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Friday, November 4, 2016

Customer Service as Your Career Grows



If you've ever read through my articles, or listened to one of my webinars, you know that I'm a devout proponent of a "The Customer is Always Right" attitude. I have always believed that success is in large part a direct result of the way you treat your clients, making them want to return over and over again.

As boilerplate advice, this should be an ironclad principle; but what happens when business picks up so much that you find less and less time to offer your clients the personal touch? How do you avoid becoming a victim of your own success, and creating a negative cycle that harms growth right as things seem to be coming together?

This is a challenging question, and a problem most of us would be happy to have. That said, it's a very real issue for talent with careers that are mature or maturing.

Your most valuable asset is your time. Keeping this in mind is the foremost element in finding a happy medium between customer service and opportunity cost. If you are booking regularly, the single most valuable use of your time is likely auditioning for new work or marketing to new clients. These are the activities that generate new revenue, and create the potential for establishing new long-term clients to power the growth of your business. Therefore, time spent servicing existing clients, though important to keeping them happy, is creating opportunity cost by taking you away from activity that has the potential to generate additional sales.

What this means is that you need to establish a minimum figure to define the value of your time. If your metrics tell you that one hour of auditioning or marketing is likely to lead to at least $300 in work, you would be ill-served to devote an hour of your time to servicing a client who is paying less than that. As such, there comes a point where you need to re-evaluate your rates, and even terminate client relationships that are potentially costing you money. A bird in the hand is certainly worth two in the bush, but if you have an established pattern of results that can be statistically demonstrated to yield X amount of revenue for Y amount of time investment, selling your time for less than that ratio is selling yourself short.

There is a false perception in our industry that buyers are exclusively cost-driven these days. While many are, just as many value quality over saving a few dollars, and are very likely to consider a reasonable rate adjustment to maintain access to a talent with whom they have an existing and positive relationship. Don't be afraid to tell your clients that due to increased demand you have to implement a price hike commensurate with how the marketplace is now valuing your time. Will you lose some clients as a result? You bet. However, the 75% who are willing to honor the value of your time will make up for that lost revenue, freeing you to spend more time generating new work at your new rates.

Your revision policies deserve some attention in this respect as well. Early in my career, I was happy to offer copious script changes and round after round of performance revisions to clients, often at little or no charge. I was thrilled to have the work, and when you only have a few gigs a week....or a month.....your time doesn't seem so valuable. Today, I'm sure to spell out clear revision policies for my clients. Live-directed sessions are considered final sale, and sessions over 60 minutes will incur an additional session fee. For jobs completed offline, I'm happy to offer reasonable performance revisions as long as they don't include wholesale direction changes.....it is our duty to get the job done right, after all. My price will also include one round of minor script revisions for non-broadcast work, or broadcast work that has not yet aired, (if it's already on the air and the script is revised, that's a new spot.) Clients deserve service and reasonable flexibility. That said, minor means minor. For a commercial, that's a line or two. For an industrial, perhaps a paragraph. For a training module, maybe a page. Anything beyond that, or any additional script changes, are billable, because they take me away from activities that will grow my business, and quite literally cost me money by using my time.

Your clients deserve respect, cordiality, and professionalism at all times. They deserve attention to detail, diligent work, and a reasonably flexible attitude that accommodates the eventualities that everyone encounters in this business. You, however, deserve to be fairly compensated for the time you spend making their product shine.......after all, your time is valuable.