be a better photographer
Photo: Sal Cincotta

Terrible customer service experiences are so common — and so commonly frustrating — that websites like Yelp and Urban Spoon rely on them for their business. Because, of course, very few people have such blindingly good experiences that they merit a review. But shouldn’t that be the goal? As a photographer, are good pictures enough, if your clients are left with little to no opinion about the service they received…or worse, a bad opinion?

Photographer, author, and speaker Sal Cincotta says absolutely not. In order to be a better photographer, he says, you have to offer more than photography. You have to think like both a business and a consumer.

“We have to think like consumers. As consumers, we’ve all been on the side of good service and on the side of bad services. We have to own it, and own good service for our clients,” he explains. The difference between satisfied clients and happy, repeat clients who will refer you to all of their friends is being empathetic and understanding of what is expected — and what might surprise or delight your clients.

To deliver that kind of next-level service, says Sal, it’s important to do two things: First, remember that your client is probably a smart, informed person who wants to be in control of their photography experience and the products they receive after, and second, that tiny things make all the different.

“It’s all about communication,” he explains, adding that it’s always better to loop your clients in to what’s going on, rather than leaving them guessing in radio silence. Delay at the printer? Let them know. Can’t make a deadline? Tell them exactly why.

“Clients are savvy. They know we just make excuses,” Sal explains — so instead of blaming someone else or trying to cover up any mistakes or miscommunications, be forthcoming and open. Odds are, they’ll appreciate your honesty.

Small details are also key to customer service. And the emphasis, Sal explains, is on small.

“Don’t reinvent the wheel. Don’t turn this into something it doesn’t need to be.” Instead, he advises, come up with two to three ways that you can improve customer service in the next 30 days. Whether it’s a hand-written thank-you card after you wrap a session, a tiny gift or add-on that you can build into the price of the photos but feels special, or even just an email at every step of the process with updates and information, taking a small amount of time and energy to let your clients know that you’re thinking of them can be hugely influential.

“Does it take time? Yeah,” says Sal, “That’s the point. But it’s an investment. I’m investing my time back into them,” instead of simply collecting a paycheck. You can even find branding opportunities within these acts of service; consider putting your logo on the thank-you card, or having something small, like a flash-drive, custom with your branding on it made for your clients.

Being the best at your craft doesn’t mean a lot if you’re hard to work with. To be a better photographer, add value and create brand loyalty by thinking like a consumer.

Get more great insight from Sal Cincotta with his CreativeLive class, Master the Business of Photography