The Prodigal Client

This evening I did a wonderful assignment. It’s not that the subject matter, per se, was wonderful. The client wasn’t some “Oh, my God, I’d give my eye-teeth to work with that group of creatives,” either. It was … the prodigal client.

In case you’re not familiar with the parable, I shall paraphrase it here. In the gospel of best business practices, there is a tale of two clients. One is the faithful client, who never gives the photographer any trouble. The other is the client who demands more and more services and is critical when costs rise. Eventually, this client goes off to some other photographer, who will appease his demands at a pittance.

So goes that for a few years — until this now-former client finally realizes that he is accepting lesser and lesser quality services. Then he comes to his senses, and returns “home.”

The client is received with open arms, with nary a whisper across one’s lips of the past, or to whom they fell prey. Instead, the photographer seeks to meet and exceed this prodigal client’s previous experience — even though rates have increased since he last called.

While there is no jealous “other” client here, had their been, the photographer’s response to them might have been to “make merry,” because the prodigal client who had been “dead to me” was “alive again”. (Read the original parable here.)

It had been several years since this client left, without fanfare. They went cheaper. Upon seeing my client contact this evening, all I wanted to do was ask, “So, why have me back? What was wrong with photographer X?” Yet, I demured. Not very professional, I decided.

Instead, when they were giving me guidance on their needs, a comment was made that “the previous photographer, among other things, was skittish, and didn’t want to get in to make the good pictures, but I know you can, so make sure you do that…”. I so wanted to ask more. Yet, again, I did not. I am simply happy to have an old client back.

I knew the level of service and image quality I was providing was superior to my competition, but to point that out — to call and say, “Why don’t you want to use me?” — would have just been sour grapes. Instead, taking the high road of patience and perseverance, and continuing to just do the best damn job you can, is what ultimately makes the difference.

Take this path and in the long run, you will have extremely loyal clients — especially the prodigal ones. This isn’t the first prodigal return for me, and I expect it won’t be the last. But it’s a nice feeling each time.

[tags]John Harrington, photography advice[/tags]

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