Archive for the 'Editorial/Journalism' Category

Excuses are Stupid – 5 Essentials to WINNING Customers with Service

 

Gavin preparing and adding initial to mounted 24 inch open editions in his gallery. Visit his website for details.

I’m Gavin Seim. Do you want you know my cell number? It’s 509-951-4860. I offer it because if a customer or even a colleague has a problem, I want it fixed. I’ve answered that phone while standing in the wilderness making images. Answered so I could tell someone how to install their LR presets or get their order. Because service matters.

I’ve been serving customers in retail since I was about 10. I’ve seen all the excuses. But I ignored them and made a commitment not to be the company that so many become. We’re human. But at Seim Studios we operate on service and quality. Whether we’re selling a portrait, a print, or one of our editing and education products for photographers.

Below is the principles of service from our website at Seim Effects. Everyone that works at Seim Studios is expected to follow it – Please use it in your business.

“Service is not something computers do for you. It’s not something from a book. It’s not a line in a policy manual. It’s not an excuse – Service means YOU raise a finger, a hand and sometimes even an arm, or a leg. You do the footwork, you look into the problem and you do your level best to find a way to resolve it and make customer happy. That’s service.”

What I’m about to say applies to ANY company of any size. No excuses. I’m fed up with how out of touch today’s world is with service and a smile. It’s not just the fortune 500s. Your mom and pop shop on the corner is often just as bad. It goes all the way back to how we raise our kids to respect others. But here’s the thing. If we give bad service, we won’t get away with it. Word spreads. If you’re big it takes longer, but it will catch you  — I’m not writing this only for you. I’m writing this for me. So if I ever forget, I can come back and remind myself the words of a young businessman who knew what quality and service meant.

Did you know I’m running for Congress? When was the last time you got great service from your congressman? The same principle applies there. Service, communications and respect. Lets get to this list.

  • 1. YOU Are the Servant:

When a customer deals with you or calls with a problem there’s one thing that is critical to remember: YOU are their servant. This is not a joke. You are being paid to serve that person and whether they pay you again is directly related to how well-served they feel. Service is about satisfaction. It’s about humbling yourself and taking pride in giving someone what they want. This applies not only to how you behave but also to the quality of the product you sell. YOU serve them! If you cannot grasp this concept you will never be a great businessperson.

  • 2. Give them the Pickle:

A wonderful concept started by Bob Farrell, this means just what it suggests. The little things are what makes happy customers. You don’t ruin a customer’s experience by making up petty rules or finding petty charges for extras. You don’t look for subtle ways to fleece them. Are you listening fast food? People are not idiots. They may tolerate your tacky charge for a glass of water, but it will leave a bad taste and it will cost you.

  • 3. The Customer:

It used to be said the customer is always right. While occasionally this is not 100% true, you can still treat them as if they are. The truth is it’s generally only that PICKLE that they want. Give it to them. If you can’t, go that extra mile and try to find some solution. There are bad customers out there and yes, occasionally you have to work for them. Good service does not mean letting customers stand on your neck but it also does not mean letting them walk next door because you won’t give them a .10 packet of ketchup. If you take the high road and work for that customer, chances are they will love you for it.

  • 4. Anger Management:

You owe your customer service. It’s your job. You need to make them happy. Even if they are unhappy right now. From an early age I was shocked by how offended people would get when I got frustrated with bad service. But when a customer is upset, a professional MUST not take it personally. While ethically customers should be kind as well, that does not mean they cannot chide a company or person for failing at their job. The angriest of customers is rarely angry at you. They want what they paid for. Give them the pickle and take responsibility for problems and they will turn from foe to friend. It’s rare that I cannot turn an unhappy customer into a satisfied one with a few minutes of personal effort.

  • 5. SERVICE:

Pure and simple. You work for your customers and so do your employees. In a world where service seems to have been forgotten, if you give that service you will blow them away. This means making it easy for them. It does not mean hiding your phone number on your site, only offering email support, taking days to respond, making excuses, trying to get them to pay for your mistakes.

I’ve heard all the excuses folks. They are all crap. It does not matter if you’re a software giant with ten million customers or a tiny bistro on the street corner. If you say you just can’t afford to give service, it’s a lie. Service means you make it happen. You pick up the phone, ship out the package, send the letter or crawl there on your hands and knees. SERVICE is how you stay in business.

