Anyway I fired them. Signed up with a fancy high speed internet connection, and perfectly good telephone system and all for about half the monthly price. Plus if I have a problem, I get to phone a person which is kinda nice. But this post isn't really about why I switched, it is about what happened afterwards and how that relates to customer service for your photography business.
About a week or so after switching I received a bill from Telus saying I had a credit of about $55. They sent another 'bill' a month later showing the same credit and I wondered how long it would take them to figure out that they needed to pay me, not the other way around. Then today I received a bill for about $20 for a "termination liability charge" which basically wiped out my credit and left me with a balance owing. Now we all know how these big uncaring companies work don't we? You can phone and argue and you'll just get some disgruntled employee that could care less about your gripe over $20. So I just decided to pay it and I phoned them and waded through a 10 minute conversation with a robot voice and gave my credit card number. Before the transaction could be completed though a customer service rep came on and told me I had no balance owing and didn't have to pay. I took his name and employee number because I'm sure that next month I will get a 'past due' notice on the $20 with a late penalty attached to it.
What does all this have to do with our photography businesses? Well basically it is a lesson in how to react to being fired. I'm not going back to Telus. Their service was inferior and their prices were very high for that inferior product. But assuming that there is a chance that I may have trouble with Shaw Cable at some point in my future and wish to 'fire' them as my communications provider I certainly won't put Telus on the list of considerations. Why? Because when I let them go they threw a mini-tantrum and tried to squeeze me for some more cash.
I've lost jobs as a photographer. Been under-bid by another photographer, or had the customer convinced that their work was better than mine, more reliable or from a more experienced professional. I've been frustrated by that, even a little angry. I once stalked the website of a corporate customer that canned me for someone else and when the images from the other photographer finally appeared they were identical to the ones I had provided which hadn't been 'good enough.' Thing is though that when I said good-bye to that client I thanked them for considering me, I sent them an email wishing them well with their business and I even mailed them a card. They gave us a two bottles of liquor as a good-bye gift. We also lost a bid on a large sports league in town to be their photographer. They ended up going with the known sports photographer in town as they had been burned in the past by unprofessional photographers that just couldn't deliver. I understood. They liked us, they even asked us to bid on the contract, but in the end they paid more to avoid any speed bumps. Did I try and send them a bill for a 'termination liability charge?' Nope, I wished them well and told them to keep us in mind for future work.
Thing is that each year our company grows, gets better and gets more desirable to work with. For customers that have not hired us, or have fired us, I hope to have them back one day. Your grandma probably told you never to 'burn a bridge' in case you might need to cross back over it one day. That stands true for business as well. It can hurt to lose a job, but if you keep at it and try hard you will get other jobs. And if you sincerely wish great things for others, even those that pass you by for a job, you just might get rewarded one day for it.
Just a little example from last month. At the wedding show in February 2010 we met a couple that hired a friend instead of us for their wedding to save some money. I wished them well on their wedding, thanked them for coming by and I was sincere about it. Their wedding photos were a disaster and when they needed photos of their newborn in December guess who they called? Certainly not the bitter photographer two booths down that shooed them away when they mentioned the words "free friend photographer."
The customer service you give, even to those that are no longer your customers, will one day help make your business a success. Don't become the large impersonal Telus that hates their job. You and your customers deserve better.
The photo below has nothing to do with this post. It is just that I thought I typed a lot here, and since this is a photography blog there should be at least one picture every couple of hundred words. The model came in with her giant tarantula spider (not seen below) and a guitar for some photos last weekend. We had a blast despite the fact that I'm kinda scared of big hairy spiders. I'll blog more about that shoot another time.
Taken with Canon 5D mk II and 50mm f1.4 lens. Large gridded Octabank model left and small strip light on the right both directly beside the model. I used a video light to brighten up the rather dark guitar just a little bit because without it it was a dark blob.
OK, before I go I wanted to share a post by Kirk Tuck where he is talking about LED lighting. I'll let you read it there, but he says at one point "I've become weary of the constant use of flash. Subjects are used to continuous light. They don't react as much to that. Flash always seems to draw more attention. And subjects also seem to "play to" flash more than to other kinds of light."
That really had me thinking about flash vs continuos light sources. I love using flash and studio lighting for the power, the ability to stop motion and because I'm used to it. But what Kirk says is really true. Whether it be the sun, windows or indoor lights we are all used to continuous lights in our everyday life. Using them would allow your subject to not 'brace for the flash' and might allow for a more candid feel for the image as the photographer doesn't create a light with the exposure, the light is always on. Food for thought that I figured others might consider interesting. I only own one LED light, but I do enjoy using it sometimes. Maybe I should use it more.
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