“The client is always right.”
If you’ve ever worked in the services industry – or hell, if you’ve ever been a client – you’ve heard this phrase before. And while subscribing to this philosophy might help guide you to better customer service initially– it can also hightail you into professional burnout.
I’ve got a one-word remedy for that problem: Boundaries.
When those of us in the services industry (especially the fast-paced and high-emotion wedding industry) hear “the client is always right” it may give us the impression that we have to bend over backward and sacrifice all things at all cost in order to make the client happy. And that’s simply not true (or healthy).
If you know anything about me or the way I run my business – you know that I value my clients tremendously. It’s a no-brainer. I take customer service very seriously, strive to deliver a beautiful product AND to create an experience – from start to finish – that is professional, memorable and of the highest standards.
How I define customer service has changed dramatically over the past 8+ years. In the early days of business ownership, I thought good customer service consisted of answering every email within seconds of it hitting my inbox, booking whatever date/time a client wanted even if it conflicted with my personal calendar and basically never ever say no. That word was simply not part of my vocabulary back then. Well, all that has changed…and business couldn’t be better.
Setting Boundaries & Why It’s Important
You see – the problem with these misconceptions is that it sets you (as the business owner) up for failure, burnout, and resentment. When the goal of your business is to make client’s happy at all cost — no one is going to truly feel happy — especially you. Trust me, I’ve been there.
Here’s the good news. You can, in fact, have a thriving photography business where you always deliver a wonderful client experience while simultaneously maintaining a full personal life. Wanna know the secret?
We’re back to that one-word remedy again: Boundaries!
Here are a few ways you can implement boundaries in your business:
– Set office hours, include them in the footer of your email and then abide by them.
– Stop working after 6pm (which means no checking or responding to emails from your phone).
– Take Monday’s off because as a photographer, you probably work all weekend.
– On your off days, or when you’re just swamped, use an email auto-responder to let clients know you’ll respond within 1-2 business days.
– Maintain healthy control of your calendar by not booking back-to-back weddings.
– Redirect clients promptly when they attempt to reach you outside of email or scheduled phone contact (i.e. texting, Facebook messaging, etc — big no-no’s).
These tips aren’t the easiest to track and they aren’t ones that you can put on your to-do list and check off each month. They are ones you need to subscribe to and put into practice every single day. You need to make them your lifelong personal and professional practice.
Here’s what helps me stay on course. Paying attention to tasks, activities, and situations that are leaving me feeling drained and then attacking them with gradually boundaries. Once I have a boundary in place, I shift my focus to maintaining it. Once I feel that the boundary is second nature, I move on to the next one. Before long – I’m feeling much more in control of my business and personal life again.
Want to talk more about this? I’d love to share my experience with other professional photographers. Contact me here.