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  • Diplomacy and The Competition

    If it has not already happened to you, it will...A potential customer comes to you bearing a Restoration or copy of a Photo done by someone else. They are not happy. You look at the photo and immediately come to the conclusion that a three legged outhouse rat drunk on antifreeze working with a blind assistant could have done a more credible job than what you see before you.
    Now, the Customer wants Your Opinion on the photo and wants to know if you can do any better. Upon seeing samples of your work, they decide to have you redo the photo, and try to engage you in a discussion concerning your competition and if you have seen other examples of their work, was it as bad as what was done for them, etc....
    How would you handle this whole situation? What would you say to the irate individual and what would be your method of handling pointed questions concerning the competition.... Tom

  • #2
    I'd tell them that "better" is a very subjective judgement call, but that I could certainly do it differently.

    I'd tell the client that restoration artists are just that - artists. I'd ask them if they'd ever seen a painting that they didn't personally care for... I'd mention that I'd been in large metropolitan art museums, like the Boston Museum of Art, and seen things hanging on the walls that I didn't particularly care for.

    Everyone has their own sense of esthetics, and because I preferred Rembrandt over Picasso wouldn't mean that Picasso was a bad artist. He is just not my style.

    It's the same with retouch artists. Each has their own style. It may not be a style you particularly care for, but that certainly doesn't make it wrong.

    My best advice would be to view a large variety of samples before you leave your work with a restoration artist. Viewing just one or two samples probably won't give you a good basis for evaluating style, consistency, and whether the artist is a good match for what you are expecting.

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    • #3
      If the competition really was THAT bad I would probably let the customer know exactly how I felt...although I would try not to be too mean. No sense in sugar coating things...bad is bad. Besides, with competition like that, is not likely to stay in business very long.

      I agree with what Jak says...but come on! If it's "three legged outhouse rat drunk on antifreeze " bad, you have to tell your customer the truth!...they aren't dumb.

      (something tells me Tom has seen a few of those outhouse rats in his time.. )

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      • #4
        I agree, Greg, that they aren't dumb. But I personally wouldn't want to get a reputation as someone who will badmouth others (whether they deserve it or not). I just think it would reflect badly on me and I just couldn't respect myself if I did that. I'd feel like a politician...

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        • #5
          I would probably try to cover for them a bit by saying it was probably a difficult restoration and may have been beyond their expreience level. But I would also point out that I would be confident that I could do a better job. Hopefully I could be diplomatic but being Australian (we are known for our stright forward talk) I don't know how diplomatic I could be if the job was that bad.

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          • #6
            I agree with Jak, that you don't want to start bad mouthing the competition (the customer did choose them first, for a reason), however, I wouldn't make excuses for, or defend the restorer either (I do not agree that restoration artists should be allowed artistic license).
            I would sympathize with the customer, and give them my honest evaluation of what can be done.

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            • #7
              I think there is a definite difference between badmouthing and giving an honest answer to a question. Personally, I am all about honesty, however, you have to do it tactfully. Choose your words carefully.

              I think there is good and bad restoration. However, that is what competition is all about. If the person did their homework, they would probably be able to tell that they weren't going to like the results they got from that restorer. (Unless, of course, the restorer was mis-representing themselves by showing other people's work) Let the buyer beware.

              A bad restorer will be able to get business ( I see really bad web designers all the time), but eventually their reputation will catch up with them.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Vikki
                I do not agree that restoration artists should be allowed artistic license
                I didn't intend to imply that restoration artists should have artistic license. I hope that's not the way it sounded. I just meant that we are artists and that no two of us will produce the same final work. A look through the challenges verifies that. If we were merely technicians (which I don't think is possible), and not artists, every challenge from every member would look exactly the same.

                If I believe the work was done by "a three legged outhouse rat drunk on antifreeze working with a blind assistant," and the client is standing before me complaining about the work and asking if I can do a better job, then he already has made this same judgement about the work and the other restorer. I don't need to verify what he has already concluded, and commisserating with him like an old biddy over the backyard fence is only going to paint me in a bad light as well.

                I am assuming that the person standing before me is angry. If I start agreeing with him/her, running down the other artist, and fueling that fire instead of trying to smooth his/her ruffled feathers before discussing what I might possibly do, I believe that makes my job harder. I find dealing with an angry customer more difficult, no matter who it is they're angry at.

