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Thread: Case Study: How to deal with unreasonable clients

  1. #1

    Default Case Study: How to deal with unreasonable clients

    Hi guys,

    I thought this is a perfect time to talk about the above subject as we start the year. This case study is created for people who would like to know how to approach unreasonable clients. This is not a thread started to flame clients, nor rant on petty issues.

    These issues happen on our subsidiary company, Bambini Photography.

    The purpose of this thread is to create scenario on how one approach for the unreasonable request or unreasonable clients on business of photography.

    Please share them objectively so we can build a thread for people to refer to when they hit with this situation.

    Here is a few things that you need to start with:
    1. If you have a dream, you need to protect it.
    2. Do your best in providing the honest business practice
    3. Be consistent in your business practice
    4. Stand by your belief and understand why you create this belief.

    Inevitably, when you run your business you will run into clients who believe that they can outsmart the "system" but making you feel "less" so you are following the unreasonable demand.

    I have just dealt with 2 cases today and these are the 4 cases that I need to dealt with in the last 4 years in business in Singapore.

    Case Study 1: Clients want more than agreed to (discount, more inclusion, etc)

    In typical day, what I learn that in Singapore, when you complaint, you will be attend to and to a point, they will offer you a discount to "Shut you up". So this is fairly common. But this should not be the way.

    Here is what you need to do:
    1. Identify the "real issue" by asking questions.
    2. Identify the "motive" of the "fake issue"
    3. Understanding your position
    4. Do not get worked up and continue to have a clear mind understand your own belief.
    5. Be consistent, if you need time, call the client back later when you have a thought through it
    6. Let the clients speak
    7. try to understand that, although word might be hurtful and personal, it is purely business.
    8. Don't jump in conclusion and ask for clarification if you don't really understand what the clients want.
    9. Do not try to win the argument as you can win the fight but lose the war.

    I received a phone call this afternoon stating that the client is not happy with the picture and believe that the charge what we set is too steep for the quality that we produce and asking me if we could meet the client in between for the pricing to acquire digital negative.

    The issue here was, the session was purchase as a gift and client didn't ask any questions prior to booking.

    It is our standard way of explaining to the client who purchase our service how everything works and the pricing, so there is no hidden things, however, due to this being a gift, the issue is the communication breakdown between the giver and the recipient.

    We operate in a way that we charge a price to do our work and the client is invite to purchase anything that they want. Remember, our policy is no selling of anything unless clients want to purchase them in their accord.

    So naturally, my answer to the request will be, since we are not selling anything, if they clients are not happy with the image quality, they are not obligated to purchase anything.

    I spend about 50 minutes on the phone with the clients to put a simple point across and that is we are not selling our work, but we do allow clients to purchase our work. This is very different, but might sound the same...

    First offering different options based on the information given to me, but asking a lot of questions to start with.

    Later I found out after further communication, is that, they are not interested in the options given, hence the information given by the clients was not the "actual" issue.

    So after much questioning and asking clarification, we arrive at the same point, meeting in between in terms of the pricing for softcopy. So this is the real issue.

    Sometimes, it is easier to just give in and conventional wisdom might tells you that you just meet them in between, everyone happy and you make some money.

    So the issue with the above scenario is that, your price for digital negatives will now based on the price that you agreed between you and this client and so, the next client who come as "recommendation" will simply use the same way to get the same price, if you do it once, you will expect to do it, twice, three times and so on.

    So being consistent on pricing and providing service, put you in a position where you know you just need to put the point across.


    So lesson learn is: Understanding the real issue and stand by your belief.

    I am protecting my photographers by dealing with the clients directly, as young photographers, it is often too scary to stand up to client's criticism so they can concentrate building their vision as a photographer.


    Regards,

    Hart

  2. #2

    Default Re: Case Study: How to deal with unreasonable clients

    Case Scenario 2: Less of respect for photographer's time.

