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Caring for customer originals

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Old 02-07-2002, 12:24 AM
Jim Conway's Avatar
Jim Conway Jim Conway is offline
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Location: Oregon City, Oregon
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Caring for customer originals

Doug raised a question about insuring customer originals and suggested a new thread. I covered our basic policy in the "insurance work" thread so I thought it might be a good idea to expand this to include all aspects of handling customer originals with the obvious need we all have to assure the client that they are in good hands. Anything you do for the customer along this line will be noticed as a plus that raises your business a head above the crowd. I'm curious, what are the rest of you doing?

The insurance policy I wrote about is broad coverage - so you set whatever "limits" on an individual order that you want to set, (shades of UPS). I set that limit at $200 and tell the clients that while their work is in our hands, it's insured for that amount unless they declare a higher value. The customers will seldom want it insured for more but if they do, we let them declare value. If our total work in progress exceeds the limits of our policy, we call our agent and up the limit for the time the work will be in our hands. I could charge for that as an extra I suppose but I don't because it brings me work that people are afraid to leave in the hands of other shops. It's one of those small features that can enhance your reputation far beyond the small cost involved and bring in the high end business.

Anyone who has ever filed an insurance claim of any kind knows that you have to show you've exercised every possible precaution yourself if you want the adjuster to be on your side in the event of a loss, so we also have a fire safe where we store the prints when they are not being worked on or while waiting for customer pickup.

We post notices on our handling procedures for originals (Conway's Law is not Murphy's Law) out where the clients can see it. At the time an order is placed (with the customer still seated at the table or desk), the originals are placed in heavy clear plastic work jackets (colored stitching around the edges) - foam core backing is added for weak or larger prints - all jackets are at least 9x12 even if the print is just a wallet sized original..

People note the professionalism involved immediately and often give us rave reviews on the spot accompanied by "war stories" they or other family members or acquaintances have had in other places with some so absurd they are beyond belief! A few examples - A cat urinated on a 1890 crayon print - a shop owners German Shepherd, always in her studio, sat on a fragile "bubble" print and broke it in half ...some historic auto club prints (borrowed from their owner) fell on the floor in a lab and were walked on for over a week before anyone recognized they were there. One woman thought of us because she knew how we handle originals and brought us some old photos that she found in a nearly shopping center parking lot. We realized they were probably dropped by the lab pickup driver on a route of their one hour shops and advised her of that, so she took them back to the shop in the center. It was a good guess, they were reunited with their owners and you can imagine how often she has told that story!

Jim Conway
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Old 02-07-2002, 02:30 PM
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Ed_L Ed_L is offline
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Jim,

I would almost consider that "curb appeal". It's amazing just how careless most people are with other people's property. And it's the small things like that, that really set you apart from the crowd right off the bat. From what I've read about your business practices, I can understand why you've had a successful business.

Ed
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Old 02-07-2002, 06:08 PM
Jim Conway's Avatar
Jim Conway Jim Conway is offline
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Insurance is a good starting point

I guess you could call it "curb appeal", I'm not sure - but it's the overall experience for the client that counts! If I were to ask a photog what he or she would need to make upward of 100K a year in the studio business, I'd get a list a mile long of studio props, painted and muslin backgrounds, costumes, make-up, fashion consultants, who knows, maybe even customer lounge furnishings. We all know that it's easier to pass proofs if the customer has enjoyed the session so we do everything we possibly can to meet that objective by enhancing the experience.

If you demonstrate an interest in what the client needs and wants, the insurance policy may be a very small thing but it relaxes the clients, will cost you less than $20 a month and it is a starting point in caring for your clients that certainly everyone in this business can offer.

We also have a kitchen table in a corner of the showroom that we sit down at (sure we offer them coffee or tea) instead of making them lean against some counter while we do a million other things. And above all we don't rush people because this is not a "sideline business" with us! We take the time to listen to them, show them paper samples, restoration samples, cameras that were commonly used for certain size prints or during certain eras - whatever they want to see or talk about - and we answer all of their questions - just like you pro photogs do when you are working with your subjects in the camera room. No real difference, it's just a case of defining what business you are really in and meeting your clients needs in that business.

Jim Conway

Last edited by Jim Conway; 02-12-2002 at 04:59 PM.
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