Even the most professional photographers on the planet occasionally screw up. Whether it’s a mistake in workflow, customer service, unmet expectations, or something completely out of our control, we’ve all been there at one point (and if you haven’t yet—just wait!). But a screw up with a client doesn’t have to screw up your entire business. In fact, if you handle the mistake properly, it can reinforce your honesty and commitment to your clients. Read on for some tips on how to handle those “uh oh” moments.
The first step is obviously to admit your mistake and apologize. Time is really of the essence here. If you can catch the mistake before your client does, even better. A heartfelt phone call or email goes a long way to soften the blow. Let them know how truly sorry you are, and what you’re going to do to fix it or make it up to them.
Fix the Mistake
If the screw up is something that can be fixed, by all means do it, and do it quickly! If you messed up their prints, order new ones. If you missed the deadline to mail out their images, get it done today. You still may need to offer them a bonus gift if you feel like the mistake was bad enough.
Offer an Alternative
Often times, our mistakes aren’t fixable. In a situation like this, the best you can do is make it up to your client by offering an alternative solution. If it was a problem with the session, you could offer a free re-shoot. If you missed a meeting or phone call, you could reschedule or offer to come to them. Often times, the alternative doesn’t quite live up to the original expectation, which may result in the client feeling negatively about the whole experience. In order to counter the sour taste in their mouth, you may want to offer a bonus gift.
Offer a Bonus Gift
When an apology and alternative solution have been offered, but you feel like you need to do more, that’s when you offer a bonus gift. Don’t let the term “gift” mislead you—you are doing this because you are still indebted to your client, and shouldn’t expect a gushing reaction from them in return. Some ideas for a bonus gift include free prints, a free pocket album, a free mini session, an upgraded session or album, a free canvas, or a free gift certificate. Choose something that doesn’t cost you a lot of money, but has a sufficient value for your client that the gesture will be recognized.
When it comes down to it, you shouldn’t let one mistake ruin your entire week (or month). We’re all just small business owners, doing our best to serve our clients each day, and slip-ups are bound to happen. But if you follow these steps, you can react in a professional and appropriate manner to minimize the damage to your business, your reputation, and most importantly, your client’s trust.
Have you ever made a stupid mistake in your business? Leave a comment below so we can all commiserate together!
Kelly Benton lives with her husband and two adorable dachshunds in Northeast Indiana, where she works from home as a Wedding Photographer. When she’s not photographing over people’s love, she’s a wannabe-rockstar triathlete with a penchant for funny movies and craft beer. Check out her blog or connect with her on Facebook.