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The Reel Deal: Service With a Smile
Posted Apr 25, 2006 Print Version     Page 1of 1

Most videographers know that providing excellent customer service can distinguish you from your competition, increase your customer referrals, and get your name out there. But are you aware that bad customer service will get your name out there, too? Excellent customer service is usually associated with higher-end services, and affluent people will gladly pay more to receive excellent customer service. Unless your business is volume-based, you want to reach the higher-end brides because you can only serve one or two per weekend. I would rather shoot one $4,000 wedding than four $1,000 weddings.

Excellent customer service starts with their first contact with you. Make it easy for people to do business with you. It's best if you can personally answer your phone, as people sometimes will hang up instead of leaving a message. Your potential client may move on to the next studio who answers their phone. It's a great idea to use call forwarding to your cell phone if you aren't in your studio; or part of your phone message could be, ". . . you can also reach me at (your cell phone number)." I adhere to a 24-hour rule: I always return phone calls and emails within 24 hours of receiving them. If you let messages go unanswered any longer than that, you stand a greater chance of losing potential business. Have you noticed how some people will even thank you for returning their calls so promptly? This should be a given, yet many people lose potential business before they were ever given a chance to speak.

When it comes to email inquiries, I always try to get them to call me, or I ask if I can call them to further discuss their wedding or other type of video project. Email communication can sometimes turn into miscommunication, and you don't want that. I prefer talking on the phone over sending an email. You can establish a rapport faster over the phone than through email. Speaking of email, never try to be funny on email with clients; without intonation and other cues you give while speaking face to face or over the phone, people are more likely to take email the wrong way, especially if they don't know you. Tone, inflection, and personality come across much better over the phone than they do in an email.

After the wedding, I will send the couple an email when I start to edit their wedding video. Sometimes I have a question or two about whether I should leave something in or take it out. I don't want to waste time re-editing something (even if I do charge them), so when in doubt, I make a phone call. A little communication goes a long way. This past Christmas I sent all my brides an email update on where I was in the editing process, as I knew their families would be asking them if they had their wedding video yet.

I always give a little more than they are expecting. Sometimes it's extra DVDs, or some extra footage, some digital prints, etc. I want to leave the customer feeling that they got more than what they paid for. That feeling makes everyone happy! For example, I had a bride whose family was from Berlin, Germany. Half of their wedding ceremony and even some of the toasts were done in German, as some guests only spoke German. As luck would have it, I went to Berlin the week after videotaping her wedding. I took a double-decker bus tour of the city and videotaped and edited a beautiful piece of Berlin for the bride. She absolutely loved it! For me, it was more about providing goodwill than charging her for it. You know she will tell her friends and family about her videographer who went the extra mile (or in this case, the extra continent) for her.

Excellent customer service is also about knowing how to handle gracefully the bad things that may befall your business at one time or another. If something goes wrong, admit it, apologize, and offer a solution. Don't try and pass the blame. As business owners, we have to remember that "the buck stops here." Also, don't deliver bad news through an email or a phone message—speak to the person directly. This way you can gauge how well they handle the news and can answer any questions they have immediately.

I will also call the bride and tell her that I'm finished with her wedding video and that I'll be sending out a preview copy. I tell her that I'll go to DVD once I hear back from her. This way, I always find out how the couple liked their wedding video. I will also ask them what their favorite parts were. They usually comment how much they loved their video, etc. I will then ask them to put those kind words into writing so I can share them with others.

When I send them their final DVDs, I will also include a customer satisfaction survey along with an enclosed self-addressed stamped envelope. It is very important to me that my couples are happy with the entire process of doing business with me. I know a happy bride will tell five of her friends if she is happy with you; by the same token, an unhappy bride will tell fifteen of her friends if she isn't happy with you. Excellent customer service with a smile always comes back to you tenfold.

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