HOW TO TURN A SCREWED-UP VIDEO PRODUCTION AROUND AND MAKE THE CLIENT HAPPY

I think it’s important to share failures in my blog. I was hesitating and it’s scary because I’m afraid what you might think when I open up and admit what I did wrong. But on the other hand it’s my blog. A personal blog as well. Just writing about my successes would be really corny and salesey, no? So, here we go. My First Failure Post :)

Crazy Schedule 
Over a year and a half ago now, Bini, director of marketing from Bnei Akiva called me up and asked for a video promo for their  Mach Hach Ba’Aretz Israel program. At the time I was buried in work. I didn’t have a single slot available for the next three months but I wanted to do the job. “I am very busy,” I said to Bini, “but I’m sure we can squeeze this in.” I wasn’t really sure, honestly, because the many deadlines were staggering. After many phone calls and re-arranging my schedule I called her back and said: Of course we can do this. I just want to reiterate that I need to outsource the project to a different video production company but I would oversee it. She agreed and we went ahead with the project.

A Bad Hire is Worse than No Hire
Since I was busy with other post production commitments, I hired people in Israel to shoot, and I outsourced the pre and post-production to another well known Jewish video production company in NY. They had to edit the promotional video. Once they got the footage from Israel they started editing. They delivered the video to me a few weeks later so I could show it to our client. I wasn’t crazy about the results but I thought it was good enough and would make the client happy. Bnei Akiva sent us their feedback, and we had the other production company make the final adjustments before delivering the end result to Bnei Akiva.

The Big Disappointment and a Letter of Shame
A year passes and I receive an email from the director of World Bnei Akiva.

He writes (I paraphrase):

Dear Shmuel,
I hope all is well.
I’ve been wanting for a while to send you an email expressing my disappointment in the MH video you have produced for us.
The minute we received your first version knew we are in trouble.  Then the fixed version compared to the original was okay… but nothing like what we expect when we hire you.
I find this upsetting since we spend charity funds for this to encourage kids to go to Israel.  The result was a disaster. And less kids going to Israel.
Perhaps a meeting is appropriate.

My Ego Went Down the Toilet
Wow, what a bummer. I delivered something that upset a client? No way. I guess there’s a first time for everything.  I started reacting in a defensive way in my head, and rationalizing all kinds of things why he was wrong and his perspective was distorted. But after thinking it over for a few days, I came to the conclusion that the only one who was distorted was me. I didn’t do what I have set myself up for: TO DELIVER EXCELLENCE ON EVERY PROJECT. How disappointing.

What Now?
I first thought about refunding the money. But I had already paid the other video production company and shooters in Israel. I could not afford that. I filed the refund idea away as my last step if every other solution I could come up with were to fail.

Meeting in the Lions Cave
I called up the director of Bnei Akiva and arranged a meeting with him. In the  meeting I let him pour out all his disappointments. I didn’t say a word. I was there to listen. Once he was done, I apologized and suggested the following: How about I travel to Israel, shoot for 4 days the Mach Hach trip myself and produce a brand new video from scratch…at no cost. We agreed on a date for the summer and I traveled to Israel and produced the video myself.

Shmuel – Hoffman – Video? Write in the comments. 

So here are the two videos.  One was filmed and edited by an outsourced team, and the other was filmed and edited by me.  Which do you think is the real Shmuel Hoffman video?  Write your guess in the comments below this post.

Video 1

Video 2

 

I’ll reveal the correct answer in a future post… :)

Lessons I Learned
I’m glad I was tested this way because I think how you react to these kind of issues make or break your business. Here are  five points I take with me forever:

1. If a client complains, never defend yourself. The customer is ALWAYS right. Yes. Even if he is not right or he messed up things. It’s YOU who controls the situation and outcome.
2. Be sorry and apologize.  WITHOUT SAYING “BUT.”  The no-but rule is crucial. Say you are sorry and shut up. Don’t explain what went wrong. It doesn’t matter.  Clients look for results, not excuses.
3. Be generous. You are on a mission with your clients. So, help them out  where you can.
4. Correct the error or return the money. That’s a hard one. Because we small business owners usually don’t have much wiggle room to refund thousands of $$$, right? Neverthless,what this unhappy client could cost you is thousands more. And not only that. They will go to their friends and peers and Un-rave about you. So, you potentially lose hundreds of thousands of $$$ over time. Not worth it.
5. If you have to outsource hire the right company/person. My mistake and I’m sure I’m not alone in this is that we hire when emergency arises on the horizon. And that’s way to late for a good hire. You plan for failure. Dave Ramsey talks about this issue in his amazing book “Entreleadership“. Always be on the lookout for good people, whether you have a project or not.  Then you’ll be ready to deliver when the project comes up.

