No matter what you do and how good you are, eventually you’ll pass an unhappy client or negative feedback. If you’ve just started a photography business, don’t let this break your confidence or influence your work. Learn how to deal with these situations effectively, and you can turn things around and maybe flip an unhappy customer into a gratified client.
Editor’s Note: Let’s assume you didn’t stupidly say one of these 5 things at the beginning.
Who Are You?
Finding out that your clients have not seen any of your photos should raise some red flags. And getting your portfolio in front of them should be priority one if your client is walking into your studio blind and wants you to photograph their newborn or wedding.
So, when someone comes to you out of the blue, it means that they simply need a photographer, and they think anyone will do. He or she may also think that, as a professional photographer, you can produce images that are the exact match to what they have in their imaginations.
Photo © Paulina Lohunko
In this case, there is a good chance that this kind of client will be unhappy with the result.
Because, the truth is, you can only produce images similar to your portfolio and your photographic style. And this is your prime opportunity to demonstrate your value and what sets you apart.
You’re already a rockstar. Show them.
Your goal in this situation is to manage expectations and determine if your skills and style are the best fit for the project.
Because saying no to a bad fit is better than taking on a project that will ultimately hurt you and and your customer. You can’t put a price on reputation.
2 Ears And 1 Mouth. Which Should You Use More?
Listen to your client until the end, even if you hear a complaint.
… our lives are not determined by what happens to us but by how we react to what happens …
Don’t try to interrupt or protest at this stage, just let that person talk it out. It’s important that they feel listened to. Moreover, knowing the details will help you to solve whatever issue has come up.
I repeat. Take the beating.
Once your client has finished talking, take a moment to think about what is below the surface. Try taking a walk in their shoes. Empathy is key to helping you solve the problem on both sides.
Wrong question: “How can I let them know that they are wrong?”
Right question: “Why?”
In customer service, reasons carry the most weight. Asking “why” enough times gets you to the cause of the headache.
You Have To Be Fast
It’s critically important to reply in a timely manner.
Photo © Skitter Photo
Take a few minutes to think what are you going to say, but then act.
Don’t waste time trying to come up with the ‘perfect’ response, because timing is key. If you need more time to come up with a solution, respond with the following;
“I’m sorry to hear you’re unhappy with the images. As soon as I have a chance to review them I will get back to you and we can come up with a solution”.
This will give you some time to deal with your emotions (if you need to), calm down, and reply in professional manner.
Trust me, this is the way to go.
If the complaint seems angry, consider setting up a meeting. Your tone of voice and even your body language can improve your odds of resolving the issue quickly. Just try to show your client that you’re on their side and ready to do something to improve the situation.
The Complex Equation
Unfortunately, there is no right formula to deal with unhappy clients. It depends on the situation.
Photo © Saumya Rastogi
For instance, if a bride does not like her wedding pictures, there is no way to re-shoot the session. You may agree or disagree with her, but it won’t make that bride happier. In this case, you may offer a free print or canvas, or even part of a refund.
Ask the client if they have a solution in mind. If the proposed solution is within your power to grant, it’s a simple quick-fix. You can’t give everything away for free, but bearing some of the pain of your customer goes a long way to satisfying them.
What’s That? I Can’t Hear You Over The Sound Of My Awesome-ness
Photo © Leeroy
I get it. When you work really hard and put a lot of effort into something, it’s difficult not to take complaints personally. But you have to switch off your feelings to see the situation clearly and objectively.
Feelings of pride come from feelings of superiority. If you feel superior to your clients, than there is a problem. When you realize that you’re not above a mistake, ego is removed and you can see the issue from multiple angles.
You’re clients will always know more about what they want than you do. And when you work for them, you should be giving them what they want … even if it’s not exactly what you want.
Remember, Some Clients Will Be Unhappy Anyway
Some people will never be satisfied. It sucks, but it’s a real thing.
Even if you offer to re-shoot, re-edit, or even refund, they would refuse everything and keep right on complaining. This is not to say that difficult customers should be blown off, but you need to know your limits.
If you’ve done everything you know you can do to correct the issues, then you can lay your head on your pillow at night and sleep soundly. Just make sure you’re honest with yourself.
This happens to everybody, no matter how many years of experience you have or how expensive your gear is.
Remember, “…our lives are not determined by what happens to us but by how we react to what happens, not by what life brings to us, but by the attitude we bring to life. A positive attitude causes a chain reaction of positive thoughts, events, and outcomes. It is a catalyst, a spark that creates extraordinary results.”
It’s Not Just You
This happens to everybody, no matter how many years of experience you have or how expensive your gear is. So, use the tips from above and try to find a solution.
And the last, but the most important tip – perceive complaints as a chance to look at your work from the other side. Sometimes there could be room for improvement and you just didn’t see it until now. And that screaming client could have stumbled upon a weak point that needs to be strengthened.
Opportunity can pop it’s head up in the most uncomfortable places.