Tag Archive for 'quality'

Excuses are Stupid – 5 Essentials to WINNING Customers with Service

PinExt Excuses are Stupid   5 Essentials to WINNING Customers with Service

 

gavin seim signing prints 300x217 Excuses are Stupid   5 Essentials to WINNING Customers with Service

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

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Essentials of Customer Service, That Most Companies are Failing At

PinExt Essentials of Customer Service, That Most Companies are Failing At

01 20 11 1345 301 300x186 Essentials of Customer Service, That Most Companies are Failing AtThis 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!

PinExt Why Mobile Photography is A Fast Passing Fad!

resting place compare 486x600 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

Why So Many “Professional” Photos Look So Bad!

PinExt Why So Many Professional Photos Look So Bad!

Folio Lovers Ridge 300x198 Why So Many Professional Photos Look So Bad!by Gavin Seim (rev 03/14): I’m seeing so many bad photos posted as professional these days. People are trusting us with their time, dignity and money as they are photographed looking awkward, uncomfortable and often downright foolish. I am genuinely embarrassed. Not only for my industry, but for people and their families. They look ridiculous.

I’ve realized why these poor images are often even worse than snapshots: A snapshot is not pretending to be something artistic, creative, or edgy. It’s role is simply to be a memory, and it fulfills that role quite well.

I post this to remind those with experience to make sure we’re offering quality to our our clients. We are supposed to produce art they will want to keep, but I see and endless stream of bad images. Sometimes so-called professional images are so bad that a child could do better. People are pointing cameras and thinking they will do the work for them.

We cannot simply pull ideas for posing, lighting and composition out of thin air, with no aesthetic understanding of our subject. That is like builders throwing hammers at a pile of wood and expecting a mansion to appear. I see mothers who look fat, babies who look like Oompa Loompas, kids who look angry and dads who look like slobs because someone who was poor at their craft propped them up like badly drawn cartoon characters.

I love helping people learn. I’m not posting this to be hurtful, just to be real. It’s important that we’re honest with ourselves and clients. A doctor does not open their practice until they’re trained. A carpenter that opens a home improvement business without knowing how to improve homes is doomed to failure. Digital has not made great photography easier. It’s only made taking pictures easier.

These days it’s not easy, no matter how much experience you have. But some the best advice I can give to people starting out is don’t become a professional photographer until you are professional level. Having that camera means nothing. I’m not defining exactly when you become experienced enough. For most of us, it takes years, just like it does to become a doctor, a carpenter or just about anything else. You learn the basics first. Then it becomes your job and you keep learning.

This applies to all fields. A person should not be in business until they can make the product they claim they can. They should not have a website with prices offering services they are not qualified to give. They should not claim the title of those who spend years and decades mastering a craft, when they have no experience in that craft. There are different levels of professionalism and we don’t need to be perfect to go pro. But we do need to actually be photographers before we call ourselves photographers. We need to know the fundamentals of how to make quality images of whatever our subject might be.

If you don’t know the difference between f16, ISO800 or 1/160th, if have no idea how to light a 3:1 ratio or how to key strobes for a blue sky at noon, if you don’t know how to make your subject sharp enough for a thirty inch print, how to pose a woman so she feels beautiful and a man so he feels strong, if you don’t know what to do with the clutter in the background or how to compensate your exposure value, chances are you’re not ready to be a photographer professionally – There’s nothing wrong with that. There’s nothing wrong with snapshots. There’s nothing wrong with being an amateur. You’re learning and that’s just fine. Keep at it. If you want to call yourself a photographer, take the time to learn how first.

You don’t start as a photographer. You start learning to become one – Gavin Seim

Further Reading…

forest gathering family portrait 600x394 Why So Many Professional Photos Look So Bad!

Ashers Crib 600x500 Why So Many Professional Photos Look So Bad!

Folio Morgans Song 600x508 Why So Many Professional Photos Look So Bad!

 

Take a Bad Photo, Win a Trip to Thailand?

PinExt Take a Bad Photo, Win a Trip to Thailand?

