PICTURE THIS: Episode 8. CLIENT SATISFACTION VS. PERSONAL SATISFACTION


Today our discussion has to do with something every photographer needs to address and the sooner the better – Client satisfaction or personal satisfaction, which do you value most?

Do you prefer that your client be more satisfied with your job than you are or vice versa?  Let me share a personal experience from a job we did for a client. We covered his wedding in November. He flew in from Canada where he is based two weeks to the wedding date. It was then I met him for the first time. We had to do a pre-wedding shoot quickly, and when I delivered the pictures he expressed some dissatisfaction with the editing. This [according to him] was because we did not remove some sideburns, some backgrounds and that he was expecting more [graphic] editing than we did.

I explained to him that yes, we can do that; but the type of editing we do is minimalistic, noting that what he wanted us to do with Photoshop could cost a lot more. But he still insisted. True, he had paid a reasonable amount as fees (equivalent to about $2200.00) for his wedding coverage.

This was a rare scenario, because I wasn’t accustomed to this type of editing (request from clients). So it begged the question, ‘should I please him or should I insist on what I want?’

I eventually had to re-edit all the pictures and it took longer than we planned. So we delivered the pictures a few days before the wedding. I felt satisfied that we accomplished it, but it did not end there. When we did the design for the wedding albums, we sent him a proof. He wasn’t pleased with half of the pages of the album and raised issues like how he did not want certain pictures to appear and how his sideburns (again) were not edited to his satisfaction. It left me thinking maybe it would have been better if he had contracted someone else for skin surgery before the wedding and save me the amount of time and detail required for editing. But I had concluded this is a client I was going to serve and chose to please him no matter what. We recently concluded the re-editing on his album and hope that he will be pleased this time.

I have met a lot of photographers who have faced clients who want this editing and that editing, portraiture, skin smoothing, background editing and some other editing that does not fit their style of photography. I think first of all, all the explanation of what is involved should have been done in writing before taking responsibility to be the client’s photographer and before acceptance of a photographer’s fees, because once this takes place, it means you have agreed to go the whole nine yards.

But even with all the documentation you will still encounter clients who still insist they want something more. It’s up to you to decide if you want to please your client or if you want to please yourself. Every photographer needs to address this. Personally, what I do is ask myself who pays my bills at the end of the day? And while a lot of photographers might feel differently about this there is a good chance that it might determine if they will remain in the photography business a few years from now.

Another experience I’ve had is with someone whom I hired to make a customized shoe for me. It turned out very tight when he delivered it. He explained that he’s only satisfied when he likes shoes that he’s made for clients and seeing them wearing the shoes, and that given another two months, the pair he made for me will expand.

I was like, ‘I am not comfortable in them, and I am the one paying for the shoes so I should care less whether you like the shoes or not. I should be satisfied because I am the client.’

Ultimately it is when the client is satisfied (I believe), that you get more referrals. Eventually I convinced him to take the shoes back since I was not satisfied, even though he tried to persuade me that they were ok.

That is something I try not to do with my clients. Many times when I take their pictures and they’re asking me which one they should select, most times I let them make that choice, as they will have those pictures in their homes for the rest of their lives. The ones I suggest anyway are usually not chosen. I could say,’ I like this picture where you are smiling’ and they would be like, ”No! my teeth are too out in the open. I would rather have you frame this one where I am not smiling….” Even though I don’t like it, my head is thinking, who pays for my overhead at the end of the day?

This should be addressed. I have met  many photographers who complain about their clients and they were never forced to take the clients on anyway. But once payment is received, it is binding, legal and almost like a vow, to have to satisfy the client.

This is my opinion, the more satisfied clients you have, the more likely you are going to be in business for a while to come. Interestingly the more difficult the client is and you strive to make sure he is satisfied, the more referrals you are likely going to get from such a person.

So a client might be asking for things that are seemingly unachievable, if it comes with additional cost, explain it to them and if they are insisting that they will not pay extra, still do it! Go out of your way to do a job that they will be pleased with at the end.

Client satisfaction or personal satisfaction? You may have to create a balance between the two. But ultimately if the client is satisfied, in the long run you too will be satisfied.

One other terrible experience that comes to mind happened when I did a job for a client who was a commissioner in Abuja [Nigeria]. When I met her to collect the payment for services I rendered, she actually threw the money (about $1,000 cash) at me, asking to take the money and get out of her presence. Apparently she was upset prior to my meeting her and she’d  had an argument with her personal assistant. That would normally make some of us angry, and feel undignified but it is in scenarios like this we need to act maturely. I tried to be patient and counted the money to be sure it was complete, and thanked her before leaving.

Try to be patient with your clients, make them satisfied and ultimately your business will be grateful [to you]  for it.

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