28. Customer Service with The Shacklefords

Good customer service is vital to running a successful business that lasts. That means not just taking care of your customers but also taking care of the vendors and other people you work with. Below is an interview with The Shacklefords - Anna and Daniel, a husband and wife photo team.

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Braedon:   So, Daniel with your background and customer service what can you say what company that was you were working with or what's what industry and what did you learn there that you've been able to apply to your business you might not have.

Daniel:   Sure, I studied finance in college and then I did a few a few jobs right out of school before landing at, my last company was called E-vestment. It was a software company but we worked with in the investment industry and I started in the client service world. So, my job was to, me and my teammates were to essentially be the front line of defense for any of our clients or vendors that were calling our company and you know had problems or whatever they needed help with, we were that first line of defense. So, we learned a lot of tactics on, you know how to quickly identify problems and get out ahead of them and of course keeping the mood light if someone was upset just being able to really carry them through whatever their issue was, all the way to the finish and making sure that they left with a better feeling towards our company than when they were coming in. And it was a really fun environment, it was a very young team, we all got along really well and our bosses were very hands-on in a good way and so I learned a lot in that that space and I've transitioned from that role to a more of a product management role. So, then my communication became less reactive, at that company and more proactive. So, I was doing more reaching out on my end talking to customers who are using our product and just identifying, you know how they were using it, why they were using it and then even if they weren't having problems identifying where problems could end up showing themselves down the road and things like that. So, I'm also very outgoing, I think in my just my personality and so I enjoyed being able to constantly interact with people and then I also got a lot a lot of interaction with our sales team. So, there's a lot of relationship building and things like that. So I think that aspect of it just transfer directly right over this you know when a bride and her groom, when they're signing up and becoming clients of ours, you know you beginning a very long relationship in a lot of cases, you know a year I guess on average you could say eight months and through that time there's a lot of touch points along the way and so why can't I said we like to be very proactive with our clients and so you like to identify things ahead of time and get out of a head of those and just make sure that their experiences is just flawless you know they don't, they don't ever have to think about what's happening on our end, you know we're carrying them through that and everything that I learned in that role I think just transferred very well right over to what we're doing now.

Braedon:   Yeah that's great.

Anna:   We very much have different strengths and it plays very well in our business. Daniel is very, he's incredible with people and so outgoing and great with Excel sheets and all that fun stuff that creatives don't necessarily well quite as much so I'm really grateful to have them as a teammate.

Braedon:   Those traits don't usually go together. The spreadsheets plus extroverted. That's amazing that you have both those.

Daniel:   Yeah it is fun. It’s fun being there together especially even so I did an engagement session when previously it would just be Anna and you know the bride and groom. Now we're there when we're moving from location or in between shots or something and there's that moment of conversation that kind of has the opportunity to unfold. Now that we're both there, Anna, I kind of can free it up to be a little more creative in thinking about what we're gonna do next. We've already done planning but she can do a little bit more thinking internally and I can be interacting with the bride and groom and you know just keeping the conversation fun and nice and easy going and so they're just continuing to have a good time while Anna is able to maybe step back mentally and focus on what we want to do next. So, I think that's another area where the husband-and-wife team really in handy.

Braedon:   Yeah I mean having a team in general, I think for anything from like running a business to run it you know like running a fan there's reasons why there's a team because it is like there's a lot riding on your shoulders to be doing it by yourself and a lot of people are doing it by themselves and it's a struggle or it's like if you're having if you are so low but then you have different assistants for each job like that consistency is really nice to have someone who exactly knows the system and can fill in your gaps.

Anna:   Yes.

Braedon:   So, something else which I'm guessing that Daniel you've got a nice expertise in, is handling sort of the business side on the financial aspect of your business and one of the things that I really have a heart for and you know where I hope that this is encouraging maybe for younger photographers that are listening that are like wanting to be doing this, is, one I find a lot of photographers are not making enough money, in their business. Basically, from either not charging enough or just like running bad business but what are things that, have you set anything up in your business on the back end on the financial side to like know a strategy or know your numbers, what is that that you've done?

Daniel:   Sure, yeah, I think you know, we of course are using like a QuickBooks setup on the backend, so everything's flowing through the QuickBooks system, so we have a very clean record of everything and we were pretty diligent on going in and tagging all of our transactions into the various buckets that we need to identify for tax purposes at year-end which we we've just completed of course and glad to be on the other side of that. I think Anna and I actually built on a tag team that's really well together. I think I may have more of the knowledge on just financials in general but Anna's got a really good.

Anna:   I’m very goal-driven.

Daniel:  Very goal-driven. She's got a really level she's very level-headed when it comes to this kind of thing and she's very adamant about things like she mentioned staying out of debt and just little things like that that I think are extremely important and that one that one in particular is just a pitfall that is not necessarily gonna wreck someone in their business but can certainly slow you down and really put some more anxiety on you and more pressure on your shoulders and things like that and so I think you know we'll probably just continue to use the word that we balance each other out so well but it is nice having Anna really pushing from that side of things, on the financial end, on the back end, just with what her hopes are for the business from a finding financial perspective but then you know me being the one going in and actually digging in the weeds and seeing where the money has been going and at this point we definitely know on a per wedding basis what you know, what we can expect from an expense stand point and things like that and we do a lot of thinking ahead on you know what our runway looks like and I think one thing every photographer in the wedding world struggles with is maybe you're coming into the spring and your spring looks good but your follow is so empty and it just stresses you out and it puts more pressure on you but you know we just trust that things are gonna work out and we keep doing the right things in preparation and the fall you know like it always does up until this point at least it you know the fall fills up and before you know it you're through fall and you're worried about spring. I think one thing I would I would share it's just that you can't let those stressors get you down because they're so easy to stress over and there's nothing that's stressing over those things is going to do to improve your business unless you're taking that stress and channeling it into okay, if I am worried about filling up my fall, what can I do today you know to start to fill that void or what business practices can I be implementing to help ensure that we're booking more weddings things like that.