Service means you go the extra mile to make sure you’re customers are treated fair and just. Policy be hanged, efficiency tossed out the window and price left at the door. Because when you give this kind of service people remember you, they talk about you and they want to buy from you AGAIN. If you give bad service YOU will pay later and YOU will deserve every penny of that loss.

None of us are perfect, Things go wrong. But every now and then step back and ask yourself “How would I want to be treated?”

Serve and be served — Gav

Why Mobile Photography is A Fast Passing Fad!

by Gavin Seim: Fads always come and go – iPhoneography and mobile device photo exhibitions are no different. There is no iPhonography. There is only photography and whether or not you do it well.

I’m going to be frank. But let me explain the real issue I have. You see don’t hate mobile cameras. But the fact that industry leaders are on the road teaching “mobile photography” as a genre, singing the praises of cell phones being serious pro cameras, and suggesting that using said cheap camera is a “feature” is utterly ridiculous. Lets put aside for a moment the massive lack of quality in mobile images that we examined last month and just consider the fad aspect.

The fad is this ridiculous idea of promoting yourself as something special because you use the lowest quality camera you can find. The phone camera is just a camera. A very cheap one. And yes, it’s what we do with a camera that makes the image. So, we “can” make a artistically great image from a phone. The problem is that it’s rather like making the best sculpture ever carved out of crumbling rock. It’s very limited and it’s going to end up looking like dust next to the David.

Imagine if Michelangelo started carving with a butter knife and presented Butter Knife Chipping as the future of the sculpting world because it was so simple and elementary. What I’m saying is this: The tool used is irrelevant as long as it does the job well – If it fails to do the job well it should be replaced with something that works better.

Now I know that the cellphone camera is NOT going away. Right now it’s a useful point and shoot tool. In time it will likely achieve the quality we had in the compact 35mm point and shoots of the film days and it will likely grow as a legitimate tool for certain situations. It’s not even close yet.

At this stage I have not seen one mobile image with the technical quality I would attribute to a fine print. Oh, we might get an 8×10, and even stretch it a tad further. But it’s the most limited photographic medium I can think of. So limited that if you do get that once in lifetime shot, you can barely do anything with it beyond putting it on the web. And lets not get into the iPhone Time cover. The image was very low on technical quality and likely only made it because of this fad.

For the record, I use my iPhone all the time. I find it quite suitable for snapshots. The question I pose is this: Would a cheap disposable  110 camera from the drugstore (remember those?) be a suitable alternative to a pro system? Of course not. And yet it could arguably give better quality than our phones.

My point here is NOT that you cannot make an image with “artistic merit” from a cheap camera. It’s that an artist who’s serious about their work must go beyond the artistic and consider technical merits and capabilities of his tools. Saying “Look, I’m using a low grade camera!” as a feature in your art is utterly ridiculous beyond a fad. If you’re reading this years after I write it you may be thinking – “did that actually happen?” – The sad truth is, yes it did.

If you make a good image on a mobile that’s fine – And if the quality of mobile device images when you’re reading this is truly enough quality for the product you “want” to sell then fine. But what model camera you made it on is  irrelevant unless it offers some game changing improvement, or is being discussed between colleagues.

Someone will want to point to the photographer doing well with mobile images. They may well even be a great photographer. But if they’re to be taken seriously in the long run it won’t be because of the camera they used. Anyone with an art business that relies on the type of brush they use with is doomed to fail in the long haul. In the end what I’m saying is it’s what camera you use as long as you cane make a great image. Whether you did it on a mobile is totally irrelevant unless it causes a technical failure of the resulting image. Mobile photography is NOT a selling point.

We don’t need to learn or teach “mobile photography”. We need to learn, study and teach light. That’s what photography is all about.

I get in trouble for taking this position. But that will pass. This is an industry where just a few years ago quality was demanded and photographers needed at least medium format to be taken seriously in most genres. Now these same artists are out on the road teaching how would be photographers should make their millions with a cell phone? A $10 camera? If that’s not a passing fad, then I guess I’m not a photographer.

Gavin Seim

Photography’s Loss – Hey Diary, by Todd Kunstman.

