I've been so inspired lately by these examples of going above and beyond with customer service. This is what all of us need to strive for in our film and video productions, and I will give you a hint. Not a single one of these examples is too hard to duplicate. In fact, you can start doing them right now.
Example 1: Justin
Justin is a filmmaker in Las Vegas that is just brimming with talent. I've mentioned this before in the newsletter, and I will mention it here: go watch any video on his YouTube channel, and you will see the makings of the next Spielberg. I don't say that about everybody. I often joke about people being the next president, but I rarely ever say someone is the next Spielberg. Go ahead and subscribe if you find his videos enjoyable. Just like every subscription here to the newsletter helps to grow this mission, every YT subscriber helps a fellow filmmaker.
I hired Justin to do camera work on a recent ad. It was a day-long shoot, and apart from a few brief interactions before, we had never spent more than an hour or two together.
He showed up on time
He never once complained
He offered suggestions when we faced obstacles (he wasn't just a Yes Man)
He helped with lighting, grip work, and occasionally sound
He helped clean up at the end of the day and even washed the dishes at our location - I didn't ask him to do it, he just started washing the dishes
That last one especially got me. Will I hire him again? Absolutely. Between his talent as a filmmaker and his attitude as a budding businessman, I guarantee we will watch his feature stories on the big screen and/or VOD platforms. In fact, if you haven't already, I highly recommend you watch his finest short film to date, Angora Road (contains wartime violence and language).
Example 2: Lois
Mom and Dad attend a small Methodist Church in North Carolina. The pastor's wife, Lois, gladly hosted me and my wife when we were 3 months pregnant with our son.
Sure, you say. It's a small church and your parents attend the church. Well, the buck doesn't stop there kiddo. As of this writing, I stayed with them almost 2 years ago, and yet, they have followed up with handwritten cards, gifts for my baby boy, and emails wondering why we didn't come visit them this past holiday season.
I was blown away by this. I've never met a couple that does this - in any form of ministry.
I remarked how cool this was to my mom, and she said that most businesses are concerned with profits and not people's well-being.
I don't know how you can quantify that, and while it may be true, it doesn't have to be that way. In fact, if you look at all of your favorite examples of leaders (make no mistake, a director has to be a leader), and you will see that the best examples are those who genuinely care for others.
Example 3: Michelle
I honestly can't remember the name of the lady repping the nonprofit that we supported, but I will use the name Michelle for the time being. A lot of nonprofits will gladly receive your donations and never so much as say thank you except once a year when they give you your tax statement. However, Michelle did something that I've never seen a non-profit do before: she called my wife and left a voicemail.
She then followed up the phone call with an email. And she reassured us that if we have any questions or concerns, that we can reach her at her direct line and such and such email. And given the response, I believe her.
Example 4: Jane
Chef Jane Lee runs a gluten free bakery here in Las Vegas, but they can serve anyone anywhere. They can tackle any allergy, not just gluten, and I had the honor meeting them first through my church 2 years ago.
Since then, I have gotten to know Miss Jane and her staff and now I'm thankful to say they are my client.
They were my client and yet they still, in almost every interaction, looked for ways to send me home with something extra. It could be their signature popcorn, cookies, or even just asking about my wife's birthday (smart upsell), but they always looked for that extra way to go above and beyond. And they did this even before they were my client.
Example 5: Elizabeth
This lady goes above and beyond... and you wouldn't believe it at first, but she's a gov't employee. Local gov't, but gov't nonetheless. As any adult who's ever served in the military, been to the DMV, or just lived outside of a cocoon knows, gov't employees move at a different pace. It typically goes like this, from fastest to slowest:
- The Rock
- Michael Shannon
- Small business owner
- Non-profit founder
- Church leader
- Kid selling lemonade
- Flash flash hundred yard dash
- Gov't Employee
- Galapagos Tortoise
- Newborn baby
But Elizabeth doesn't let the trope define her work or her customer service. We went to the library one time, and even though the magnets weren't scheduled to be out for the kids, she pulled them out for my son. Another time, we went looking for "Pete The Cat" books. See, they weren't in the usual spot, and I didn't ask for help, but she overheard my conversation with my wife. She went looking in another section (unsolicited) - presto! There's Pete.
Me: Thank you!
E: You're welcome!
Minutes later, she comes back with three other books for my wife and gives a short pitch why my son might like these books as well as his trusty Pete The Cat books. My wife thanked her, and she came back a little later with one more suggestion for an interactive book a two-year-old boy would like.
