In this series of blog posts we are introducing people who are speaking at and attending Inspire 2013. We are delighted to introduce Amber and Eric Langlois who are RAW PHOTO DESIGN and who specialize in wedding and boudoir photography. Amber and Eric will be will be teaching a class called Things We Wish We Had Known Before Starting our Photography Business

By Amber and Eric

"I'm Sorry"

There's never really a great way to apologize, but there are plenty of terrible ways.
If you are at a coffee shop, and you spill coffee on someone by accident, what do you say?
You'll be horrified and say "Oh my god, I'm so sorry!" - it's a primal response. You wouldn't say "Oh my god, I apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused!" 
But that's exactly how most companies respond when they make a big mistake. 
Mistakes happen. How you apologize matters. Don't bullshit people - just say "I'm sorry." And mean it.

It may be simple advice, even obvious to many of you, but the excerpt above from blogger Jason Fried, a founder of 37signals and co-author of Rework is really important for us all to remember as business owners and entrepreneurs.  I recently had a photographer friend of mine, we will call her Gina, reach out to me for advice.  She had an unhappy client (apparently the word on the street is that we have a little experience under our belts handling one or two less than thrilled clients).

I am not ashamed, I am grateful for every experience (gulp), and some of the worst, most difficult have been invaluable to our growth. Anyway, Gina had a very unhappy couple and family because the feet and heads of many of the wedding portraits she had photographed for them were chopped off.

Ohhh, crap. The Old 8 x 10 Crop Factor. If you have had the misfortune of making this mistake yourself, I promise you will only make it once.  If you don't know or understand The Crop Factor, you can read more here.

So, I established that Gina's couple had a valid complaint, and I asked her how she handled it.

After much prying, here's what I discovered: - The couple's gallery was delivered a month later than promised - GIna was bogged down with editing and her response time resolving this issue suffered - After receiving a few voicemails from her couple wanting to discuss their concerns, Gina emailed back an apology and sent them a few free 8 x 10 prints.

So, my reaction to this, and a couple things I have learned (the hard way): - Delivering late never really works out. It drastically alters your relationship and the tone in communication with your clients. They are annoyed, even if they love their images or final product, because of this, they will be much more likely to find "issues" or things to complain about. - Regarding slow response time, same as above. - A phone call is always better than an email apology. If they are calling you, they want to talk. Put on your big girl panties and pick up the phone. An email response to a voicemail makes you look really guilty and a little bit like the cowardly lion. I always ask myself, "What is the worst thing that can happen?" - If you screwed up, own it. - Your "make good" should be above and beyond. Anything to save the day (and your reputation). Prints are not an effective "make good"...EVER. There is an extremely low perceived value for prints to our clients (no matter how amazing you say your lab is).

In this case, they were unhappy because Gina had not left enough room for the 8 x10 crop making free 8 x10 prints a really poor choice for a "make good" with this client. It probably made them more angry seeing the physical evidence of their wedding portraits having feet chopped off!  My advice to GIna was to call them and explain the error that you made as their wedding photographer. OWN IT.  I have found that if you act human, you will be treated human (most of the time). We are not perfect, even this was a pretty avoidable mistake.  I suggested asking them what would make it right at this point, a gallery wrapped canvas of their favorite image, a coffee table book, or a "day after" session are all good options with a high perceived value - they are items they cannot pick up on their own at Target for $2.

Advice like this and many more stories from the front lines will be part of our "Things we wish we had known" Inspire discussion, we cannot wait to share.
See you all soon!