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Julia Kelleher on the Ten Commandments of Customer Service

by Stephanie Faris
photo & video

Julia Client

It happens to everyone, even pros like Julia Kelleher: An unhappy client. No one is perfect, and customer service issues are bound to spring up from time to time. No matter what’s happened in the past, here are 3 crucial tips to improve customer service and drastically improve your business.

Ten Commandments of Customer Service

Julia urges all photographers to follow the ten commandments of good customer service, something she discovered from Susan A. Friedmann. They are:

1. Never forget that the customer pays our salary and makes your job possible.

2. Be a good listener. Take the time to identify customer needs by asking questions and concentrating on what the customer is really saying.

3. Identify and anticipate needs. Customers don’t buy products or services. They buy good feelings and solutions to problems. Most customer needs are emotional rather than logical.

4. Make customers feel important and appreciated. Treat them as individuals.

5. Help customers understand your systems. Your organization may have the world’s best systems for getting things done. But if customers don’t understand them, they can get confused, impatient, and angry.

6. Appreciate the power of “yes.” Always look for ways to help your customers. When they have a request, tell them that you can do it.

7. Know how to apologize. When something goes wrong, apologize. It’s easy and customers like it. The customer may not always be right, but the customer must always win.

8. Give more than expected, since the future of all companies lies in keeping customers happy. Think of ways to elevate yourself above the competition. Consider the following:

– What can you give customers that they cannot get elsewhere?

– What can you do to follow up and thank people even when they don’t buy?

– What can you give customers that is totally unexpected?

9. Get regular feedback. Encourage and welcome suggestions about how you could improve.

10. Treat employees well. Employees are your internal customers and need a regular dose of appreciation. Thank them and find ways to let them know how important they are. Treat your employees with respect and chances are, they will have a higher regard for customers.

Remember, The Customer Is Boss

Most clients are understanding when a photographer makes mistakes. However, it’s important that photographers understand that the customer is a photographer’s boss. Some bosses are good and some aren’t.

“Technically they’re your boss for the three to six weeks that you have them with you,” Julia says. “Some bosses suck, but thank God you only have them for a limited time. It’s better than being in a corporate dead-end job where your boss really sucks and you have to live with them for years.”

Anticipate Client Needs and Listen Intentionally

Six months ago, award-winning photographer Julia Kelleher was face to face with an angry celebrity client. The album Julia produced for her was one-eighth of an inch crooked. The difference was so small, neither Julia nor her team had noticed it during their quality control check.

Julia called the lab, at which point she was told that there is an eighth of an inch tolerance, since the albums are handcrafted. However, after looking at the pictures Julia sent in, the lab agreed to reprint it. The client was happy with the new product, but Julia realized that the client wasn’t angry over an eighth of an inch. The client was angry because this was the second time the album had been reprinted, since Julia left the baby’s middle name off the first time through.

“She got really frustrated because I didn’t listen to her, even though she told me to put the middle name in,” Julia said. “She had to ask for a problem to be solved two to three times before it was solved. And I didn’t anticipate her needs. It was bad customer service, simple as that.” Listening is one of the most important skills a photographer can possess, don’t get lost during a meeting and forget to pay attention to what the client is really requesting of you. 

Julia client 2

You already know how important happy clients are, and now you’re better equipped to leave them with a great experience from the moment they call to book their session with these customer service tips. To find out more about customer service and how to build a successful photography business, check out Studio Systems: A Photography Business Bootcamp.

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Stephanie Faris

Stephanie Faris is the Simon & Schuster author of 30 Days of No Gossip, 25 Roses, and the upcoming Piper Morgan series.