And the proof was in the pudding. She had a young adult sidekick - as a volunteer. What youngin' volunteers to work in a library? Great leadership attracts followers, regardless of pay.
Regardless of your industry, over-deliver and be a servant, especially if you want to be the next Nolan or Scorsese. If you're not doing film or video production, and you just so happen to be here, I encourage you to go above and beyond even if 99% of your team moves and acts like a gov't employee.
Example 6: Jonathan Moeller
Here's a fellow who also went above and beyond. My wife and I went to HI to renew our vows for our 5-year anniversary. She found a local photographer Jonathan, did the homework, and it wasn't even like we had to roll the dice. His work spoke for itself, and his reviews were glowing. We knew we'd hire him. What we didn't know was what degree of customer service he'd bring.
He showed up early.
He voluntarily stayed an hour late to capture more photos as the sun was setting.
He had the best attitude ever (like Justin Melson levels - example uno), and because he stayed late, I started going through the proofs and thinking, dang, we gotta bump up our package to the next level to properly pay this man for his hard work (and of course we wanted mored edited photos at the end of the day).
He then over-communicates with my wife during the editing process. When I was a terd about the white balance on one photo, he didn't give me lip service. When he sent the edited photos, he also gave us a complimentary video slideshow that also had some short video bursts he recorded in between shots without us knowing.
To top it all off, he gave us complimentary hard copies of our 5 favorite photos. AND... he sent web-ready files and print-ready files of our edited photos on a thumb drive with his logo (smart move Jonathan).
Above and beyond? Beyond extraordinary. It's no wonder he stays so busy.
Example 7: neighbors
We have neighbors who suggested getting earplugs for everybody on our next flight. Well, when my son was 1, he was full of energy. We flew east in 2016, so we took our neighbors’ advice and bought a bulk pack of squishy earplugs for the people on the flight with us. A handful of people received the earplugs as a gift, and one of the attendants later said that in all of her years of working for airlines, she had never seen anybody do that.
Fast forward to our Hotel Christmas Night, and the folks in the adjoining room sounded like they were having a pretty good get-together. I didn't want my little boy to keep them up, so I went over and knocked on the door and offered earplugs to them. I explained that I have a 1-year-old son, and sure, they were confused at first, but they soon realized that it could be a long night for them, so they received the gift.
The next morning, as I'm going to the car, the veteran dad tells me that was the slickest way he'd ever been told to keep it quiet. He said it was the least confrontational, and also the most thoughtful way to ask somebody to be quiet. I assured him I wasn't doing it to get their family to quiet down but that we were acting on good counsel; I thought it was the right thing to do to offer the same courtesy to our neighbors, same as the folks on our flight.
My neighbors down the road are onto something. And as you'll notice with all of these examples, these are not really hard things to do.
The fact of the matter is, so many of us, myself included, settle for just enough.
It's a terrible attitude, especially when you thumb through Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John you can see how we've been given the example of the perfect servant leader who always went above and beyond.
So if you're willing to take an extra 5 minutes, spend an extra 5 bucks, or engage an extra 5 people, you will find that it's really easy to show your clients (and even your prospects) how much you care & how willing you are to serve.
Now if you just finished a video job, then it is your job as a budding filmmaker to close out the job. I'm going to show you a few simple things that you can do right now to bring the job to a close and make sure you are over-delivering when it comes to your clients and your video production.
As with anything that involves customer service, you should not be looking for quick and easy.
Philip Bloom even said this, you should treat every job as though it were a big-ticket job. Show up, work hard, over-deliver, and always have a good attitude.
So what do you do when you finalize your edit and your client has the final copy in hand?
You go through these steps, and then you read the Bold Mail mail call at the end of the post.
Step 1: archive your video
I've talked about this a number of times before, but it is worth repeating. I recommend archiving all of the color-graded copies of each video file, every sound file, and of course every draft of the final video that you worked on for your client.
Keep the project files to yourself.
I'm not an affiliate for Amazon Cloud, but their cloud service is by far my favorite one to use because it offers unlimited space for you to back up your footage (or not - unlimited discontinued in 2017).
If you have a high-speed internet service in your house or your office, then you're golden.
I have a list of other cloud services that you can check out right here.
Step 2: send your client a notice of completion
Short of a paper napkin, you can literally send them back the contract that you guys first signed with a simple statement that says the job is finished and no further revisions or work will be done.
