Service is Dead ~ Wisconsin Wedding Photographer
Customer Service, as an art form.....as a rule....as a way of centering your business....is dead.
It is a stinking, rotting corpse of an idea, right now.
Let me tell you a story.
In April of this year, the husband and I sat down with a company that we were interested in having build our dream home. This is a home we had combed through thousands of plans to find that had all of our "wish list bits": a mudroom, a porch, an "older" look to it, finished basement area, blah blah blah. We were realistic about our budget, however, and knew that if we had to give up some things....we were prepared to do that.
We brought this plan to these particular builders and they excitedly told us they could build our house....it would be amazing....yay! Give us $1000 and we will start your plans/get the ball the rolling.
We signed a design contract, forked over the cash, and away we went.
That was 4 months ago. In the meantime we purchased a lot, sold our house, moved in with my in-laws who have graciously let us stay with them through the build process even though we add 5 people and a lot of noise to their lives.
Along the way I established a very good relationship with our bank....and with our homeowners association at the new lot. I talked to our build manager often as he assured me things were moving along and he was working on getting specs from sub contractors and "no worries!"
But, we started to get worried.
We met with their "designer"....someone who, though she was a nice enough gal, probably couldn't design a fish bowl. We had no numbers to guide us. No pricing on anything. We were concerned that we were picking things out blind and is that really how it should be working?
Our supposed "hey, you'll have a hole in the ground!" date came and went with nary a word....or a build contract.
As July wore on it became evident that we were probably not going to have a hole in the ground any time soon....and the more I pressed for just a price on SOMETHING...a number....the more frustrated I got.
When the builder sent us a single sheet of paper with ONE number on it, without any sort of breakdown or anything....only a number $100,000 over our budget limit....we realized we had probably been had. This was after so many "YES! We can do that!" and "No worries!"
At this point, it was 2 months into our stay with my in-laws.....and $1000 down the drain.
When we fired the builder with a very succinct written explanation of our frustrations, we didn't get an explanation or even a decent apology for their ineptitude. They basically took the $1000 and said "Bye Felicia".
No worries on our account, we have found a new builder who gave us in 2 days what we waited months for with the other guys, but the whole experience has left us tired, frustrated, a little embarrassed, and....frankly...a little less trusting as a whole.
But does this not seem the NORM these days? Have we not come to now EXPECT less-than-stellar service because no one really seems to give a rat's ass?
We get a meh attitude from the barista at Starbucks.....but hey, that's how it is.
We are promised a timeline on something and it comes and goes with no word....I can't even tell you how much this happens to me.
We get an unfinished product.....we get no communication....people don't respond to questions.
It's gotten to the point where if we do happen to get decent service, we are overjoyed. But this is how it is.
We....those of us in the service industry....have an opportunity here. There are thousands of people out there JUST. LIKE. ME. who have been hosed one too many times and walk into service situations very wary of what they're going to get.
This is why when we meet with new brides and grooms, they may give us a gigantic Pinterest list and email us 1000 times a month. Because they're scared. Because they may have been burned. Because they don't know us from Adam and it is becoming THE NORM to be screwed.
This is why when we fall behind on timelines or deadlines, we need to OPEN the lines of communication with clients and not shut it down. I can't TELL you how many times I've seen photographers take to their business pages to complain that people don't understand how "busy" they are and that things are late for a litany of reasons that, as human beings, everyone should understand. That their lives come first and people need to be understanding of that.
No. You're just a service provider. You promised something. Freakin' deliver it. End of story.
Your clients DO.NOT.CARE. that you took on too much work and now you can't get it all done in a satisfactory manner. They DO.NOT.CARE. that you overpromised and now can't deliver.
They just want to trust again.
When we sat down with our new builder, I was very upfront with him. We were burned....big time. Just be STRAIGHT with us. He took one look at our original plans and said "Nope. Can't be done within your budget" (THANK.YOU.) but then followed that up with "But here's what we CAN do". We walked away with just a slightly smaller home chock full of everything we ever could want and then some (including a screened-in porch that the more I think about the more I'm kind of in love with).
And that's service. That's what years of experience and a service-minded heart will get you.
You're gonna get burned. Because I'm finding that folks like our new builder are few and far between.....but that's who I want to be.
That's who I want to strive to be. I want to give my client's faith in the service industry again, because I care deeply about them being happy about the level of service and the product I provide.
It's not about fame.
It's not about rockstars.
It's not about being an influencer or a social media darling or how many likes you can get folks to bestow upon you.
It's about serving.
End of story.