    Our policy on reschedule is very simple, we do allow unlimited reschedule, within reason. So if they kids are sick, we are more than happy to reschedule.

    If the reschedule become consistent from same client, it is useful to ask for proof of reason, for example, MC from Doctor if the children is repeatedly sick.

    It is acceptable by us for reschedule as we want everyone look at their best so we can get best result.

    What is not acceptable is when clients who is given chances and fail to arrive at the location at agreed time beyond the usual 10-15 mins.

    We had to refuse the service after clients fail to arrive in 2 occasions for at least 45 mins each.

    The issue with client is, they believe it is unreasonable for us to refuse the service base on the above reason.

    The real issue here is not about losing revenue nor worry about further re-scheduling, it is simply a case of respect for the photographer.

    If the clients do not respect photographer's time, it is very difficult for the clients to respect photographer's vision and at the end, the shoot, even if it go ahead, the result will show.

    To protect yourself from clients who do not belief in the photographer's vision is necessary, because such action do make you feel frustrated and out of control. Without the belief and vision, a photographer is nothing better than someone who has a camera but do not know how to operate it.

    Of course, the real issue is in the respect of photographer's time and vision, we will offer a refund to the clients, if they are willing to offer us a written formal apology to the photographer. The reason for formal apology is to ensure that your point is being communicated properly and protect yourself from feeling down as you know it is not your fault for this issue.

    We operate with a belief that, Money will only come if the clients belief in photographer's vision and respect it as the work produced will be optimum. Without this trust, there is no reason why money should be involved.

    Regards,

    Hart

  3. #3

    Default Re: Case Study: How to deal with unreasonable clients

    Please kindly share if you have some case study that you think other will benefit from it.

    Regards,

    Hart

  4. #4

    Default Re: Case Study: How to deal with unreasonable clients

    Great write up from Hart! And indeed this industry needs a bit more self respect and self esteem.

    Hart's example is based on a portrait studio's pricing strategy and business model - a photog in wedding business might be different so is a commercial or editorial photog might have differ ways of doing things too, BUT the fundamental concept is the same: self respect and belief

    You who call yourself Photographer is the expert, the CREATIVE VISIONARY. Let's face facts, in days past photography is a technically complex and expensive endeavor so with the know how of getting good exposure and pleasing composition, plus skills in the darkroom, one can qualify as a photographer with people addressing you as Master or Shifu, as acknowledgement and respect for your skills.

    In today's context, photography is still a technically complex and expensive endeavor BUT - technology had made the learning curve so much easier and cameras are so good that a 4 year old kid can make great photos with mum's iPhone. Good exposure and pleasing composition is NOT enough. If you are not going beyond that in some way or another (need not necessary be photogy itself but could be service) - then you ARE mediocre and that's why you find it hard to convince yourself to charge a right worthy price, because you don't have that pride and self worth. You know it when you look at someone good's work and feel jeolous, envy, or depressed.

    That's also why clients will lord over you and dictate how you shoot, and shoot your work down. And if you allow that to happen, you stay mediocre. You cannot please all clients - every person have different tastes, different artistic level. If you are too obliging, you lose your voice, your vision, and you lowered yourself from pro level to consumer level. Remember, You who call yourself Photographer is the expert, the CREATIVE VISIONARY.

    Not saying you should be a haughty arrogant asrse, just saying you must stay true to yourself.

    Before I deviate too much off topic - I find Harts method ingenious, it's good business skills out of photography - stay polite and professional, don't get personal, be firm to your stand, ask a lot of questions, if you are doing good work and honest business, it's very hard for malicious clients to bully you. If you find it hard to deal with these intense situations, think of your dependents and the reason why you chose this career in the first place - are you giving up just because if one bad client?

    Also to add, it's good to do client screening to filter out potential trouble makers. But sometimes you just can't help it and some of them slip thru the gap.

  5. #5

    Default Re: Case Study: How to deal with unreasonable clients

    Thanks...

