Ok, so I promise to cut back on the post about business and some of the things I've learned while starting up this photography thing...for the time being though, here's something I've thought a lot about:
I heard something interesting a few weeks ago at work about customer satisfaction. You can ask customers a million different questions about how satisfied they are with you, but there's a single question you can ask to really find out how you're doing: Would you refer us (to friends, family, colleagues, etc)?
Why is that such an important measure of success? Because it's asking if your customer is willing to put their reputations on the line. Why is it putting their rep on the line? Because they're essentially telling their friend, "I had a good experience with this and you should trust me on this recommendation"
If the friend does indeed have a good experience, then they'll trust future recommendations from that person even more. If they have a bad experience, then maybe future referrals will be taken with a grain of salt.
Personally, I don't want anyone to take anything I say with a grain of salt! Unless I'm just joking around, I expect people to believe what I'm saying and trust recommendations I make. If I don't have a specific recommendation, then I might tell them about someone or somewhere they can get a rec from, but I'm not going to give them a random referral because I don't want to lessen the trust that person has in me.
Soooo...bringing this back to the photo business...I want every client of our's confident enough in our work that they will provide referrals to their friends, family, and anyone that asks.
In creating a customer satisfaction survey, we may be asking several questions of our clients, but for me, the one response I'm most interested in is whether our client would refer us in the future. That answer alone tells me so much.
And we remind our clients about that. Our goal is not only to satisfy them in their experience with us, it is to give them enough confidence to tell their friends and family about us.
What's more, this whole "my reputation is on the line" thing goes both ways. Our clients ask us about referrals for other services, like mendhi, event coordinators, etc. Generally, we don't refer many people simply because we haven't found other vendors whom we can trust enough to put our own business's reputation on the line. As we spend more time in this industry, I'm sure we'll have a nice list, but at this point, we don't. And if people ask us, we tell them.
So it's nice to know if we're easy to do business with, or that our style of photography is lovely, or we're really professional, but if I don't hear that our client is willing to refer us, then we've failed in our goal of satisfying our customer.