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                • #9
                  Here's an example drawn from an actual experience....
                  The customer came in, angry and with a definate chip on his shoulder. I was presented with two photos...one a print made from a copy negative, 8x10, Very blurred, almost to the point of looking like it had been run through a fairly strong gaussian blur filter...the second a digital copy, printed on some sort of thin "matte" paper which was blurred and actually wrinkled from being oversaturated with ink.. the colors flat and muddy, the scene Definately distorted, as though a Transform command function had been performed without taking into regard the problem of Proportion...I think you get the picture....
                  With the original I was able to scan and give the customer a print which satisfied him enough that he brought in around $500.00 more worth of work...
                  However, the individual was furious with the other Two places he had gone to get this work done and insisted on engaging me in what I suspected was intended to be a roast of the competition.
                  Very ungood. Two reasons....(1) Everything you say to a customer about the competition Will get back to them...then begins a "Flame" war, and (2) you leave yourself wide open to be labled as a gossip and trouble maker. Very bad for business!!
                  I took the following approach:
                  I skipped commentary on the photo quality entirely ( the customer obviously knew a "pig-in-a-poke" when he saw one! No use going into That territory!!), switching the conversation to what I could do and showing the customer examples. When pointedly asked about the quality of the work done by the competition I simply pointed to my computer and associated equipment and briefly explained what made this set up different from most, including a brief description of the software and printer...never mentioning what the competition used, didnt use or in fact anything about them.
                  When pressed still further I stated that I had my own system of doing things and it seems to work good for me and my customers ....In short I Weaseled around making any comments at all about the work done else where.
                  It is importiant to remember that your job is to fix the photo...not be a critic of the competition..no matter how richly they may deserve a good "dressing down" or how horrible a product they put out. Becoming vocal about the poor quality will come back to haunt you...I've seen it happen! Once you being criticizing, factions begin forming...one group takes the side of the competition and another group takes your side and pretty soon the whole situation becomes so charged with emotion that it takes on a life of its own and you end up in a totally "No-Win" situation...Best to be wary and focus intently on what You can do...leave the "commentary" to the customer ( word of mouth advertising works both positively and negatively)...you come out on top that way because; (1) You get a reputation for integrity and Professionalism and (2) Folks respect someone who refuses to gossip or bad mouth their competition..sticking to just the facts will establish you as a true Pro...just some thoughts based on some rather horrid experiences....Tom
                  Last edited by thomasgeorge; 06-18-2002, 09:20 AM.

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                  • #10
                    I read all the posts except for Tom's last one, and I wanted to respond before I read his so that it wouldn't sway my opinion. IMHO, getting into a discussion about one of your competitors with a customer is a big mistake. Even if the restoration was done by a drunk, I would simply tell the customer that there are good and bad restoration artists, just as there are good and bad people in all professions, but that it is not my policy to discuss a particular competitor. That way, it is up to the customer to make the decision as to whether or not the person in question did a decent job. Never bad mouth a competitor. It's bad business. It is okay to say that you feel you could do a better job (even a much better job), but that's about as far as I would go with it. Now I'll read Tom's last post.

                    Ed

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                    • #11
                      Looks like I pretty much got it right!

                      Ed

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                      • #12
                        Tom, you did exactly what I planned to add to this thread. That I would try to focus the discussion on my work, my process, etc and redirect questions about the competition to what I do in an attempt to side-step the questions. I would not bad-mouth the competition, since it's not only bad "karma", but if the "factions" get out of control, it could go so far as to bring a libel suit (regardless if your comments reflect the truth, depending on how sue-happy your competition is.) It's just not professional or good business sense to criticize your competitors. Focus on your strengths and use that to win over customers.
                        Jeanie

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                        • #13
                          Sorry, Jak - I misinterpreted your analogy.
                          You brought up a point that I guess I get passionate about. Probably a whole other thread but, I do think that the challanges (not descriptions) should look identical (unless otherwise directed), with varing degrees of skill.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by chiquitita
                            I think there is a definite difference between badmouthing and giving an honest answer to a question. Personally, I am all about honesty, however, you have to do it tactfully. Choose your words carefully.
                            My motto as well! I'm sorry, but if someone brings me something that is clearly junk I am going to give them an honest answer, IF they ask. I will not be mean and would never insult whoever did the work, but I could not look the customer in the eye and give them a vague, side-stepping answer. For example, if someone came to me, not to buy anything, but to get a "second" opinion, and the work was extremely shoddy, I think I would owe it to them to be honest. Say you take your car to a mechanic and they do a poor job (or mess things up further!). You then take your car to another mechanic and ask about the shoddy work that was done...would you not want that mechanic to give you an honest assessment?

                            IMHO, I think you can be honest without getting into a "war of words" and without being insulting.

                            Of course, I should clarify that I have ZERO business sense! I'm far more comfortable in an academic environment where debate and criticism are the norm.

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                            • #15
                              Good discussion, but I would take a slightly different tack with this customer.

                              Putting myself in the customer's shoes, what I'd really be expressing is my DISAPPOINTMENT with the work done by that other restorer and I would be looking for someone to acknowledge my disappointment.

                              You could gain a lot of customer loyalty by simply saying: "I'm sorry you're disappointed with the work done before. I'll do my best to create a result that you can be happy with."

                              We've bought that stupid "love is never having to say we're sorry" line and most times in customer service, you can turn a situation around by saying those 2 little words "I'm sorry"

                              just my 2 cents worth,
                              Margaret

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