The Outcome

Thankfully I was able to restore my client’s faith in me.  They’ve asked me to do another project – woohoo!  It’s worth it to go the extra mile.

S.

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46 Responses to "HOW TO TURN A SCREWED-UP VIDEO PRODUCTION AROUND AND MAKE THE CLIENT HAPPY"

  1. Shmuel, it takes a lot of grace and humility to face professional critique, admit wrong, and then blog about it publicly. Every organization messes up something, as does every staff person, and every business owner – at least once. it’s learning from it and growing from it that counts.

    Not only to I applaud you for this transparency, I’m sharing it far and wide because the lessons for business owners and organizations are so profound. This kind of transparency and reflection is what will bring every organization to be the best that it can be. Alas, not everyone is that courageous.

  2. Shmuel Hoffman says:

    Thank you, Debra. I’m committed to my clients and to my work. So, I carried it around with me for quite some time and debated if I should write about it or not. And I found it unfair if I would only write about our success stories. It just isn’t true that a business just has successes. As much as I want to look like it. But furthermore its helpful to learn from each others mistakes. Thats why its up here.

    • Elahn says:

      Did the fact that he emailed you a year later make you think that they were being unreasonable? Why didn’t he say something when you did the job? Not a year later.

  3. Shmuel Hoffman says:

    I thought about this a bit. Yes, it came to my mind first. But then I decided I want to do business based on trust. So if the client says X I’m not doubting him. I give them the benefit of the doubt that what ever they say or do they do it the ‘right’ and honest way. I’m sure I will get burned here and there. But doing business from the perspective of mistrust is rather harming in attitude and sales. Studies show that when you give a 365 day no – question – asked return policy it out performs the 60 – day return policy in sales by 25%. Returns drop as well significantly. We call this risk reversal. And you might think that people take more advantage of the longer return policy. So, the same applies in my case here. Even if they weren’t honest it comes back to you in a positive way one way or another. Does that answer your question?

  4. Judy says:

    Kol hakavod, Shmuel – for three things.
    a) for posting this blog – it was the right thing to do.

    b) for re-doing the video for them – same reason. In your business, it is living with the product and seeing it over and over again that proves to you that a video you had qualms about at first makes you ill after 500 viewings. And last but not least:

    c) Making a dynamite video. I didn’t have to watch them all the way through -this is what happened. I watched yours, and was engaged to the end, barely noticed the technical aspects and was totally hooked on the story of Mach Hach (of which, btw, I had never heard). I started to watch the other video, not yours, and it was just not good and I couldn’t keep watching – I lasted about 40 seconds which I consider pretty good – I liked the views they started with, but once they had people talking they lost me pretty quick. So yes, that too, was the rigth thing to do!

    Another reason this was your responsibility is that you yourself had a chance to view the finished video. By redoing it you honored your inner Quality Assurance department!

    Trust is EVERYTHING – and not just in business. Good for you.

  5. Shmuel Hoffman says:

    Judy,
    thanks for your kind words. They are really making my day.

  6. I love this!
    I vote the second video.

  7. Hank Shrier says:

    There was an obvious difference from the frist 10 seconds. However, the credit at the end of your production is a dead givaway

  8. LSH says:

    I thought the first one was much more engaging and made me want to go. Congratulations on true humility and honesty. It’s the only way through and is always inspiring.

  9. Yosef says:

    Shmuel, kudos for a very candid and important post! Impressed on multiple levels, and your video (obviously the second one) is so emotionally engaging, as always, it really shines. And I think that’s part of your craft is that you sell an emotion, that’s why people connect to your videos so much. Keep doing what you’re doing..