    If anyone is interested, here is how I operate my business.

    I charge a fee to do my work so every clients pays the same (return clients get discount for their loyalty) and let clients decide what they want to purchase through online gallery from their home, unless they want to come and select from the studio.

    What I like about this model is, I will need to work really hard to ensure I get the best images from the given situation.

    What it mean to me is I will always have to increase my level of competency.
    What it means to client is they are getting the best of me and I will treat everyone the same because I don't know how much they will spend after the shoot.

    I find by selling packages, different treatment (or at least different level of enthusiasm) will occur as you know how much profit a package will be.

    What I find is if photographer can't be indifferent in service the clients, it will create inconsistency which in terms create confusion on your service level.

    I operate in a way that I know people don't care about my service, only me who cares so I will do everything I could to make them care of course in a good way.

    I also operate in a way that I don't need any selling so I don't get caught out by sales figure. I rarely see sales figure but I know how the business is. I don't chase sales and I don't chase money. What I chase in my business is purely maximum satisfaction from clients. I know by doing so, I am building a brand image for long term which allow me to weather economic downturns.

    By having doing the above, I have a very clear idea on my work and when coming to handling unreasonable clients, all I need to do is to reiterrate my belief again and again without have to get too much personally involve.

    I hope it helps.

    But please share your experiences so we can all learn from each other.

    Once photographers work together in harmony, we will create a strong working culture which allow us to compete in healthy way to continue to grow in positive way.

    Take care and have a nice weekend.

    Regards,

    Hart
    Last edited by Agetan; 7th January 2012 at 03:50 PM.

  6. #6

    Default Re: Case Study: How to deal with unreasonable clients

    Hi Hart ;

    Many thanks for sharing

    Regards

  7. #7

    Default Re: Case Study: How to deal with unreasonable clients

    Hey there,

    really meaningful words written with great thoughts. thanks a lot!

  8. #8

    Default Re: Case Study: How to deal with unreasonable clients

    Cheapos and freebos should definitely read this!
    Inferiority Complex Behavior Signature: A900.D3x.M9..I have this and that blah blah...

  9. #9

    Default Re: Case Study: How to deal with unreasonable clients

    Hi Hart,

    Thank you for sharing this and shedding light on how to manage difficult clients while maintaining firm stand as a creative individual and business operator. Very often we get photographers in this business automatically giving way to clients by undercutting the market price and introducing unnecessary competition. This resulted in clients be spoilt and thus treating photographers and photography in a cheap and degrading manner.

    I'm heartened to know that you are putting up a firm front to manage them while mentoring your photographers (and us) through your experience and unyielding stand.

    Cheers,
    Ethan Lim of Life List Chase
    Life List Chase | Live, Dream and Chase!
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  10. #10

    Default Re: Case Study: How to deal with unreasonable clients

    Thanks for sharing on the need to be firm and consistent in your beliefs. A great thread for photographers like me. Thanks.

  11. #11

    Default Re: Case Study: How to deal with unreasonable clients

    I am glad that people benefit from this.

    As what JasonB has mentioned, protecting and having a firm in your belief doesn't equal to be nasty and arrogant. There are always a better way of doing something... controlling your own emotion is very difficult as when you build your business, it is become personal and difficult to differentiate between genuine feedback to the opposite.

    So being calm and always reminded on what you believe in make things a little easier...

    Regards,

    Hart

  12. #12

    Default Re: Case Study: How to deal with unreasonable clients

    Quote Originally Posted by Agetan View Post
    controlling your own emotion is very difficult as when you build your business, it is become personal and difficult to differentiate between genuine feedback to the opposite.
    Indeed. For many artists, their product is like their baby, its why they chose this profession. Some clients will kill your baby to get a $10 discount, especially the lower tier ones. Its even worst then you initially get overly vested emotionally went the extra mile, then they turn around with forked tongues sharp as swords. Its too easy to fall into this situation with lifestyle work photographing cute subjects like babies and pets, or emotional events like weddings and births.

