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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.