We’ve all been there. We book an appointment of some kind, have an idea of how it should go, show up, and BAAM, it goes nothing like we thought it should. We leave feeling defeated, let down, maybe even angry. But why? What is it that causes us to feel this way?
Expectations. Improper or unfounded expectations are the cause of disappointment. So how can we overcome this in our daily interactions with clients, co-workers, and even family members?
That’s an easy one: TALK it out!!! If you have an idea or expectation of how someone should act or how something should turn out, discuss it. There is absolutely no way someone will live up to your expectations if you don’t tell them what you expect!
Let’s use photography as an example. If I book a session with a family of 5 (dad, mom, teenager, 2 younger kids) and I simply tell mom when and where to show up, what do you think her expectations are going to be?? If that were me, I’d expect that the photographer maybe didn’t know what they were doing or wasn’t interested in capturing the real essence of my family.
Take that same family. I have booked their session for 2 weeks away on a Friday evening at 6pm. Prior to even booking their session, I have asked mom some general questions in order to get an idea of what she is looking for in her session. After all, we are going to spend an entire hour together, we better make good use of it! Now that she has booked, I have asked her some more in-depth questions to get to KNOW her better. I would ask her what kind of location she has in mind and then I would give her 3 places to choose from. Once that is decided on, I then remind her that because her session is on a Friday evening, to plan extra travel time because traffic is notoriously bad at that time of the day, especially on Friday. Although it may seem irrelevant, or just common sense, mentioning the traffic and reminding her to plan accordingly helps to reiterate my interest in HER expectations regarding her experience with me.
Next, I ask her if she has a specific color scheme in mind or if she would like a style guide. Once that is determined, I ask her if there is anything specific she wants to capture. Maybe there is a specific pose or grouping she wants. Again, by asking what she wants out of her session, I KNOW her expectations and can deliver!
Lastly, once I have asked all the necessary questions to make sure the experience is going to be exactly what my clients expect, I let them know what to expect from me. This is THE MOST IMPORTANT part of setting expectations in your business.
As a general rule, when setting expectations with a client, you should always UNDER-promise and OVER-deliver! Let me say that again, UNDER-PROMISE AND OVER-DELIVER!! This will ensure that your client remembers their experience with you in a positive way! And that will occur because you set expectations AND THEN EXCEEDED THEM!
So, back to what I tell my clients to expect of me: I let them know how long it will take me to edit their images and deliver their gallery. I ALWAYS give myself more time than I need, just in case life happens (because let’s face it, life happens every.single.day. 😊). For example, for the family session above, I would tell mom that it will be 3 weeks from the session date before she receives her gallery. I also let her know that she will receive weekly updates as to the status of her gallery. Then, I aim to deliver the gallery within the first week, but if it doesn’t happen she gets the update and is happy! I also throw in a little bonus with the delivery of the gallery, but that is my little secret 😉
I also send a sneak peek of one or two images by text message and social media (if she is okay with that—again, another expectation to set up-front is how you will deal with social media and if your client consents to you posting their images) within 72 hours to let her know that I am busy working on her images. I also let them know that I expect (and require per my contracts) that any images they post on their social media give must have proper photo credit. It’s crucial to remind them of this when delivering sneak peeks because you know they are going to save that image to their phone and blast it across the interwebs for their friends, family, and insta-stalkers to see!!
By setting proper expectations before even meeting a client and completing their session, I am able to provide a personal experience that is memorable and enjoyable for both my clients and for me! I mean, shouldn’t I get to have FUN as the photographer!! It’s not all about making money, there’s so much more to it than that!
The best way to ensure a great time for all is to COMMUNICATE clearly and stick to what you say! That’s why email and text messaging is so great! You can go back and review any conversations you have had so you don’t forget any details! If you do take a phone call or an in-person meeting with a client, be sure you have a notepad and a trustworthy pen so you can take detailed notes! (Trustworthy pens are important because it sucks when your pen dies on you mid-note-taking and your brain can’t hold the details long enough to get you through the conversation…)
So just remember, great expectations can be met with either great satisfaction or great disappointment, it’s up to YOU to get the reaction you want!
(P.S. I chose this image because no matter how bad traffic may be on a Friday night in St. George, it will NEVER be L.A. at rush hour haha!!!!)