charge

In all of my packages, I know that I have about an extra $100-300 or so to spend on upgrading my client’s products at no charge to them. Whether it be enlarging a print, adding a few extra spreads to an album, maybe converting a paper image to a canvas, or even giving them a large print that I really love, but that they didn’t even order…whatever it is, I ALWAYS do it. I tell them that I love the image so much, that I felt it needed to be a 24×30 instead of an 11×14 or that a spread they took out, I felt should really be in the album and so it is on me.

3. Spending Extra Time With Clients

Almost always, I spend extra time with my clients at no additional cost. The way I look at it…an extra 30-45 mins on an engagement shoot or an extra hour or so on a 12 hour wedding day really is not going to make a difference one way or the other for me. With all day weddings, I won’t have another job booked, so really what’s the difference spending a little extra time? By setting the expectations with my clients before anything takes place, they are usually very aware of what times I am supposed to be there and suppose to leave. They usually realize that I have stayed late and comment on it. When that happens, I just say that their wedding was so amazing that I wanted to make sure I captured every moment and I am more than happy to stay a bit after to make sure that happens (which is not anything, but the truth).

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4. Returning Emails or Phone Calls

I make it a habit to return all phone calls or emails within 1-14 hours (depending on when I receive them and what I am doing at that moment), but having set the expectation of 48 hours for me to get back to them. It goes from being, that I was fairly prompt at returning calls and emails, to he was always immediate in responding to emails and phone calls. By deliberately stating 48 hours, with the intention of getting back to them much, much sooner, allows just one additional way for me to under-promise and over-deliver.

5. Packaging

This is a really great way for you to WOW your clients. Most people expect the cheap little white envelopes or cardboard folder with their images in it. When you deliver images in very nice boxes or pouches or whatever, that most definitely over-delivers on what they expected. There are 2 common choices: 1 – You come up with your own packaging that is uniquely you. 2 – Most labs, have some sort of extra packaging, for very little cost. This is the option that I take as it’s inexpensive and is all done for me by the lab. If your lab doesn’t have this option, I suggest finding a new lab or doing it yourself. It can be such an inexpensive and easy thing to do, which just over-delivers on your clients expectations.

Other Advantages of Under-Promising and Over-Delivering

The other advantage of under-promising and over-delivering, if something happens (computer breaks, family issue, you get SUPER busy, whatever) you have lots of wiggle room in what your clients are expecting. Take processing images, for example. If you shoot a wedding a one weekend and you start working on the images the following week. You may have set the expectation of 2 weeks for delivery of images, but your computer breaks in the middle of it. The clock starts ticking and all of the sudden, you become pressed for time. Your now quick turnaround time is moving into the realm of over-promising and under-delivering. You have now missed marks that you set with the customer.

Setting the expectation on the more extreme end of how long the process actually takes allows me to blow clients away. As opposed to having the expectation of the times I am actually able to deliver on, while fast…it doesn’t have the impact of crushing the expectations. For me, it is about the perception of it all and I make it a deliberate process in order to maintain that level of service I want it to be.

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Conclusion

I know these are only a couple of ideas on how I am able to achieve under-promising and over-delivering and there are SO many other ways. I am a firm believer in more minds are better then fewer minds…so please tell me and everyone else, what you do, to under- promise or over-deliver to your clients in the comments below. I would very much enjoy hearing from as many of the readers as possible.

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Brandon Perron is a wedding photographer, making a transition into a freelance automotive digital contributor/photographer, as well as setting up his own private gallery. In his words, he is an uber sarcastic gasoline loving gear head, lost amongst the hipster hyper Eco-friendly crowd of PDX and has a mouth that makes sailors blush. He likes to think of himself as a daily life commentator, where nothing is off limits to poke fun at.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. James Rogen

    i was once admitted into a hospital and the nurse not only brought my food, but also gave me a sponge bath! I don’t think i’ll ever experience a customer service experience like that ever again.

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  2. Andy Ingram

    Great article touching on many important points. Over-delivering crosses over into aspects of our daily life. Striving to achieve it while learning my craft sounds like a good idea to me.

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    • Brandon Perron

      I agree very much Andy. Thank you for reading the article and taking the time to comment, I’m glad you enjoyed it. :-)

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  3. Aaron Cheney

    I completely agree with this article. It translates to so many aspects of life.

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    • Brandon Perron

      Thanks, Aaron…it does translate to pretty much all areas of life…thanks for reading and commenting.

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  4. Matthew Kitchen

    Good man, couldn’t agree more. I love doing personalised packaging as well, especially when the client is just expecting something basic; makes my day!

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    • Brandon Perron

      I’m glad you agree and it’s nice to see others putting this stuff into practice, already. Thank you for taking the time to read it and commemlnt.

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  5. Chris Nachtwey

    Totally agree with everything you said Brandon! Good article

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  6. Matt Owen

    I’ll throw extra fully retouched images in as well. When they pick x proofs for retouching, give them x+ and say they looked so good that it had to be included.

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  7. Ben Perrin

    I know people that have waited over a year for their wedding images. The photog does not get a get reputation in these cases. When a wedding gets delivered in a couple of weeks though they can’t recommend the photog enough. Great article, you’ve touched on something very important.

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    • Brandon Perron

      First…our last names ARE very close..which is cool because of how uncommon they are. However, if I’m honest, i like your spelling better…because a after market var companie has the same spelling. ;-)

      Ok….back on topic. Thank you gor taking the time to read the article, I’m glad you enjoyed it and agree. :-)

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  8. Pye

    Agree 100% with this philosophy in business, and really in life. Never will end up with disappointments if you are always under promising and over delivering ;)

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