© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography The last rays of the setting Sun bathes the snow-capped peak of Mount Baker in alpenglow as the lights of the city of Bellingham, Wash., begin to turn on during evening April 23, 2013.

What I’ve Learned Working Retail …

… And how it relates to a Photography business.

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography- -Folklorico Mexicano dance team member Ashley Ventura,12, of El Jebel, Colo., watches others rehearse at Basalt Middle School during Cinco de Mayo celebrations.

Over the past year to help catch-up some bills, I worked at  The Home Depot here in Bellingham, Wash. I started as just a cashier but worked my way into the electrical department. It wasn’t as if I was going into something I didn’t know as I was an electrician in the Navy and for two years afterwards.

Even though I was part-time, I took the opportunity to learn as much as I could about

  • customer service,
  • stocking,
  • ordering,
  • inquiring, and anything else to make that job, and this photo business run so much easier.

Customer Service:

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography - Kit Tramm of Indianapolis eyes his target while fly fishing on the Fryingpan River near Ruedi Dam in western Colorado.

The term customer itself is self explanatory. It is someone who needs something according to their needs. Even though I am a photographer and in that business, the requirements for customer service are the same as retail. You are offering a product and a service to your potential clients.

To provide the best customer service I can, I ask a lot of questions: What’s your goal with the photos? What’s their purpose? Would you like studio or location shot? Would you be flexible for both?

That is why it is important to schedule a consulting session prior to the actual photography. Find out what the client wants. don’t leave them nor yourself in the dark. Answer ALL the questions necessary before moving forward.

Stock Up and Keep Samples:

Not stocking per se, but having samples so the client can actually see what your work looks like in an album or book, on canvas or metal prints, or see your editing and Photoshop skills.
© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography - Samples of my canvas prints.

It’s difficult to explain to someone what certain techniques look like on prints when you have none to show them. It’s worth the money to buy prints of several sizes, surface textures, and mounting styles to show your clients.

Let them physically touch and look at how crisp a metal print looks and how it mounts to a wall. Or how they can compare what an image looks like on canvas versus metal versus paper. How glossy compares to matte.
© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography - Samples of my metal prints.

It’s also good for them to be able to compare sizes so they can be a smart consumer and order what they need. Show them what 8×10 looks like compared to an 11×14 and explain the value of each.

Let them physically feel your products to help them better understand all the options. You will make more sales in the long run.

Ordering and Ensuring High Quality:

The most asked questions we got are “How long will it take?,” “Is it easy to order?,” and “If I don’t like it, can I return it?”

It’s so important to know what the turnaround for each lab you use. I use two labs and their turnaround is reasonable: usually under a week. However, I have the items shipped to my house so I can inspect them. If they are not up to my standard, then I return them for new ones. Usually I have no issues.

For smaller projects, I give the client a three week time frame. A week to edit and post process the image, and two weeks for printing. You want to add a little time in case you need to get them reprinted. But if everything is good, you can deliver them early and this makes you look good.

However, usually it takes about 2 weeks total time. My week to edit is just in case something may happen. And the extra 2 weeks in case I have to get the prints made again. A worst-case scenario so-to-speak.

For larger projects such as weddings, those range 4 to 6 weeks to edit, post process, and get printed.

Inquire and Fulfill Their Needs:

I guess the better way to say this is Constant Contact. Keep in touch with the client so they not only know what’s going on, but make them feel comfortable to call if they have any questions.

Never leave the client hanging. If the client asks a question, respond immediately. If you have a doubt, ask the client to clear it up. Again, never assume nor leave the client hanging.

If you don’t have an answer for the client, find one. Even if you discover you can not do the job, FIND a photographer you know the client will be both comfortable AND happy with.

Go Above & Beyond:

“An ounce of performance is worth pounds of promises.” – Mae West

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad PhotographyCoCo & Company make-up artist Antonio Cejudo finishes a client during the Seattle SMUG Cancer Survivor's portrait session at the Baroness Hotel in Seattle, Wash.

There is an old saying which I adhere to: “Promise nothing but deliver everything.” People are genuinely surprised when they hire me. I work hard, stretch my creativity, and deliver good images. I give them more than what they expected.

On the flip side, don’t make promises you can’t keep. The worst thing you could do is promise someone something and not deliver. It kind of follows the old adage “You’re only as good as your last photo.

Even though they hired you to do a job, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t deliver more than what they expected. After all, it will only increase your business and your reputation.

Thank the Customer:

© Paul Conrad/ Pablo Conrad Photography - Musician Mary Morley of Summit County belts out a few tunes with her group in Snowmass Village, Colo.

Be creative and find ways to thank your clients. Show them that you appreciate their business. It’s not enough just to do a good job, clients really appreciate it when you go out of your way to make sure they get what they need, and get a nice thank you for doing business.

Send them a nice thank-you card, send them a card during the holidays. Call them to make sure everything was up to their satisfaction.

Your job isn’t done when you give them their final product.  It’s really just beginning.

Thank you for stopping by to read and view my work. Feel free to comment, critique, or just ask questions.

Also, feel free to share and reblog, link to, and add your site in the comment section.

Paul “pablo” Conrad

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