Working in today’s difficult environment can cause many problems for business people looking to expand their operations.
When a slip of the tongue or a wrongly worded advertisement or document can cause offense how do you tell the world the things that you need to say without upsetting anyone?
Even more difficult than this is how to employ the right personnel without the law coming down on you like a ton of bricks because you have worded your advertisement incorrectly or you have offended a potential employee by expressing an opinion that does not reflect their view of life?
When setting up and running a small business the rules are laid down by the Department of Work and Pensions and the HMRC and government legislation. Your talent is yours alone and cannot be derided by those with none but the real concerns of running the modern business are ones of perception. Perception by the customer of the quality of product and service before it is provided and a perception by the supplier that the customer will be pleased with the product and service no matter how it is delivered.
Shopping in the present day is all about the experience. You, as a trader, are responsible for that experience. After all you want the customer to return. Believe it or not when a customer has a great shopping experience they will return.
You also need to attract as many customers as possible and that is where the purpose of this post lies.
When advertising your services or recruiting you must be ultra certain that your facts are correct and that you have not affected anyone’s sensibilities.
Homemade adverts never work and can be offensive and deriding to other traders in your area and can be counter-productive. Always hire a professional to write your adverts and, if possible, create the content of your website. We have seen so many awful websites containing appalling English grammar with bad spelling. Nothing puts high paying customers off more than bad grammar on your website.
What I’m trying to say is that when you express a personal view within your business you may be jeopardising the very business that you are trying to build.
Many years ago I shared a studio with a lovely lady who ran the art side of the premises which was a gallery and very successful it was too. She was also a local councillor and during a general election displayed a “Vote For …….” Poster in the window of the studio. With almost immediate effect the number of people visiting dropped by half. There were all sorts of repercussions and some very bad press. Although all the customers knew of her political allegiances the fact that she had chosen to advertise them had angered the local population. A mistake she was never to repeat.
Showing political preferences or religious bias in any business will, almost certainly, result in diminished sales and ultimately lowered profits.
I have found that the old adage; “Don’t talk about politics or religion” is spot on.
You are there to provide the general public, all of the public, irrespective of colour, creed, gender, sexual orientation, religion or political persuasion with a product and services.
Respect all your customer as they are the very people that will pay your wages and provide you with a living. It is hard not to express personal opinion but that is just what you must do. Do not alienate part of your potential customer base with inappropriate advertising or biased remarks on your website. It is all too easy to let this happen.
One of the biggest concerns is how to recruit the right people to help you improve and take your business forward. You really don’t want staff that might not suit the profession or may be difficult with communicating with the public. In these days of uber political correctness it is too easy to offend and end up with the wrong reputation. For this reason many small businesses tend to rely on family members even if their skills may not match those of others.
I can only offer a shred of help here and say if you are thinking of recruiting then ensure that the new member of staff enhances your reputation and not takes away from it.
Training your staff is vital to ensure that the right results are achieved and that you are taking the business in the right direction.
When your customer arrives they should be made to feel special and looked after. Ensure that the studio is clean and well organized. Offering drinks or snacks should be avoided at all costs. You are a studio not a café. Unless you have a food handler’s license you may be breaking the law anyway. Offering prepared drinks can be a nightmare if the customer falls ill. It may be acceptable to hold a small amount of bottled water but you should check with your local authority first. Be polite and avoid remarks such as, Luv, mate, guys or darling. All men should be addressed as Sir and all ladies as ma’am. I know it sounds old fashioned but until you are invited to call customers by their name this is the agreed procedure. If this feels too formal then Mr or Mrs and surname.
When shooting a portrait I would encourage sitters to bring their own music with them. A silent shoot can seem very lonely, but these are how I make the customer feel comfortable. It is down to the studio to develop their own methods. However you do it avoid contentious issues and keep the chat to small talk. As I have said if you unintentionally upset a customer they won’t be back.
As we have mentioned before the rules for running your business are pretty universal so making your studio a great place to shop is down to you and your staff and the quality of your work. If you are charging high prices, which you should be, then it is vital that you make the studio comfortable, warm and inviting.
Politeness and good manners are not an outdated concept but a means of telling your customers that you are a professional and they will be treated correctly no matter who they are.
The whole point of this post is to try and get the idea over to photographers that its not just the business, not just the equipment, not just the talent but the way in which you treat your customers. Don’t upset them or try to impose your beliefs and ideals onto them. Make them feel special.
I always found it helpful to have a chat with the local Trading Standards people to get an idea of what other businesses are doing wrong. I invited a local Trading Standards officer to my studio to give me an idea of what we may be doing wrong. The feedback I received from her was invaluable. In fact the post I’ve written is almost a direct response even though her visit to our studio was almost twenty years ago.
These are the points that I would make to new businesses with regard to the dealing with the general public:
- Ensure that the customer enjoys the experience of visiting your studio
- Be politically and religiously neutral
- Employ the right staff
- Treat your staff as well as you treat your customers
- Take time to train your staff
- Ensure your customers and staff enjoy the working environment
- Keep up to date with government legislation
- Pay your staff the same rate of pay irrespective of gender
- Be polite and respectful
- Make sure that you have a full complaints procedure in place and stick to it.
We will adding to the HELP page soon to assist in the building of great websites. Please keep looking.
Here’s hoping you have a great month of photography ahead of you.