Steak & Cheese on Wheat, Hold the Courtesy

Lately my wife and I have been glued to the Food Network.  My favorite show at the moment is “Restaurant Impossible” with chef Robert Irvine.  Chef Irvine comes into small failing restaurants and attempts to solve their issues.  The primary factor leading to failure is usually bad food.  The second is generally poor service.

Today I was a bit worried that I wouldn’t come up with something to write about by the end of the day, but after a quick trip to my local Subway, I have all the material I need.  I approach the counter and the man looks at me as if expecting me to have something to say.  I figure he must want my order so I was about to speak, and he double-takes back to the oven to check on something.  Once he resolved whatever issue it was, he comes back to me and literally points at me with his plasticky glove and continues to look at me as if I “know the drill”.  He spoke not one word to me.  I tried my darndest to wait for him to greet me but I couldn’t take the pregnant silence any longer so I gave him my order.  The service did not improve as I was handed off to the next person down the line.

I’ve visited several local Subway’s literally more than one hundred times over the past year and this is a common problem.  While I can speculate on the source of the problem (and I often do), my point is that these businesses are really hurting themselves when they don’t take the time to hire employees with people skills and take the time to show their customer’s that they truly respect and value them.  It would be no great feat to start a competing sub shop with friendly staff that would blow the pants off of Subway, or any of these other chains with employees that treat customers like they’re just another hurdle between them and closing time.

Like Chef Irvine, it blows me away when I see businesses with such potential make the major mistake of not staying on top of how customers are treated.  It’s so simple and inexpensive to train people how to treat customers, or to find people who are naturally personable.  But at the same time, as the overall attitude toward you as a customer declines, the potential for unbridled success grows for those of us who truly value your patronage.  It’s simple supply-and-demand economics.  Respect and gratitude are in short supply, while demand is higher than ever.

Have you had a recent customer service experience that you felt strongly about, either positively or negatively?  I’d love to hear about it!  Shoot me an email or leave a comment below.

Quality over Cheap

I’ve made a lot of choices over the past few months.  Choices about which vendors to purchase from, what model of frame to use, what print sizes to offer, what brand of paper to print on, etc.  My choices were mostly based upon two options… buy cheap and save money (at least, in the short term), or buy quality and have a product that I can take pride in, and be confident in signing my name on.

I put thought, time, and effort into each photograph as I capture them, I put more thought, time, and effort into processing them to match my vision.  Why would I not choose the best possible printer and inks to print them with, the best fine art paper to print them on, and the best quality mat board, mount board, and frames to display them in?  Why go through all that effort just to compromise the final product to save a few dollars, or even a few thousand dollars?  If my business is to succeed, this won’t amount to anything in the long run.

It’s why I purchased an Epson 4900 pigment inkjet printer instead of “making do” with my Canon 9000 with it’s dye based ink.  It’s why I chose Museo Portfoleo Rag paper instead of a cheaper grade Epson or Kodak paper.  It’s why I chose Bainbridge 4-ply mat over the Hobby Lobby no-name brand that might discolor after a few years.

The downside is that I have to make a much greater initial investment in my business.  This is fine with me.  Fortunately, I can afford it and have not had to borrow the money at interest.  Sure, the amount my business owes myself is pretty intimidating, but I plan to succeed.  If I succeed, this initial investment won’t take long to pay back.  If I fail, I’m stuck with some really awsome art pieces that I would be happy to have for my home and office.

A Plug for Lynda

Over the past year, I’ve spent a LOT of time at Lynda.com and I cannot recommend this valuable resource enough.  If you’re not familiar with Lynda.com, it is a library of video tutorials that focuses on software education, but also ventures out into other topics such as photography. 

For example, If you want to really learn Photoshop (any version), I cannot stress enough that you should check out Deke McClelland’s series on whatever version you have.  If you want to learn the fundamentals of photography, or perhaps freshen up on a few concepts in composition, Ben Long has several excellent videos.  I highly recommend his Black and White series.

At $25 a month, it’s well worth it if you have the time to put into it.  And you’ll need lots of time.  One of Deke’s series on masking is twenty five hours worth of adjustment layer goodness.  And yes, I have watched it in its entirety, along with many of his other tutorials.

PHP, Microsoft Office, Windows 7, and Quickbooks are just a sampling of things that you can learn through Lynda.com.  I highly recommend.