    Until one gets pass that with experience and built mental resilience - its hard to be both business minded and pursuing an creative career at the same time.
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  13. #13

    Default Re: Case Study: How to deal with unreasonable clients

    thanks for sharing hart! wonderful insight...

  14. #14

    Default Re: Case Study: How to deal with unreasonable clients

    Great sharing.

  15. #15

    Default Re: Case Study: How to deal with unreasonable clients

    opps... got some facts wrong...

    I shouldn't have said client was late for twice without checking the fact correctly... I apologize for that to the client. It was only once for an hour.

    Family with children and late for 10-15 minutes are still within reason if photographer is notified and agreed to. But I feel, late even for once more than 15 minutes is unacceptable, unless there is a very good reason. Anything that can be pre-empt such as leaving earlier to avoid traffic jam on peak hour should not count as a good reason.

    I had to travel to Choa Chu Kang from Joo Chiat with 12 people including young children in heavy traffic and not being late this morning shows my respect for the people who I need to meet this morning. It is as simple as leaving twice amount of the time needed for normal travel. So if I can take every pre-emptive steps to do so, I think it is a basic courtesy, so when the line being crossed, I do feel that it is disrespectful.

    I may have over-reacted and wrong, but that doesn't translate it is ok to be late.

    Lesson learned, I should have treat the business really just for business, but it is harder to do than expected. But if it is purely business, as the voucher has expired, there isn't a need for us to extend it. So by giving flexibility for further extension, it has cause more problems, just to be nice... it is not easy to be nice. If you do it, you are wrong, if you don't you are wrong.

    Regards,

    Hart

  16. #16

    Default Re: Case Study: How to deal with unreasonable clients

    Quote Originally Posted by Agetan View Post
    Family with children and late for 10-15 minutes are still within reason if photographer is notified and agreed to. But I feel, late even for once more than 15 minutes is unacceptable, unless there is a very good reason. Anything that can be pre-empt such as leaving earlier to avoid traffic jam on peak hour should not count as a good reason.

    I had to travel to Choa Chu Kang from Joo Chiat with 12 people including young children in heavy traffic and not being late this morning shows my respect for the people who I need to meet this morning. It is as simple as leaving twice amount of the time needed for normal travel. So if I can take every pre-emptive steps to do so, I think it is a basic courtesy, so when the line being crossed, I do feel that it is disrespectful.

    I may have over-reacted and wrong, but that doesn't translate it is ok to be late.
    I like the part you mentioned about us photographers not being late shows our respect for the people we are photographing.

    Assistants should really really read this. If clients' tardiness is not appreciated, what makes assistant think they can get away with it.

    Had an assistant who arrived late on location, aspiring photographer who wanted to join, ok, I still pay her. She has a car, I took a cab. I was earlier, CLIENT was earlier. An assistant on the first time got such liberty to be the latest? Already factored in buffer time in case she late, she really late plus still overshot the buffer time. Shoot was delayed because of her. Lucky client never complain. Time is money. Never used her again. Another one, wedding job - I on taxi and pick up assistant at his void deck, because not reasonable for $10 per hour assistants to bear their own morning cab fare. But - until pick up downstairs already, ALSO can be late. In the end reached bride house late, make up finished already. Can re-enact with MUA, but I hate doing that. Arriving early and on time sets the tone for the whole day, it impacts my branding and assistant's lateness is hurting exactly that.

    Sorry to deviate to topic about assistants but I am particular about punctuality too - but I allow a lot more leeway for customers.

    Agree that its not easy to be nice, being nice sometimes often hurts you more. Were the vouchers a gift session or discounted session? Perhaps lowing its value makes people thing its not important and they don't accord the same amount of respect they should when they were given the session as gift or for discount.
    Last edited by sjackal; 10th January 2012 at 12:27 AM.
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  17. #17

    Default Re: Case Study: How to deal with unreasonable clients

    Quote Originally Posted by sjackal View Post
    I like the part you mentioned about us photographers not being late shows our respect for the people we are photographing.

