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Essentials of Customer Service, That Most Companies are Failing At

This is Gavin Seim. And I am fed up with companies who do not understand the most basic tenets of customer service! So I’m going to try and counter it. A few companies get it. But sadly, most don’t. Service reps always say that on a personal level they “understand” But policy says, etc. What they don’t understand is that the personal level is ALL that matters. Is the customer walking away happy?

After getting off the phone with my bank recently and having not experienced real service, I researched and emailed the top dozen of so key executives of US Bankcorp. You see they have forgotten about what service really is – So this is what I explained to them.

“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 perhaps a leg. You do the footwork, you look into the problem and you do your level best to find a way to make the customer happy. That’s service.”

As owner of Seim Studios and Seim Effects Photo Tools, I’m proud to say that we offer real service. Every time a company blows me off, I’m reminded how much I hate bad service and why I WILL NOT do that to my customers. I may be small and have limited resources. I may not be not perfect. But we get things done. Whether it’s one of my software products, a portrait, an art print. If we sell it, we back it up. That’s why returns here are nearly non-existent.

After the recent bout with my bank I went to the Seim Effects Facebook page and posted about this. I also posted my cell phone number saying if anyone EVER has a problem they could call me directly. Interestingly enough that post got more interaction than I’ve seen on Facebook pages in a long time.

On a side note. The emails got thru. I did not hear back from the CEO (though I have had phone calls direct from CEO’s in the past after going straight to the top). I did however hear back from a USB Regional manger and my problem was resolved. This brings about the theory that if a company is giving you terrible service, don’t waste time with the chain of command. Go straight to the top. Because CEO’s don’t want to be hearing from you and it tends to get things done FAST.

I plan to write a bit more about service soon and look at ways we can leverage quality service to stand out in business. Until next time… Gavin

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

Pro Photo Podcast #89 – Christmas 2012 & The 33 Tips of Christmas

Gavin is hitting the road again for an early 2013 tour. Visit his website for details. More travel talk in the after show.

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Direct Podcast FeediTunesPodcast Alley

Today’s Panel... Gavin Seim Nina BeheimKerry GarrisonBrady DillsworthMark TeskeyJohn Cornforth

We wrap up 2012 with our annual Christmas roundtable featuring loads of photography tips and gear favorite gear and gadgets of the season. Join the discussion on the PPS forums.

Brought to you by the Seim Effects. And the EXposed Photography Workshop.

Use code: PPSCHRISTMAS to save $30.00 on EXposed before Dec 31st.

PPS #89 Forum Discussion HERE. Share Your Opinions.

Main Time Indexes:

  • 000:00 Introductions.
  • 005:30 – News Highlights
  • 023:45 – The 33 Tips of Christmas
  • 01:12:05 – A Visit with John Cornforth
  • 1:23:55 –  Picks of the Year
  • 1:59:30 – After Show. Sailing & More.

LINKS…

Nikon D5200 looks good. Also the Nikon D600.

The wall portrait article.

Gavin’s LIGHT LETTER

Lytro Light Field Camera

Sony NEX Series

Sigmas 35mm 1.4.

Zone System
Gavin’s articleFree videos.
Crash Plan Backup

Film is Coming Back.

Gavin’s article on signature and branding usage.

Picks…

Kerry
NEX 6
Sticky Filters Lighting Gels
Tripad Laptop Tripod Tether TableDojo Review

Continue reading ‘Pro Photo Podcast #89 – Christmas 2012 & The 33 Tips of Christmas’

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.’

Mobile Cameras vs Real Cameras & Why it’s Not Even Close – w/Examples

 

Winter’s End – Taken a few minutes apart. The mobile image  lacks any fine detail up close and fine detail is totally lost in that pasty look that is common of low end cameras and lenses. The film scan however holds up well. See complete image details here on Gavin’s journal. More examples below.

by Gavin Seim: When I was starting out you we’re not even regarded as a respectable portrait photographer unless you used at least medium format. How things have changed. But this mobile photography for the sake of it is a passing fad.

The camera in your iPhone costs about ten dollars to make – Now I was browsing Facebook the other day I found the above reference photo I posted while on our Spring 2012 tour. I remembered that morning, the light on the trees and how my 4 year old son rode with me to greet the sunrise. It was a good memory. But next I compared it as a photographer to the final print version of Winter’s End. That promoted me to compare others, from both film and digital, comparing them to their mobile counterparts.

A great image is more than the sum of it’s tech specs – But when those details are far below the sum of it’s artistic merit, it brings down the entire work.

What was really illustrated was the vast difference between a point and shoot image and a quality photograph. Even I had not realized how poor the quality was. The phone photo is a good reference and helped me plan and log I wanted to produce. It was also fun travel memory and some might say it was “good enough”. But I’ve learned that “good enough” is not how we produce great images to stand out in today’s market.

I see more and more people acting as if phones are serious cameras. Sometimes even touting it as something special. This bothers me because a low grade camera is not a feature of your art (and make no mistake, your phone camera is low grade). It’s true that gear does not make a photographer. But low image quality can make even the most accomplished photographer look like an amateur. Comparing a phone snap to a professional level camera is a bit like comparing a Prius to a dragster.

Continue reading ‘Mobile Cameras vs Real Cameras & Why it’s Not Even Close – w/Examples’