You Said It! Q & A with Community Member Pascal Depuhl

Community Host
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What’s on your mind right now? We know folks who work for themselves have plenty to say about the business of doing business. That’s why we want to share your insights, ideas and best practices. Today, we’re spending a few minutes with Pascal Depuhl, a photographer and videographer who’s also an active member of this community. The last time we spoke with Pascal, he explained why his professional title at Photography by Depuhl is “Chief Mindchanger” and why he believes we all have a moral and professional obligation to give back.

Given Pascal's focus on doing good, it was no surprise we caught up with him as he was recovering from jet lag after a whirlwind trip to Nepal. That’s where he’d been working with an organization dedicated to helping remote mountain communities get access to life-saving medical services. Pascal tells us why and how he got there. He also shares an unexpected realization that changed the way he thinks about, and provides, customer service.

Pascal, tell us about your film project in Nepal.

I was filming a documentary about a non-governmental organization (NGO) in a remote region of the Himalayas. When I say “remote,” I‘m not exaggerating. People in these villages have to trek for seven days through insanely rough mountains and valleys just to get to a bus stop. From there, it’s a 15-hour ride to the nearest hospital. Given these conditions, it’s no wonder the life-expectancy of a child under eight is just 50%.

This NGO organizes helicopter evacuations for villagers with medical emergencies and sets up outposts offering basic medical treatments and service. The group also helps villagers navigate the hospital system in Kathmandu.

What led you to offer your services to this inspiring organization?

I believe all of us – visual content creators, accountants, you name it – have innate abilities and skills. When we’re lucky enough to do something we love, and we’re good at, we must give back. I love being involved in projects like this one every few years. I arranged this trip to coincide with an assignment I was on in Asia for a different client. Since I was already on the ground, I knew my travel expenses would be minimal. I found out about this NGO and offered my services in exchange for covering basic costs.

For me, the goal is to balance commercial clients with projects like making this important documentary. Of course, when I’m shooting in Nepal, I’m not marketing my business or working for a paying client. But I think the trade-off is really worth it.

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You’ve been running your own business for 25 years. What are you doing different these days?

I don’t believe in change for the sake of change, but a recent experience has made me think about my customers in a whole new way.

I was behind the camera during a presentation at a medical convention by Horst Schulze, the former president of the Ritz Carlton. He explained the most important thing every great company does is not finding new customers. The number one thing is to keep the current customer.

When I was at the Ritz, I experienced the hotel’s amazing customer service myself. After the talk, I thought about what I do to keep my clients happy. I realized it’s never been my top priority. So, I started thinking about the small gestures I could make, things that don’t cost a lot of money or take much time but really add up.

Not long after, I had a shoot with client who was driving in from two hours away. I knew she had to get up at 4 a.m., so the day before, I asked her how she likes her coffee. When my client arrived on site, I greeted her with a hot cup, made just the way she likes it. This gesture took zero effort on my part, but my client was so pleased, she couldn’t stop talking about it!

That’s a great story. How are you continuing to incorporate this new approach to customers?

Now I keep service at the forefront. I find myself constantly thinking ahead so I can anticipate the need of my customer. This kind of thinking helps clients engage better with my brand. But fundamentally, it’s not about making money. I want my customers to know I genuinely care about them.

Here’s an example. Recently, I was sharing the Ritz Carlton story with someone over lunch and saying how much I’ve learned by reading The New Gold Standard: 5 Leadership Principles for Creating a Legenndary Customer Experience Courtesy of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company. After lunch, I immediately ordered the book online and had it shipped to my friend’s home the next day. It just felt like the right thing to do.

Another shift is the way I work with the contractors and freelancers I hire for a shoot. Now, before each job beings, I let the crew know my philosophy about making great service a priority. I tell them the client needs to be blown away. Since everyone on my team represents my brand, it’s important I set clear expectations so we’re all on the same page.

None of these changes is huge. But simply being aware of the importance of customer service really does make a lightbulb go on – and then it stays on.

Before you go

QB Community members, what changes have you made in the way you think about, and offer, customer service? We’d love to hear your story!

3 Comments
Community Host

That photo is amazing, @photosbydepuhl! Is that on location for the documentary you were filming?

Frequent Contributor

@WillowOlder that's me filming on a day and a half trek through a remote valley in Nepal. That trek started at 12,600 feet in elevation - and remember that's how high the valleys are. The mountains around you are over twice that high. I'm already planning to go back.

 

Here's a BTS shot of an interview with a dad, whose daughter fell from the second story. She is the little girl on his lap and is alive today, because of a helicopter evacuation. It was an emotional interview to film him telling the story on the same spot, where his little girl almost died.

 

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Senior Member

Thank you for this! Community involvement and exceptional customer service are my top priorities for customer retention. I like to think, "how would I feel if...." 

 

In a world inundated with information and an astronomical amount of options, customer service is the one thing you cannot duplicate. 

 

I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." -Maya Angelou