    Assistants should really really read this. If clients' tardiness is not appreciated, what makes assistant think they can get away with it.

    Had an assistant who arrived late on location, aspiring photographer who wanted to join, ok, I still pay her. She has a car, I took a cab. I was earlier, CLIENT was earlier. An assistant on the first time got such liberty to be the latest? Already factored in buffer time in case she late, she really late plus still overshot the buffer time. Shoot was delayed because of her. Lucky client never complain. Time is money. Never used her again. Another one, wedding job - I on taxi and pick up assistant at his void deck, because not reasonable for $10 per hour assistants to bear their own morning cab fare. But - until pick up downstairs already, ALSO can be late. In the end reached bride house late, make up finished already. Can re-enact with MUA, but I hate doing that. Arriving early and on time sets the tone for the whole day, it impacts my branding and assistant's lateness is hurting exactly that.

    Sorry to deviate to topic about assistants but I am particular about punctuality too - but I allow a lot more leeway for customers.

    Agree that its not easy to be nice, being nice sometimes often hurts you more. Were the vouchers a gift session or discounted session? Perhaps lowing its value makes people thing its not important and they don't accord the same amount of respect they should when they were given the session as gift or for discount.
    The client might not have any intention to be rude to come late, but I can't say it is not rude to come late even there is any intention or not. It is not the intention, but it is the actual things that happen. They may be a nice people unknowingly late, but if they see it from our perspective, I guess it is not too much to feel the same way.

    Ah... assistant... that's why I never have any.

    Anyway, the fact is, photographing people is never easy, for photographer who has to endure client who come excessively late, will have bearing of the final work. Client will in term never like the photographer's work and everything else after that is another story.

    Sometimes, we do forget, that we are imperfect human being who do get seriously effected by other's action, whether intentionally or unintentionally.

    Regards,

    Hart

  18. #18
    Senior Member redstone's Avatar
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    Default Re: Case Study: How to deal with unreasonable clients

    Hi Hart, thanks for always sharing. It is quite enlightening.

    I have a question,

    For example, client already paid full price for a photoshoot, and it was already done, lowres delivered / shown to client, but suddenly client say he is unhappy with the photos, and want you to refund him the price of the shoot.

    Or another scenario where he wants a reshoot, but refuses to pay more, claiming it is the photographer's fault (let's just give an example that the photos are not the visual style the clients like). How would you resolve such issues?
    Last edited by redstone; 13th January 2012 at 11:30 PM.

  19. #19

    Default Re: Case Study: How to deal with unreasonable clients

    Quote Originally Posted by redstone View Post
    Hi Hart, thanks for always sharing. It is quite enlightening.

    I have a question,

    For example, client already paid full price for a photoshoot, and it was already done, lowres delivered / shown to client, but suddenly client say he is unhappy with the photos, and want you to refund him the price of the shoot.

    Or another scenario where he wants a reshoot, but refuses to pay more, claiming it is the photographer's fault (let's just give an example that the photos are not the visual style the clients like). How would you resolve such issues?
    Firstly, you will need to know the basis of the feedback so ask lots of questions about things that they are not happy with.

    Secondly, have a look at the images and ask yourself if u have perform lower then images that you use to gain business.

    If u feel that it is indeed your lacking, there is no harm of given them more by offering a reshoot. I don't have any issue with this if the problem lies on my part.

    If u believe that you have indeed deliver your work well, and the issue isn't on you, it is still in your goodwill if u want to offer any additional service to the clients. If they are nice people and ask nicely and if there is a genuine concern, I don't see why not. But as long as you feel that clients are genuine.

    Hope it helps.

    Hart

  20. #20
    Moderator ed9119's Avatar
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    Default Re: Case Study: How to deal with unreasonable clients

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