How photographers can guarantee customer loyalty in their photography business
We all want happy clients. As photographers and entrepreneurs, it makes our work so much more enjoyable to have satisfied clients, but is satisfaction enough? The #1 authority on sales and best-selling author, Jeffrey Gitomer has a book called “Customer Satisfaction is Worthless. Customer Loyalty is Priceless” and he’s been quoted as simplifying the concept to this:
Would you rather your spouse be satisfied, or loyal?
– Jeffrey Gitomer
Even though it has a comical undertone to it, it couldn’t be more true! Customer satisfaction isn’t enough – we need to make a point to have loyal customers and ecstatic customers – satisfaction itself should be assumed.
How can we have customer loyalty? How can we over-deliver on customer expectations and ultimately deliver what I like to call “delight and surprise” to ensure that we are creating customers for life? Well, that’s the topic of today’s discussion!
Quick aside, here are three related articles about the customer experience and setting expectations that you may find of interest if you want to dive deeper into some of these areas:
- Setting client expectations in your photography business, article on SproutingPhotographer.com
- Delivering delight and surprise, podcast discussion with Rob and I
- Designing a killer customer experience for your photography business, article on SproutingPhotographer.com
What is customer satisfaction?
Let’s explore the idea of customer satisfaction. Satisfaction is defined as the fulfillment of one’s wishes, expectations, or needs, or the pleasure derived from this, meaning that if we have customers who are satisfied, then it means that we’re meeting their expectations and needs. The only way to start looking at how we can exceed those expectations and needs is to identify what they are in the first place.
What are the customer expectations and needs for us as professional photographers? I believe that for a personal and professional service, there are three main “dimensions” of the customer’s expectations and needs:
If we look at what the “basic expectations” are for each of these “dimensions”, we can conclude that in order to have a satisfied customer and meet their basic expectations, we must:
- Create quality photos
- Deliver the photos on-time
- You must be agreeable
Exceeding customer expectations
You may be surprised to hear that in order to merely meet the customer’s expectation, you must deliver on these three promises – quality photos, on-time delivery and an agreeable personality. Many photographers stop at this thinking that they’ve “done their job” but then wonder why they aren’t getting repeat business or creating raving fans. You must learn to “up” your game and fill the gap between these basic expectations (customer satisfaction) and what it means to deliver delight and surprise .
The difference between customer satisfaction and delivering delight is the difference in each of the three dimensions (product, service and personality) and therefore, in order to effectively deliver delight to your clients, you must:
- Create exceptional photos
- Over-deliver on service
- Be extremely friendly, fun and professional
These concepts really just scrape the surface, but it gives you the framework that will allow you to adopt specific practices in your own photography business to exceed those basic expectations.
How to “deliver delight” to clients
Do you want customer loyalty? All you have to do is find ways to over-deliver on your clients’ basic expectations in each of the dimensions of product, service and personality. What specifically does that look like? Well I believe it will be different for every photographer and in every market, but let’s explore a few examples of how you can “up” your game in either your product, your service or your personality:
- Be the best photographer that you can be.
- Always be improving your photographic skills – what you produce for your client one year from now at their wedding should be better than the images they see in your portfolio today.
- Don’t show your best work on your website, but instead reserve it for your in-studio consultation.
- Give yourself 15% of your client’s session where you have complete creative freedom to make something unique and really special for them.
- Don’t retouch your proofs, and only retouch the finished prints and products, this way they are seeing something new (and amazing) when they get them.
- Under-promise and over-deliver on timelines.
- Be deliberate about professionalism in your communication.
- Conduct a design consultation and help them make decisions on their wall art.
- Make yourself available via the phone for questions and to discuss ideas.
- Send out newsletters with updates, examples and inspiration.
- Be thorough in walking your client through the process of working with you – explain clothing suggestions, tell them about sizing recommendations, educate them about the differences between print finishing options, and so on.
These are just some basic ideas to get you started on delivering delight to your clients in the areas of product, service and personality. You can be creative in your own business and explore more ideas for implementation.
Delivering “surprises” to your clients
The next part of “delivering delight and surprise” to guarantee customer loyalty is to deliver “surprises” to your clients. Be intentional about injecting specific surprises at points throughout the customer experience.
Again, what you do specifically will be dependent on your market, your clients and your niche, but here are a few examples of how a wedding photographer might be able to deliver “surprises” to their clients:
- Send a hand-written thank-you note after a bride and groom book you.
- Mail a “date night” package to your bride and groom the month before their wedding, including an iTunes gift card with a few packages of popcorn.
- Send flowers to your bride the week before the wedding with a note saying “can’t wait for the wedding!”
- Use Sticky Albums and send the bride and groom their own custom digital album for their phones the day after their wedding. Aside: if you're not using Sticky Albums, you're missing out BIG time!
- Surprise the bride and groom with 5 of your favourite prints with their digital proofs. You might remember a blog post I wrote about how I do this here.
- Include a package of chocolates with the wedding album when they pick it up.
- Send a framed print and hand-written note on their 1-year anniversary.
Whatever you end up doing, the goal here is to be deliberate about what you’re doing, and design a system that allows you to make this a repeatable process for every client. Think about your customer experience and find areas where you can deliberately deliver delight and surprise.
Here's a graphic that we put together which wraps the whole concept of “Delivering Delight and Surprise” up in one nice package. Feel free to download it (right-click the link and choose “Save As”) and share it (with a link to this blog post) if you'd like!