Hey Diary,

It wasn’t so much the email barrage that I sent out that is keeping me from sleeping. I didn’t throw a thousand dollars of my family’s grocery money out in to a windstorm, flush it in to the ocean, or burn it in hellfire like I did when I sent out the post card. Neither created a single call. But it was the post card, (created by marketing experts by the way) and the shame I had to return to my family with when it failed that hurt so much.

And it’s that I don’t have any answers. I don’t know why it failed. I wake up at 3:48 am and stare at the blackness: maybe the post office lost it, maybe the printer never delivered it, maybe I had the wrong phone number, address and studio name on it. Maybe a reverse Santa snuck in to their houses and took the post cards and left a cookie and warm milk.

I can never know.

It’s too bad my timing is off right now. Maybe I can find a way to hang on for a year or so, but I don’t think I can absorb a mentoring session from the person someone recommended. Not after I saw her portfolio.

I just want to cry about what I saw there. It’s so sad. It’s so heartbreaking. It’s so gut wrenching to witness what is happening to photography: the lens choice that distorts bodies, the horrible lighting that can only be described as accidental when it looks like lighting at all, the total disregard for posing, composition, color.

The complete lack of taste.

The pillaging of the industry, the snapshotty abomination and arrogant disregard of all the hard work of those who have previously sustained this art form actually makes me physically ill. It rips at the core of all I hold sacred.

But you say she knows marketing? That’s too bad. Then the profession may indeed be doomed. To have the power to litter the world with this unmitigated garbage without the responsibility to the profession from which it is derived is a recipe for catastrophe.

There can only be hope if she and the millions like her who are diseased by their ignorance can be saved by an appreciation for what the craft could offer if they would only learn. Maybe that’s my job. God help me. God help us all.

If I have to abandon all I hold dear to my soul to continue in this profession by not condemning this atrocity then, at the risk of sounding arrogant myself, it’s photography’s loss, it’s society’s loss, it’s humanity’s loss.

Sincerely,

Todd Kunstman, M.CPP
KenMar Photography Inc

Facebook is Charging – What’s Next for Your Page + Five REAL Tips for Traffic.

by Gavin Seim: Now here’s the reality of your Facebook page: If you want the majority of your connections to see your posts you have to PAY – Love it or hate it (mostly hate it), that’s how it is. We can complain about how people subscribed to our posts, how Facebook is using bait and switch on us. That’s is probably true. But they own the space and it’s a business. Many of us saw this coming. And yet we may not have been as prepared as we should have.

There’s some good news though. Facebook pages themselves are still free. That’s good. And if you post something really, really, REALLY engaging more people will see it than average. That’s cool. Though still not everyone who likes your page. That’s not cool. From what I’m seeing on pages, (and I have quite a few of them,) a post generally gets seen by 10-25% of your fans. Sometimes less. That’s bad.

So if you want to get seen, you PAY to promote the post. For example on my photography page which has around 2500 fans, I’ll pay about $10 for most of them to see it. For my Seim Effects page that has closer to 8k fans. It might cost $30. This can work, but it’s too costly for every post. We’ll come back to that.

First I think we’ve come to rely too much on social networks. Even those of us that make blog posts have come to rely solely pages, tweets and the like for the traffic to our sites. Higher content saturation and low interaction reduce the value of our space. But the problem with social network reliance it goes beyond that. Facebook censorship is bad. In fact recently I was BLOCKED from Facebook for 24 hours for posting this portrait on my page, titled The Bath.

I can’t operate a business like a two year old, wondering if I’m going to get a Facebook Spanking every time I post something or open my mouth. I can’t rely on a system like that. At least not entirely. So all this has made me evaluate how I use social networks. How we can be more independent and build Content Freedom.

There’s always everyday social network tips like posting good content. How images get more interaction than plain posts. How you need to be interesting and visually appealing. These are basic rules of engagement. But lets go deeper. Here’s what I’ve learned. Tips on not only how to maximize what’s left of Pages, but to step further away from reliance on social networks while maximizing how we use them to gain the valuable traffic.

 

5. Cross Planning Your Content.

Regardless of where you post you need to engage your viewers and make sure you’re not posting crud. If you post photos they should shine. If you make products, make them look good. If you’re monologuing like me, make it worth it. As Captain Picard once said – “Engage.” Take the time to refine your brand and showcase things the best way you can. Use all this to get traffic to your own site.

