Have you received a bad review or negative feedback from a client? Did it make you feel defensive, hurt, or just plain thrown for a loop? Let’s cover some ways to avoid costly mistakes!
Every business owner makes mistakes as we develop our processes, expand our services, and grow into our own. Heaven knows I’ve made my fair share!
No one is born knowing exactly how to provide excellent customer service, and most of us learn through simple trial and error. Sometimes those mistakes leave clients with a bad impression, but instead of letting that make you feel like a failure, use it as a learning opportunity.
In fact, you can learn from my very own trial and error by reading the blog below! I’m sharing five common client experience mistakes photography businesses make (including my own!) so you can avoid them down the line, as well as how to improve your client experience.
Client Experience Mistake #1: Working With You Is Confusing
CEO of StoryBrand and Business Made Simple, Donald Miller, famously said “If you confuse, you lose.”
Creating a positive experience for your clients starts with making sure your processes are clear and concise. If your client ever feels lost or confused, their confidence in you might waver, and this could prime them to look for other problems in their experience.
Check to see if working with you might be confusing for your clients by asking yourself these questions:
- Does my website clearly communicate what type of photographer I am and what type of clients I serve?
- Is my new client onboarding process simple? What do I require of my leads before they officially become clients?
- Does my client welcome guide provide all of the info necessary to prep clients for their session?
- How easy is it for clients to pay me/sign contracts/complete questionnaires/send me messages?
- Are my packages or session fees easy to understand? Is there room for someone to misunderstand what is and isn’t included in my fees?
- Is my image selection/delivery process more complicated than it needs to be?
A good experiment is to run your processes by a trusted friend or family member, someone who knows basically nothing about how your business works, and ask them to point out areas that make them go “huh?” Then spend time revising, simplifying, and making your processes client friendly.
Client Experience Mistake #2: You Expect the Customer to Understand the Industry
Part of WHY working with you is confusing is probably because you have forgotten what it’s like to not be a photographer. Before you learned how to run a photography business, I would bet you didn’t know what the heck an image credit was, or how to design a gallery wall, or what to wear to a photo session, or how much more complicated it is to photograph an extended family of 32 people compared to a family of four.
Put yourself in your clients’ shoes; when you use industry-specific phrases like “print license” or “model release,” be sure to fully explain what that means in layman’s terms.
Take the extra time to define terms and policies that may be unfamiliar to the average person, but are obvious to photographers.
In the past, I would email contracts and invoices, and leave it up to my clients to read them and understand what they were signing. I eventually got feedback from clients (who ultimately didn’t complete their booking) that the contracts were confusing and they didn’t feel comfortable signing.
This made me adjust the way I deliver contracts — now, I generally send them while I am on the phone with the person so I can go over important details and answer any questions right away.
Client Experience Mistake #3: Your Communication Skills Are Lacking
Whether you are typing or speaking, your top goal should always be clarity. Balance communicating authentically in your photography brand’s voice while also being comprehensive in your explanations.
Instead of saying “I’ll get those sneak peeks to you soon,” say “My goal is to send five sneak peeks within 48 hours of the session date, so be on the lookout for that email.” Giving clients clear expectations and explanations of terms has to take priority over being brief.
Another important aspect of communication in regards to client experience is setting clear boundaries and practices for how they should be contacting you. From initial inquiry to sending a review, make it simple for all clients to know where and when they should be talking to you.
For example, my email signature includes a little blurb about my office hours and how soon clients should expect a response (spoiler alert: I’m not answering emails at 11pm on a Saturday), and I direct all inquiries towards my website contact form so everything is organized in one place. When I had my DMs open for inquiries and client communication, I had a tendency to lose track of conversations, and sometimes inadvertently left clients on Read. NOT a good look!
(Check out Meg Marie’s blog on making a client welcome guide for more on this topic!)
And finally – remember that your client experience is more about the client than about yourself. If you find yourself at a session or on a phone call talking about yourself, your life, and your day-to-day more than your client…take a breather.
Let your client lead the conversation, and let them be the star of the show. They’ll come away from it feeling like you care about them — which you do!
Client Experience Mistake #4: You Over Promise and Under Deliver
We all want to give our clients the world! However, saying “yes” to every request will eventually bite you in the butt.
I learned this the hard way when, during a headshot session, a client asked me to photograph them in a style I wasn’t experienced with. Instead of saying, “Oh, no…you don’t want photos like that from me — I don’t have those skills!” I said, “Sure!”
And guess what? The photos were bad, my client was unhappy, and they never hired me again. I set myself up for failure by projecting confidence because I was afraid that showing humility would be taken as a sign of incompetence.
I read a post recently from another photographer who kept saying “yes” to every request from their client and ended up becoming their default wedding planner and floral designer… without any extra compensation.
She then had to deal with the fallout when the expectations for the wedding exceeded her capabilities. Truthfully, it is better to say, “No, I am not able to provide that specific service/product/experience for you,” than to agree to something that you are not 100% able to do professionally.
Client Experience Mistake #5: You Expect Your Clients to Market for You
I absolutely love it when my clients are happy enough with my work to share it on social media and tag me, or link back to my website from their own, or give me an image credit when their photo is featured in a magazine article. But I do not require my clients to be my unpaid street team, promoting my photography business and sending more clients my way indefinitely.
Early on, my contract included a requirement that clients make all reasonable efforts to provide image credit when sharing images publicly. I actually lost out on clients because of this requirement, and at first I couldn’t understand why!
Crediting your photographer is such a simple way to say, “I’m happy with this person’s work.” But then I thought about it from the client’s perspective: Why should they have to credit me? Do they credit their graphic designer every time they use their logo online? Do they credit their hairdresser every time they post a selfie?
I realized I would much prefer my clients decide to tell people about my services organically rather than compel them to do so through a contractual agreement.
I’ve seen many clients of other photographers bristle at the idea of being forced to sign a model release form, and I’ve seen photographers get upset when a client asks that their photos not be shared publicly. This practice of pressuring clients to allow images of themselves to be used in marketing, just because the copyright belongs to the photographer by default, is simply bad customer service. Remember: the service is about the customer.
How to Improve Your Client Experience Going Forward
Don’t beat yourself up if you’ve been making any of these mistakes. Instead, take some time to evaluate how you can put your clients first, actively listen to their pain points, and build your services around their needs.
Start with treating your clients as if they were more than just people paying you to do a job: treat them like friends. Empathize with the fact that hiring a photographer isn’t something they likely do every day, and you may need to hold their hand through the process. Creating a stress-free client experience will only make your photography business stronger!
Written by Jesi Cason | Photos by Jesi Cason Photography