Sign and date it, and ask your client to sign and date it as well.
Can you get by without this step?
But I've learned the hard way that over-communicating is good, and this is a simple way to over-communicate and make sure that you and your client are on the same page; I highly recommend including this step.
Step 3: ask for a review
This is really important and I'm afraid most of us are too sheepish about doing this.
You need to ask for a review. Good or bad, accept the review. And if you really want to develop a culture of transparency (professionally) for yourself and/or your company, you should include the negative reviews.
XXX Church is a pioneer in this. On their website, they have the best of the best of both their positive reviews and their negative reviews. They call it love mail and hate mail. But you catch my drift.
Because I want to build a culture of transparency (since I'm all about sharing the good news through media that's not cheesy and doesn't blow chunks), I decided to ask all of my folks to leave a review on Google.
This could be a two-edged sword, but I'm willing to give it a go because I do want to have transparency in our business. If people are dissatisfied with us for a legitimate reason, other people should know about that.
Not everybody will do this step for you, even if you are patient and persistent. But keep trying. Ask for a review and take as much of the work out of the equation for them if you have to.
Step 4: ask for referrals
I learned recently that we should ask for referrals even when people tell us no, please don't email me again, or no, take a hike, or whatever the case may be.
Make it a part of your repertoire, no different than charging your batteries, formatting your cards, balancing the books, or cleaning your inbox.
In fact, ask for 2 referrals. Be confident in your God-given abilities and make the ask.
Remember - we're to have faith like a child. What are children really good at? Asking.
God didn't give you a spirit of fear, and if you're following Christ, you've been ransomed from fear, so the last part of the question is do you really believe in your God-given skills and abilities? Do you really believe that you have a God-given story to tell the world that will point people to hope and unconditional love?
If so, then what do you have to lose by asking for a referral? Make it a part of your practice.
Trust me, and this is true for any business or organization, what other people have to say about you and are willing to say about you, is your best go-to when you are selling yourself to new clients.
Step 5: leave your client a review
Wait, didn't I just tell you to ask them for a review?
And you should take the initiative and do the same for them.
Now whether you buy into this idea of following Jesus or not, this is where I encourage you to follow the simple principle that you should encourage and build one another up.
Especially if you want to be a filmmaker, you want to build up the people around you, and that includes the clients that are acting as your mini producers.
Do they have a shop on Google? Leave them a Google review. If it is Yelp, then leave them a Yelp review.
Did you do work for a consultant that doesn't have a presence on Google or Yelp? Find them on LinkedIn, ask to connect with them, and then leave them a recommendation.
Look for ways to give digital referrals. Not only does it strengthen your relationship with them, it blesses their work, and ultimately creates a bridge back to your work too.
In the movie A Beautiful Mind with Russell Crowe, Russell Crowe plays John Nash, the eccentric math genius who ends up winning a Nobel Peace Prize in the field of Economics because of his mathematical theory that says the best result comes from doing what's best for the group and yourself. And you already know what the Good Book says about doing good for others.
Step 6: send a thank you note
Send your client a gift for their children.
If it's a really big job, you can do all the above and then offer to take them out to lunch 2 weeks later so that you can review with them what worked well for them and what could have been better.
I promise you - producers and directors have this kind of conversation all of the time, so get your reps in now and get used to the idea that it is a partnership when you make a video or a film for someone downtown.
At the very least, send a handwritten thank-you note just to say thanks, and say something encouraging about their leadership or their work ethic. Again, we are called to build and encourage one another up, and you don't have to be cheesy or super Christian or anything ridiculous, you just need to say something simple to the effect of, Bob, you have a lot of passion for family law, and I can tell just how much you care about each of your clients. Don't ever lose sight of that and thank you for serving our community.
Step 7: talk to their marketing guru
Business is still done with face-to-face interactions, no different than raising large amounts of money for a movie.
If your client is not the chief marketing officer or the head of marketing or whatever title they might use, then find out who that person is - let's say it's Uncle Bob. Ask your client to talk with Uncle Bob. Break the ice, and do it fast.
Offering to take them for lunch is a good way to do it. Chances are Uncle Bob knows more opportunities than you could even wrap your head around without your brain exploding, so talk to him and talk about how you can complement his work.
As with everything in life, make it about others and not yourself. If you're really good at your video skills, then I promise you that marketing officer would like to know you and will likely invest in that relationship, but you need to be proactive about it.
