Most of the time, professional photographers deliver products and services at a level of quality that meets or even surpasses client expectations. Photographers come on time for a scheduled shoot, produce beautiful images, and deliver photos on time. No problem.

However, just like in any business, there are times when things get unintentionally messed up. For example, the photographer may fail to show up at the appointed time or venue for one reason or another. Photos may not be shot to the required specifications, or there may be delays in the delivery. While many clients are considerate, some can get really upset or disappointed due to the mishap.

If their concerns are not addressed properly, a photographer can lose these clients forever. Worse, the dissatisfied customer may pass along the word of his bad experience to other people, negatively affecting your ability to gain a new photography business.

While they are rare for a professional photographer who constantly delivers quality results, customer complaints are bound to come at one time or another. Whatever the customer’s decision is—whether he forgives the photographer, gives him another chance to serve him, understands the situation, or abandons him—depends on how the photographer handles the situation.

If you messed up and your customer gets upset, don’t panic or give in to the customer’s demands just to appease him. You can diffuse the situation professionally and efficiently by using the HEAT process.

H – Hear the customer out.

Listen to what he has to say. Don’t interrupt him. Hearing him out has two benefits. One, by letting him vent out his frustrations, he begins to gradually calm down. Once he is calm, he is more likely to listen to you.

Two, by listening to him, you can dissect the problem in detail. You can understand why he is angry, zero in on the source of the problem, and mentally find ways at your disposal on how to approach the situation.

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E – Empathize with the customer.

Let him know you understand him and want to help him. Tell him that if you were in his place, you would also feel the same way.

Empathizing with the customer eases the tension and helps re-establish your understanding of the customer’s situation.

A – Apologize.

If the mishap was indeed your fault, then an apology is in order. There is nothing wrong with accepting responsibility for a mistake that you made, we are all human after all.

T – Take action.

It is not enough to simply say sorry. Offer a solution to appease the customer. For example, you can:

  • Offer a re-shoot, if possible
  • Re-edit the photos at no expense to the customer
  • Slash off a reasonable percentage of the original rate
  • Offer an extra service that was not included in the original contract, within reason

By taking action rather than just apologizing, the customer sees that you want to help him/her. It makes them feel that they are important and their feedback is valuable to you and your photography business. With such understanding and realization, it is more likely that they will accept your offer and remain a loyal client. That is great for your photography business.

Resolving complaints can take a lot of time and effort. But, by using the HEAT process as a professional photographer, you can turn disgruntled clients into satisfied, recurring customers.