Friday, November 20, 2009

Friday: Stop The Insanity!!! Or How To Avoid The Holiday Rush

Good Morning Everybody,

We are settling quite comfortably into our Hawaiian surrounds.  Nothing much happened yesterday expert for the small tour on downtown Waikiki and a visit to the local Sam's Club - yes, I said Sam's Club.  LaDawn and I really know how to live when we go on vacation;~)

We got some great leads on some places to visit today so that's our plan - to don our best tourists attire and set out on a day's worth of island exploration.  So, since we are hitting the road in the next few minutes let's get on with today's post.  I think it's an important read for anyone who wants to stop the insanity of the holiday rush at their studio.  Here we go.

Stop The Insanity!!! Or How To Avoid The Holiday Rush

Nervous I can remember years ago sitting with several friends at our local Music Hall watching Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite.  The time-frame was about two weeks before Christmas and all I could remember is how much I hated being there that evening.

No, it wasn't the performance of the famous "Nutcracker March"  or the very pleasant "Sugar Plum Fairy".  It was the fact that I had way too much work to do back at the studio.  We had our backs up against the wall and I saw little light at the end of the tunnel in getting everything delivered by the holidays.  What in the world was I doing WAISTING MY TIME watching the dance of the sugarplum fairy?!!!

Quite the way to spend a few holiday moments with friends, right?  I made up my mind at that time, that this was never going to happen again.  The sad thing is that for many studios, full or part time, the agony of the holiday rush sucks the beauty out of enjoying the holidays for too many of us.

Back in the day - pre-digital days that is - album companies took FOREVER, or so it seemed to deliver the ordered back to the studio.  Many studios found themselves making holiday deliveries on Christmas Eve or even Christmas Day!  So many photogs completely missed the fun and excitement of the days leading up to the holidays that they could have shared with family and friends.

Make up your mind that it is never going to happen.  Here is what we did to bring sanity, no, more than that, JOY back to the holidays. It was simple, just set your deadlines for holiday delivery to a reasonable time-frame in which you know you can meet them. 

I knew I wanted to have everything delivered by a minimal one week BEFORE Christmas - yes, before Christmas.  That gave me that week to ENJOY the holidays and all the activities revolving that special time of the year. 

So, let's backtrack. It took us a week of production to organize the client's order, and prepare the images for the album.  Next, it took the lab about a week to process the order and get it back to us. Album delivery cycles usually took about 6-8 weeks to bind the prints and ship the album to us once they had received our order. 

Folks, that's 10 WEEKS of production to get the final album to the client! Add to that the fact that I wanted everything delivered by December 18 and you can see why we set our album cut off date to September 30. 

December Guess what - IT WORKED LIKE A CHARM the first year we gave it a try.  Sure we still made a point to deliver individual gift images to our clients right up to that week before Christmas, but that was never the problem.  The problem had been for for us to keep promising far more than we could reasonably deliver in those 10 weeks before Christmas.

Once the clients understood the normal production schedule, they understood and really never had any problem with our early album cut off date.  If the album was not going to be ready for delivery we at least could deliver the gift photographs to them in time for the holidays. All was right with the world.Thank goodness these timelines have been substantially reduced thanks to digital.

I've been holding to that same strategy for many years now and it still works really well.  I always have to "giggle" though when I have a new team member come on board.  This has happened twice over the last 7 years.  The new employee wants to promise the world to the customer and does. 

I want to mention that I was to be off that week before the holidays and not to count on me for any production help whatsoever.  It they were making the client commitments, they were responsible for following through on them. It only took them one season to learn the lesson I had learned so many years before.

You might be thinking that, "Wow, Ziser really offered his clients poor customer service by not delivering more orders before the holiday."  Actually, I think we offer exceptional customer service because we are keeping ALL of our delivery commitments to all of our clients. 

No one is being delivered late orders.  We never have to make an excuse for an album not arriving on time for the holiday delivery.  In a word, we never disappoint. As a matter of fact, we excel in customer service because we are delivering our orders to the client well before the client needs them.  Now they have ample time to wrap, ship, and/or deliver them to their family members too. And, guess what, now we too get to enjoy the best part of the holidays with our family and our friends.

Just make up you mind to do it and you can do it too - so to each of you reading this today - an early holiday wish. Happy Holidays to each of you and may your days be filled with peace and joy this season.

Hey gang, on that holiday note, I'm out of here.  We're off for a little island fun on this beautiful day.  I'll see everybody next week on the flip side.  And just remember, Hawaiian pixels need a little sunscreen too;~)  See ya' Monday.  Aloha, David

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