Did I mention everybody likes it when they are offered a free lunch? Jump on that train.
Step 8: nurture the relationship
In the months that follow, it's up to both of you to pursue the relationship.
Go out of your way to send them an email once a month just to share useful and helpful information. Perhaps there's an article that you found that lies somewhere in the intersection of your industry and their industry and you can share it with them especially if it has to do with the benefits of video marketing. :-)
If you already have a newsletter, you can offer to add them to your newsletter so that they can stay in touch.
Just like the ultimate servant leader showed us, we should be looking for ways to serve our clients and value their needs above our own. And then you should take that attitude with you into the store, the bank, your mom and pop diner, in your home, and anywhere else you go in your community.
Don't just over-deliver with clients; make it a part of your daily life.
Need help with this idea of leaving reviews? Or encouraging someone daily? Who are you looking to regularly to grow as a leader? As a filmmaker? Who are you investing into? I've got all of this and more in a printable 90-day .pdf journal, and it's yours to use and kick your customer service out of sloppy laziness and into high-gear serving.
What do you need to do right now for that last client that you worked for? Comment below!
How do you make money from all this stuff? Do you have an outside job? Or does your site and the calculator get you by?
I know it can be cliché when we say God is the answer, but ever since I left my W2 job in the spring of 2015 at a mega church here in Vegas, that has certainly been the case.
To be completely transparent, we don't believe in debt, and while I leveraged a little bit of debt to start the ole business Church Films, the business then and now strive to be debt-free and stay that way for the foreseeable future. Mark Cuban thinks that as leaders and starters, we're fools if we start with a bunch of debt. I think there's wisdom to that - the borrower is servant to the lender, right? Cuban says that no matter how badly your business/NPO/church is doing, one thing you can always bank on is that THE BANK will want their money every month. Grant Cardone sees debt differently and Dave Ramsey is in Cuban's boat, and I think when it comes to the issue, I'll listen to what the Word says and what the Shark says.
As for me and my family, God has provided every step of the way. Video Production is my FT job. The real vision and the whole point of this blog right now is to equip you to manage four-and-five-figure shoots because then we can work on the 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10-figure shoots and really share the message of hope with our communities through visual media. I can’t do it by myself, but I can teach you (the microbudget filmmaker) what I know so that together we can make a dent.
I need you - we need you to tell stories of hope, redemption, grace, and do it in a way that's not cheesy but brings glory to the Almighty, stories that reaches millions upon millions of people.
YOU CAN DO THIS.
Now, every time I pitch a client, I use the calculator, and I'm working on learning how to close, and I think all of us should work on that more than our cinematography or our editing. We have to step outside of the film geekdom and learn the business side of things because when we do that, we grow as leaders.
Think of your favorite director - they're able to sell a vision and have people buy into it. It's the same process used in selling and closing, and so we must learn how to do this, and I learn every day, and I encourage you to do the same. Start with YouTube and learn about closing. Find a YouTuber/person you like, and then learn from them. Mine's Grant Cardone. We don't have to see eye-to-eye on everything for me to learn from him. The same goes for you - step outside of your "church" circle and trust that there are people who don't believe anything you do (they may even think you're a fool for believing what you do) but still have valuable wisdom to share. In 13+ months of development (i.e. struggle), I've learned that closing is my biggest weakness, and unless I work on it, my business will never get off the ground. This is an artform unto itself (selling & closing) that ministry, seminary, college, film school, etc. can’t and won't teach you.
You have to take the initiative here, same as I have been doing.
I came up with that calculator because I was tired of us budding filmmakers not knowing what our time and skills are worth, and it has served me wonderfully in landing 4, 5-figure shoots, and I hope it will continue to serve you as you quote your clients for video production work. It gives a detailed breakdown of expenses that the client can understand (they don't care about rotoscoping or parallaxing), and it helps you pay your people and keep a roof over your family's head.
Calculator or no calculator, learn to manage your four and five-figure budgets, and then take those lessons with you into the battlefield to go tell bigger and better stories. I'll say it again: I can't do it alone; I need you and this broken and hurt world we live in needs your vision too.
Put down your remote tonight and write ONE more email asking someone to help you with x - or send them a video message. Show up to a networking event. Make the call. Repeat tomorrow.
Get to it.
Original: August 2016; updated Jan 14, 2017, Feb 5, 2018