Lightroom Contest 4 Take a Bad Photo, Win a Trip to Thailand?

by Gavin Seim: Adobe recently had a travel photo contest. The prize, a trip to Thailand with legendary photographer Steve McCurry. Yea, the guy who photographed Afghan Girl.

Matt Hardy once said – “Beauty can be seen in all things, seeing and composing the beauty is what separates the snapshot from the photograph.”

Adobe counted +Likes and gathered a panel of official judges to choose. The winner… this photo. You can see it larger here on Adobe’s page. There were many other entries, but this was chosen as the grand prize. I feel this is hurtful. Not only to the entrant, for it teaches them that quality does not matter. But to those who worked hard to enter quality work. It’s better to be honest with those that are learning, than to ignore a lack in quality. I would rather be improved by honest criticism than ruined by false praise.

How does the world’s largest professional photography software developer and it’s judges not know the difference between a photograph and a snapshot. As someone who has worked for fifteen years to understand photographics and light, I for one am not jealous; I am insulted and embarrassed.

For the record I did not enter this competition.  And the point here is not to insult the winner. I’m sure they will enjoy and learn from this trip. The point is that people need to understand a camera does not make you a photographer. People worked hard and entered quality work To award photo in this manner seems an insult to their efforts.

What’s Wrong With It:

Quite nearly everything. As a vacation snapshot, it’s perhaps acceptable. There is nothing wrong with a family snapshot. But we need to understand the difference between a snapshot and a photograph. This image won an international level competition. At that point it must be critiqued as such and compared to other entrants.

Great photos can be subjective. But that does not mean we ignore what makes them great. This photo has no subject, breaking the cardinal rule of a great image. A great photo has a subject. Usually just one. All other elements should be supporting cast. Is the subject little girl? The half cut off body taking the photo? Perhaps it’s the Oriental Pearl Tower, crooked in the frame. If we have to ask, the image has already failed.

When examined (something I have done over and over again) the picture feels of phone snap quality. It’s filled with artifacts and problems. The exposure is flat and dark and the sky is plain and boring. As journalism it lacks interest and as a street photo it lacks expression and spontaneity. Finally it fails at what is perhaps the hardest thing to put into words. It’s uninteresting and it does not tell a story.

Ansel Adams once said – “The sheer ease with which we can produce a superficial image often leads to creative disaster.”

While I don’t generally call out bad photos directly, I think this needs to be thought about. Everyone has cameras, but if in doing so, everyone becomes photographers, then the word photography no longer has meaning.

If we hold zero standards to the quality of art and use “art is subjective” as an excuse for everything, than the word art has no value – By calling everything art, by making everything great, we demean those who through effort and practice have mastered their skill.

NOTE: This is a news commentary. You are welcome to disagree and for obvious reasons I did not include the winners name. It’s not meant to be mean, but to raise awareness and get us thinking about quality and understanding the diffidence between a photo and a snapshot.

UPDATED: When this post was first made I had thought that looked like a phone photo. It is not. While the camera used makes little difference, some felt this should be disclosed. I have refined the post a bit to reflect this and things related to the ideas presented here.

So now that I’ve stirred the pot. Let the discussion begin.

Three 30 Second Tips to Better Photos:

PinExt Three 30 Second Tips to Better Photos:

by Gavin Seim:

Ready in 60 Seconds: After you choose the subject but before before you release the shutter, try taking a full minute to think about your scene and how you’re about to capture it. Really. Don’t just look at it. SEE IT. Sometimes we feel pressured to click. But even with a portrait, learn to take a little time and you’re images WILL improve. With some scenes you can even spend longer. Check out the 111 Project.

Sparkles wedding photography 600x309 Three 30 Second Tips to Better Photos:

Sparks: I stood outside well before the exit. Experimenting, considering the scene, trying to predict the light. The effort paid off with a great candid from a challenging scene.

Cut The Trash: I know, you’ve already taken 60 seconds, you have a plan. But look again. Maybe even take a test frame. Controlling tone, removing clutter and distracting elements is one of the most neglected elements in art making. If something is not adding to the image, it should not be in the frame. Either you move, move it, or it will move the quality of your final image down to LOW.

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