08 March 2011

An American Photographer in Essex

Being an American photographer in England isn't always easy. I get the "mick" taken out of me on a regular basis. I'm used to it now, and find most people do it in an amicable way. I've even learned to EMBRACE it. Sometimes I take a little "mick" back, in an amicable American way, of course. It's true, I probably say "awesome" a little too often. I forget that "groovy" isn't a commonly used word anymore, but I use it anyway. I once told people after the group shot at a wedding that they could "take off" for the reception, only to hear a few chuckles and gentle jousting. Hey, I'm not always the hippest person in a crowd, but once you meet me, you won't soon forget me! I figure that works to my advantage, as long as I'm behaving myself.

I just read an article by Julia Boggio in the April edition of Photo Professional magazine. Julia is an American who has been living in Britain for over a third of her life. She's got a bit of time on me for that one! I've only lived here for 5 years. She's also married to a Welshman. She's got me on that one too. I'm married to an American. An American from Michigan at that. If I really think about it, the men from Wales and those from Michigan are quite similar! Anyway, I digress, as usual. Back to the article. Julia starts the article by talking about the American work ethic and how she's worked most of her life, even while in school. She goes on to say how ingrained us Americans are about customer service. Now I've often spoke with friends from all walks of life and from different countries about customer service. It comes up most easily when customer service is lacking. But one time, this couple we were speaking to had gone on a cruise run by Americans and actually complained that the customer service was over the top- too much. I gave a big "huh" and contemplated that. Now having been in the UK for some time, I get it. When one becomes accustomed to, let's say, lesser customer service standards (whether it be Britain or anywhere else!,) one can be overwhelmed by 3 different girls in a shop asking how they can help you. This now irritates me when I go back to the States.

Here's the thing. It doesn't really matter where you're from, I'm sure you'd agree that GOOD customer service is likely to bring you back to that supplier again. EXCELLENT customer service will even get you referring that business to friends. If a business is referral based, believes in the product and/or service that they provide and enjoy what they do, awesome customer service is a no brainer. Photography is such a business. Yet occasionally I hear horror stories about what has happened to people concerning their wedding photography. One story was so sad that I offered her a free "Cherish the Dress" photo session so she could at least have some nice images. I won't say who the photographer was, but the venue she got married at still refers him. The last thing the girl said to me was that he didn't even TRY to make anything right in the end. He could have offered her the same "Cherish the Dress" session as I offered her.

There is a dream in America. It's called the American Dream. It's ingrained in us from an early age. We are taught that ANYONE can become president. (Well, anyone who is American, that is. And YES, Obama is an American, despite those who would like to believe otherwise. Last I checked, Hawaii is still a state!) It reminds us that whether we're from the Carolinas or from California, whether we're yellow or white in skin, whether we're richer or poorer, we all have the chance to become somebody. If we work hard and keep picking ourselves up when we fall, we can all become something great. I'd like to think that I've acclimated to life in Britain and I'll be down the pub with the next guy. But in my heart, I will always be an American. I own a British flag and fly it with the rest of the Brits. I also own an American flag and fly in on the 4th of July. I agree with Julia that business is business and that solid principles are the same no matter where you're from. I, for one, will keep offering my brand of American customer service. I know it works and if you want to take the "mick," go for it! I'll just smile and nod my head.

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