I have the best customer service tip for you. It’s going to seem pretty basic but in the past few months I have discovered that it is something that is truly lacking in many businesses. This hot tip? Ready for it?! Reply to your clients.
I am sure that you are all thinking, “But I already know that!” And it’s true. I am going to go out on a limb and assume that all of you reading this post are intelligent individuals and do, in fact, know that the best way to treat your clients is to actually reply to their inquiries. The thing is, I am quickly discovering that most people do not actually do this. Not to toot my own horn too much (Man, I sound like my parents!), but I do have to say that my clients have always praised me for my customer service. I am always gracious in accepting the praise but it also always something that made me feel a bit strange. I always felt that I did not go too far out of my way for them. I didn’t send bottles of champagne and flowers (although maybe that is a good idea!). I do send thank you cards and first anniversary cards to my wedding clients but other than that, I do what I feel you should just do, as a normal, kind human who is running their own business. I reply to every email that I receive – whether it be a new inquiry or a current client that has a question. And I reply to those messages within twenty-four hours. If I know that I will be unable to reply to my emails within that timeframe, I put an auto-reply on my email explaining why there may be a delay in receiving a response from me and I tell them what date I will be returning to the studio. Why? Because it’s important and because that is how I expect to be treated by others.
As you know, I am getting married in five short weeks (blah blah blah!) and soon after said wedding, we are taking off to the land of Oz for three weeks. There is a lot of planning that is going into both of these big events and there are a lot of people and things involved. Throughout the process of planning both, I have to say that I have been 100% appalled by the behaviour of some vendors/venues/individuals. I am not going to name anyone specifically but I will say that for our trip to Australia, I contacted a large number of hotels and resorts where we wanted to stay. Out of that, maybe four of them actually replied to me. From those four, I would follow up and more often than not, my questions to them would not be answered and instead I would receive the same standard form reply that they send to everyone. We are planning a portrait session in Melbourne while we are there. I contacted three photographers to inquire about hiring them while we are there. ONE of them replied to me. One. We promptly booked him and he’s awesome and just last week we received a handwritten card in the mail letting us know that he is excited to meet us (Hi Alan!). Talk about awesome customer service.
For our wedding planning, our venue was super sweet and prompt when wanting us to choose them for the place where all the magic will happen. Then they took a month to get us a contract and expected it to be returned within ten days. Once we did send it in with our retainer, the level of customer service seemed to drop. It now takes an average of three days to get a reply to our questions and I just do not feel good about that. Are anyone of you guilty of this practise? Play sweet until you get the contract and then you relax a little, moving onto the next booking? We need to be conscious of how we treat our clients throughout the entire process of working with them. On Sunday I went to a wedding show and there I spoke with a guy who runs a photo booth company. I thought that it looked pretty cool. He gave me a card with a discount code. I got my photo taken and I filled out his form with my name, email, wedding date and what I was interested in (a photo booth!). He told me he would be in touch. I went home from that wedding show and immediately emailed the company. I told them when my wedding was (in five weeks!) and that I was interested in their photo booths. It is now Thursday afternoon and I have yet to receive a reply. This silence tells me that my wedding is not important to them. Last night I received a form email from them thanking them for taking the time to chat to them at the show and then it went on about their wedding photography and video. Things that I am clearly not interested in, as I indicated on their form. What I am interested in is receiving a reply to my inquiry in a timely manner (that time has passed). Should they decide to get back to me will I hire them? Likely not.
My favourite vendors are the ones who reply to my emails within a reasonable amount of time and those who actually seem enthusiastic about working with us. The woman whose retreat we booked while we will be staying in Queensland has sent some beautiful emails to us with a ton of useful information. Our wedding planner usually replies to our messages within an hour which is incredible and every time, her email mentions how excited she is for our wedding. Our florist has an autoreply on her email all of the time, stating how she is in her busy season but that my message is important and that she will reply as soon as she is able. And she does, usually always within twenty-four hours. I love all of this.
So my hot customer tip for you is this: reply to your clients. Reply to them in a timely manner – my definition of which is twenty-four hours. Reply to them no matter what. If it’s a bride asking about a date that you are already booked for, reply to her and recommend other photographers who may be available. If it’s someone inquiring about a service that you don’t do, reply to them and tell them that. Do not leave people hanging. Acknowledge that they took the time to reach out to you and give them some back. Tell them you appreciate their inquiry and be genuine about it. Treating people well goes much further than most other things in this life. Especially when you are running your own business. People will always remember the way that you made them feel. So make them feel good and they will come back to you time and time again (plus they will tell all of their friends!).