Guest Blog Post by Richard Silver, owner of Silver Photography
In the world of being a small business, I, as a small business owner understand the importance of customer service and bringing the best for the customer and their experience. Therefore, what sets apart the definition of a customer versus a client? We toss those terms around interchangeably, but yet we don’t really take the time to dig deep and understand the differences. Instead of quoting what the dictionary has to say about the two terms, my hope is that we can have a better understanding of the terms through personal and real life experiences.
In the late 90’s I owned a computer business, “Image Computer Systems”, and we performed everything from custom computer systems, provided computer services, tech-support and data installations. My company had a lot of customers and many of them were repeat customers. However, I found myself referring to them as clients; not customers. The typical business procedure was to build the computer for the client, deliver the product and move on to the next client. And that was generally how the system worked. Sure, I would chit-chat a bit to get to know the person I was dealing with, but it was never a deep relationship or conversation; it was very surfaced. The business of what I did was very job oriented and getting the task done. Therefore, when I was out on location doing an install or service work, I couldn’t just sit there and visit with the client because I had work to do and they did too. Therefore, that atmosphere naturally created a barrier from having a close relationship with my clients.
Fast forward to today, I have since closed the computer business. My wife and I now own and operate our own photography business, “Silver Photography” and it is a completely different approach to customer service. When we are conducting a photo session we are literally working one on one with people and many times they don’t have a clue of what to do in front of the lens. Another factor that is very common is an individual may be very shy or subconscience about themselves. And so it is our job to help relax them, coach them and make them feel comfortable. When you spend multiple hours with someone you will undoubtedly get to know them. You are constantly in their space, directing them and interacting with them. And because of that, you tend to break down walls and barriers. This is very true when you work weddings and spend the whole day with the party and family. There is also a certain connection that strengthens the bond with the customer as we are editing and processing the pictures. I can definitely testify that the customers that we work with have become more family than customers because what we do is very personal and relational.
In conclusion, I define a client as someone who is more distant and not as connected. Sure, you are still doing business with someone, but it’s not personal; more disconnected. I view a client as being more of a “corporate” customer. For instance: I am a client of Verizon. I have absolutely no relations with them other than they provide me my phone line, internet and cable. I pay my bill and I get service. Their technicians would come out to service my house and they do their job and leave. Many times I have tried to strike up a conversation with the technicians and find little success. That to me is a client base business. Whereas a customer is someone you build relationships with, you have more of a closer rapport with them and in many cases, you may do activities outside of business. And in my definition, I call that family. Many of our customers that we have done photo shoots with have become close family friends and repeat customers. Silver Photography finds the strength in our customers and they help shape who we are and the clientele that we attract. So my question for you is, how do you define the strength of your customers?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR—RICHARD SILVER
Richard Silver is no stranger to customer service and has been serving customers since he started his paper route way back in the fourth grade. Today, Richard will stop at nothing to bring the best experience for his customers. He enjoys getting to know his customers and through Silver Photography he captures the essence of who they are.