Richard Shoaf

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Customer Service in the Photography Industry

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By Richard Shoaf, founder RS7 Studios & STCI

We are approaching 20 years in business and we are often asked, “how did you do it?” I will start with inspiration and the desire to move forward. That is how our company started and continues to grow. Secondly it is to understand business, which many will quiver at the thought when I say “I am 70% business person and 30% artist” Now really my heart is 100% artist, I just understand that the business aspects of running a company have to dominate the day to day operations with the artwork being the focus.

Recently I spent a week in Chicago at “Skip’s Summer School” and Skip Cohen mentioned a quote “If I can see the world through my client’s eyes, then I can sell my client what my client buys!” ~Ed Forman, Polaroid.  Take a moment and think about this. It has multiple dimensions.

First, your artistic eye is likely what gets you up in the early morning to capture a sunrise image with a newly engaged couple, however if that is not the image that they are looking for was it the right thing to do. Know your client. This is what separates professionals from the rest of the weekend warriors. One thing we have learned from our commercial clients is to talk to them about the vision of the project then deliver on that vision. You may say “my client does not know what they want”, and my answer would be, have you spent time with them trying to understand what their likes, dislikes and passion are? They may not know the vocabulary but you can have a consultation with them to fully understand what their inspiration is.

Second, when you are doing a portrait review or sales session with the client, its all about presentation. See it through their eyes. Comfort, simplicity and luxury should be present during this time. If you have a studio consultation space, you want to have it comfortable for them to view the images you are reviewing. It should be simple and not distracting from their images and luxurious. You would not sit in the Ferrari dealership in a hard wooden chair would you? Think about that for a second.

Third, when a client has a question, concern or issue. Follow my simple mantra in almost everything I do (or at least try to), “Listen, then act”. Yes, a two part customer service program. Listen to the customers wants, desires, needs, and goals. Ask questions of clarification to fully understand what they want only after they have fully expressed themselves. Then ask them what would be a good remedy, if appropriate. If not, provide a couple of solutions that EXCEED their expectations. Then act on them swiftly.


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