Anna:   And I think that from a financial perspective that like I said I'm very goal-driven and so every year we make financial goals of what we need to accomplish that year for this is what we need to you know meet all of our needs and meet all of our livelihood if we want to excel and have more business more money to pour back into the business, this is what we need to make. If we want to you know have more for retirement and savings and to pay off our mortgage or things like that we have all these separate goals and we understand what that looks like quarterly and monthly and the numbers that we need to hit. So, having that mental space of knowing like this is how much I need to bring in this month, makes a huge difference on knowing what needs to be done and how much harder we need to work to meet those goals.

Braedon:   Do you, being a goal-oriented person? Do you have like how do you organize your goals? do you have like a journal that you use and maybe can you share what some of those like goals are for your business this year?

Anna:   Yeah sure. I do know this is I don't know why but do you know thinks I'm kind of crazy but I love at the end of the year I like to make new goals for the year and so for this year we hope to grow by 20% but we want to do less weddings. We're hoping to do 20 weddings this year in the past we've done about 30 on average. So, this is where we would like to be and we're almost there. So, we're excited and we also are more we are working more on our sales process for albums and prints and collections and things like that. It's really important and one of my biggest passions and loves is seeing the work printed and in someone's hands and what we do is not meant to be on a computer or on someone's phone. It's meant to be on their walls and sitting in their laps with their kids in there, like looking through the photos together like that's what our work is meant for and so I'm really passionate about finding ways to express that to our clients and educate them on the best practices and that's one area that we're really putting a lot of focus on this year. But we're working on a few promo films. Thanks to Daniel's skill. That's something that we hope to just kind of grow excel in this year and in the coming year.

Braedon:   Neat, so if you're going down from 30 to 20 weddings but you're hoping for a 20% increase and therefore you raised your prices this year? Is that what happened?

Anna:   We did. We raised our prices and we're working a bit more with wedding planners this year and that's been really helpful and also like I said we are, through our sales album sales and things like that. That's been able to bring our numbers up quite a bit that's been really

Braedon:   Okay. If you were to give like look at one piece of something that you've done in your photo career that you feel like has really been a catalyst. Is there anything off the top of your head that you can think of that you've done or is it just like this consistent smile that you've had on your face with your customers?

Anna:   I would say if anything, I don't think it's been one thing. I think it's been the consistency of providing every client with a great experience. Even the clients that you're like man I really hope that I excel and I know that there are all of these issues but I just want to serve them well like there have been times where I've gone into a wedding day especially the beginning of my career. I was like I don't know that I can make this person happy like some people are just difficult to work with and going into those types of atmospheres with the goal of I'm gonna do the best that I can and provide them the best experience. I think doing that at every wedding and knowing no matter what your situation is you need to do your best and giving everyone that effort in that care constantly and consistently has really been what's helped us build our business, build such a strong business.

Braedon:   Well that is an amazing, I would say piece of advice for anyone who is out there either in business or looking to build their business, is that giving that sort of experience to customers and I would say good job on you guys.

Anna:   Thank you.

Daniel:   I think you also have this personality but Anna is just a light on a wedding day when the moment we get there, she's just you know I feed off of her energy for sure. She brings me up from that perspective but you know she's so just friendly and outgoing. You know being like she mentioned you know interacting with everyone in the wedding party. Getting everyone's names and making the bride just feel unbelievably gorgeous and you know just making everyone feel so warm and cared for around her and I think that that consistency of that every single wedding. You know, it's not something you can put your hands on obviously it's just you know they leave that interaction that wedding day they'd go on their honeymoon and I think that they just feel so taken care of and they feel so just like cared for and I think that just come so naturally for her and she does it was such a smile and just a beauty that it's hard and it's not an easy thing to learn.

Anna:   I will say too, that I think that a lot of times whenever mistakes happen and when there are issues that need to be resolved. I think a lot of photographers shy away from those things and a shutdown immediately if there is a customer service issue but I find that as an opportunity to excel and to serve them better. So, when we've had issues in the past I just think you should take every experience as an opportunity to learn and grow and so if bad things have happened we know how to deal with them and we know how to like face that head-on and I think that's really important just like talking with your client and understanding what happened and how you can be better and how you can resolve issues with them. Again, like I said I think people shy away from it when it's really a great opportunity to learn. So, I think that's been good too.

Braedon:   That's another really good piece of advice, is for sure. I think I think what's so hard about being like an artist or a photographer in business is that being able to like wear all those hats of being that creative person but then also be good with emails and be good with finances and you know as like then also be good with marketing and then discipline and you know it's like there's so many different things that you need to have, to be able to actually run a good successful business but it sounds like you guys are doing a great job.

Anna:   There's always room to grow, for sure.

Braedon:   Yes, there is. Else it would be boring. But hey so if people want to check out your work and see more of what you do maybe what's your website and then what's your Instagram handle that they can go follow?

Anna:   Yeah, so our website is AnnaShackleford.com and that's a-n-n-a-s-h-a-c-k-l-e-f-o-r-d but that's also our Instagram handle is just AnnaShackelford as well so you can see our work in our recent life happenings in our cute little boy and all that good stuff