Today we shall talk about creating a kick-ass client experience via your inquiry response and booking process! Once your potential client has had a chance to peruse your website and has decided “HEY, I need to hire this amazing photographer!”, they’ll need to get in touch with you to ask more questions or book their session.
There are some valuable guidelines that you’ll want to adhere to in efforts to make this as smooth as possible for your clients!
1. Make it easy to contact you.
We talked in detail about this in the “Website” portion, but it deserves another mention. Your potential clients should have options to contact you from just about every page of your website. Your contact tab on your menu bar should be at the very end or furthest right on your website. That is where people are “programmed” to look first!
In addition to having lots of contact forms throughout your website, you should also include your e-mail address typed out. Many people are anti-contact form or they want to store your email address for future reference! Make it easy. If your potential clients are super busy people, something as simple as not being able to find your contact info right away could deter them from booking you at all, let alone promptly.
2. Use the inquiry contact form to your advantage.
Contact forms are VERY helpful and allow the client to give you the information you need right away so that you don’t have to have more back-and-forth correspondence than necessary. Ask questions such as “What’s the occasion, if any?” “Do you have a deadline for when you are wanting your finished products?” “How did you hear about me?” and a fun quirky one that will tell you a little about their personality and taste like “Where’s your favorite place to shop?” or “What’s your favorite beverage?”.
Getting these things addressed from the very beginning will save both you and your client time and help you get straight to the point when you respond!
3. Respond promptly and thoroughly. And no instant auto-responders.
First thing’s first: the auto-response that immediately goes out to every single email that says “Hi, we got your message but we’re with a client right now, so we’ll get back to you shortly!” is incredibly annoying. If you have one, get rid of it. I’m not referring to a vacation response (although, those can be off-putting as well).
Next, RESPOND to your emails in a timely manner. My personal policy is to respond within 3 hours of an inquiry, although the majority of the time, I respond within an hour. It’s a commitment for sure, but that is how important the client experience is to me … and my client satisfaction (understatement) record reflects that.
Templates are your friend! Make them. Make them for inquiry responses, booking confirmations, appointment reminders, etc. When I respond to a first-time inquiry, I start out with my template, but then I personalize it with all the information that I was given in the contact form.
I make mention of why it’s such a great idea to do the shoot for *insert their occasion*, let them know about turnaround times in relation to when they are wanting their finished product, answer all of their questions, AND comment on their favorite place to shop/favorite beverage. I am showing them right off the bat that I am thorough, efficient, and genuinely care about them and their experience with me.
Then the email goes into detail about what the process looks like, directs them to important parts of my website like my reviews from past clients, the FAQ section, and my detailed pricing guide. I let them know how excited I am that they are about to have this experience.
4. Assume they are going to book, and present them with the next step without them having to ask.
After I’m done educating them on the boudoir experience with me, answering all of their questions, and bombarding them with stellar customer service, I do it some more by telling them what to do next! I tell them what my next available dates are that will still get them finished products in time, and direct them through the booking process should they decide they want to move forward.
I never want to end an inquiry response with “Let me know if you have any questions or want to know how to book a shoot!”. I want to direct them, tell them what to do next so there are no other questions. Make sense?
When they respond back, it’s always with something like “WOW, thank you for the fast and thorough response!” … and is usually followed with “I’ll take May 10th at 10:00am!”.
5. Streamline your booking process.
Sending your clients a contract through a document signing program, then an invoice via your payment processing company for them to pay, then a questionnaire in a different email, and then your boudoir prep guide in yet a different email is not only confusing but also completely unorganized, frustrating, and likely to be put off until they have a solid block of time to sit down at their computer. If your clients are anything like my clients (or like most human beings), they’re freaking busy. They don’t have time to follow 7 different links and make sure they’re jumping through all of your hoops.
I’m actually in the process of completely overhauling my booking process to make it even more efficient. I used to use ShootQ (but not to it’s full capabilities like I should have), and have recently switched over to 17hats (Note: I am not sponsored in any way, shape, or form by either company. I just like the product.) for my studio management.
If you don’t have a system for your booking process, get one. I will be the first to tell you, as I am currently pulling my hair out over it, that it is a giant pain to set up. Once you’ve got it set up, though, your life will be so much more organized, efficient, and less stressful. The amount of time saved by not having to re-type the same emails over and over is insane.
On top of that, though, when your booking system is mostly automated, it looks way better to your clients and leaves nothing to question. Here is how mine is set up:
Client selects package, signs contract, and pays the retainer fee all from one email that I have sent them via 17hats. It’s fool proof for them!
As soon as that is completed, they receive an automated email (which is a template that I was sure to put my voice and personality into) letting them know that their shoot is officially official. This email gives them my boudoir prep guide with the tips on getting ready for their shoot. It tells them exactly what they can expect from me. It gives them their “homework” assignment from me.
4 days before their shoot, I get a reminder in my calendar that tells me or my assistant to give the client a call to see if they are ready and excited for their shoot, see if they have any last minute questions, and basically just reassure them that we’re about to have the BEST time. They’ll usually bring up their outfits or a massive pimple that just developed. We chit chat for a few minutes and then I let them know that they’ll be getting a shoot reminder via email the next with directions to the studio, parking instructions, and other day-of reminders. This email is also automatically scheduled to go out 3 days before their shoot … yet another thing I don’t have to remember.
When they show up to shoot (10 minutes early, with their face clean and moisturized and their lingerie all steamed/wrinkle-free because my automated prep and confirmation email told them to!), they know exactly what to expect and they are more at ease, organized, and impressed with their experience before a single shot has been fired.
THAT, my friends, is how to create an outstanding experience for your clients before you even shoot!
Next time, we’ll talk about how to deliver an outstanding client experience during the actual photo shoot! Stay tuned, y’all!
Feel free to leave any of your questions on the inquiry and booking process in the comments!