Always make it easy to share, subscribe and engage. People won’t generally go out of their way for it. Keep it classy, but easy to click. In this share bar for my new EXposed workshop, I used a direct call to action here. This is not always necessary bit can be nice on static pages.

Next, cross promote using your site in ways that get people to engage further. Get them on email lists and or following your other networks. On your own website make people want to share content, Like, +1 and Re-tweet, Pin and the like. And don’t just use any share tool. Find one that looks and works good. Note the share bar I use at the top of this post. It makes it easy and fast to share. Don’t use tools that people have to work to make function. The one I use right now is called Social Sharing Toolkit for WordPress. Continue reading ‘Facebook is Charging – What’s Next for Your Page + Five REAL Tips for Traffic.’

7 Sure Fire Ways to Become a GREAT Photographer – In Under 10 Years!

  • Practice.
  • Study.
  • Practice.
  • Study.
  • Practice.
  • Study.
  • Practice.

Sorry, I could not resist – Honestly though it’s no easy road and it’s not fast. But learning photographics the right way is wonderfully rewarding. Edward Weston once said – “If I have any ‘message’ worth giving to a beginner it is that there are no short cuts in photography.” – I’ve found that to be true. I also learned that the sooner you dig into the science of light and art working together, the easier it gets.

Take your time, enjoy it and don’t ruin it for yourself by trying to go pro before you’re ready or be something you’re not. That said, I’ll give you more. Visit the Best of Pro Photo Show page. It’s a list of of the best tips, shows and articles we’ve ever shared over the years. It will keep you busy for the rest of the weekend and you’ll walk away a better photographer. Good luck, Gavin.

Gavin Seim: Portraitist, Pictorialist, Speaker and producer of Seim Effects Photo Tools and the EXposed workshop.

A Facebook Spanking – And How it Feels on Your Business.

The Bath – A Portrait that got Gavin banned form Facebook. Read more here.

by Gavin Seim: We all should to consider how social media effects us in the long term. I recently released a new portrait called The Bath. I posted this portrait on my Facebook page and the next morning I logged it to find it had not only been removed, but I had been banned from Facebook for 24 hours as PUNISHMENT for supposedly violating an “unnamed” responsibility of using Facebook. I assume they placed this under nudity, even though it contains none.

There’s is nothing inappropriate about the photo and did not even consider that it would get taken down. These are my kids and I intentionally made sure nothing showed that could be taken wrong in the slightest. So here I am, a business on Facebook, being treated like a three year old, slapped on the hand for being naughty. And that’s it. No appeal, no recourse. I call it a Facebook Spanking!

Even as a paying advertiser who has spent thousands of dollars with FB, I don’t have a real contact or way to get help. Just a black mark on my record, meaning that in the future, the punishments get worse. Some random thing could even get the PERMANENTLY REMOVED from Facebook. What happens to the years of work and thousands of dollars building my network and pages? Who knows. The thing is, they can do whatever they want. It’s their network. Just like every private network.

This got me thinking about how reliant we’ve become on social networks. Even someone like me who blogs actively on his own sites, relies on Facebook, Twitter and others to let people know about those articles and get traffic flowing. There’s nothing wrong with using those tools, but when we rely on them all our eggs start rolling into one basket. What happens if we get cut off. How many of us have maintained traffic sources that “we control”? Things like newsletters. Why? because I don’t like my business being under the thumb of corporate management that won’t even talk to me.

Personally this prompted me to start a fresh email list called the Light Letter. I want to make sure I can connect with those interested in my work on “my terms”. That’s not to say I won’t use Facebook, Google +, Twitter and other professional networks. But this experience really showed me that we as people and professionals need to become less reliant and start controlling our own content and traffic. I hope others will follow and start thinking about Content Freedom. As people who rely on content communication as part of our business, it’s time we make sure we can keep it flowing.

What are the solutions? I think a well made engaging newsletter is one. The list is not dead. Organic SEO traffic is good too. Maybe even traditional mail. I don’t have all the answers, but I’m thinking. What ideas do you have for controlling our content on our terms rather than on the whims some corporate management who couldn’t care less?

I’ll be going into more in depth on this soon as we look at how we can keep our content ours. You can also join my Light Letter below if you’re interested. Either way I encourage to check out LightLetter.com to see how I set it up. It’s been converting quite well.

Gav