    -Yosef

  10. Ronen Ganel says:

    is very impressive that you have the ability and will to share this with us
    It seems that the reason you are not sharing the unsuccessful videos, is the simple fact , that you might be a very professional individual !
    Good luck and keep me posted.
    Ronen

  11. Ra'anan says:

    The 2nd video has a higher resolution, more sophisticated jump shots, a broader audio sound, more interesting colour, extensive use of bokeh. The 2nd video has a target audience that is more religious as seen by the many references to HaShem. The end titles were also more high end…BUT…excluding the last statement made by the young woman, I think the script of the first video should have influenced kids more. And the 2nd video should have put more site pictures in the beginning w/the talking faces (I know, I know that the all-knowing Disney promos are talking-head based as opposed to ride picture based so that’s why I vote for BOTH simultaneously, though the 2nd video DID use voice overs in its second part, which I thought was better). Sorry to be contrarian.

  12. Jody says:

    Shmuel,

    I have watched your progress for years now. I watched the second video first and knew immediately it was yours. You have a certain style that is exciting and moving. You have signature music too. Loved your video, as always…Jody

  13. Ima2seven says:

    I knew which one was yours; I paused the first one at 1:38 because I got bored, and watched yours through until the end. In true Shmuel Hoffman fashion, it took me on a journey, and I enjoyed the ride. I don’t think you can outsource – at least not much. You have a gift and that is what people are paying for. Better to say “I can deliver that for you in 12 months” and let them decide. I hope you remain in demand. I also hope you make time to teach and train and cultivate your own talent in house so you don’ t have to outsource.

    I am appreciative that you posted this. I had a comparable experience where I referred someone and the client wasn’t happy with their work (I was doing the PR, they were doing the graphics.) But I did put in a lot of hours of my own time to try to “fix it”, and I told the client the truth, that I was also unhappy with the work, even though I knew it would mean more work and trouble for me. You have an excellent reputation with clients that you have earned and long may it last!

    • Shmuel Hoffman says:

      Wow, well done. Yes, it will pay back. We as business owners are investing in our clients. If we don’t want the best for them then lets rather not be in business. There are enough mediocre people out there.

  14. D. Zeiger says:

    Hi, thanks for sharing!
    I’m guessing the first one.
    Like the pacing and its more fun, being that your pulling in a young audience I think it talks more to them.
    Nice clean shots too and great head shots.
    The second had weaker interviews, the kids were not as sure and the camera not that complimentary on their faces.
    Great professional work as usual!

  15. Shai says:

    Both were very nice but I liked #1 more as more entertaining and grabbing.

  16. Shai says:

    Nu… so which is yours? :-)

  17. David Kuchta says:

    Dear Shmuel,
    Both are great and to the point. Eyes are to and of the beholder. You are both professional and you both have your own ideas and ways of doing things.Problem is, that you have to make the client happy. What Come-a do. Old Dutch expression.
    keep up the good work.
    Dave

  18. Barry says:

    Both videos have great production value. the first is more emotional.The second is more to do with facts with slightly higher editing colouring and effects. My favourite one is the first as the music lifts the emotion – and you know how emotional and passionate I can be.
    Bravo for posting this! In the end I think this production was a growth for you Shmuel, may you go from strength to strength!
    Just one question: Who was ‘holding’ the other video for you? The outsourced company’s name?

  19. Margelit, this is wonderful! such an instructive post even though i have absolutely no overlap with the film making industry! such a good lesson. I will share it!
    Keep up the great work!!

  20. Sweta says:

    Shalom, Shmuel!

    Als Erstes: deine Geschäftsethik ist sehr sehr positiv beindruckend! Kol Hakavod! Wirklich, chapeau!

    Als Zweites: keine Frage, in ersten 5 sekunden kann man dein inspirirendes Werk (Video 2, natürlich, was für eine Frage) von dem outsource-Produkt unterscheiden. Kein Vergleich möglich, dafür ist die Qualität des gefilmten Materials, die Kadrierung und Kamerabeherrschung, und natürlich flotter Schnitt :-) zu sehr markant.

    Also, wenn ich in der Zielgruppe wäre, würde ich sofort mich bei dem Programm anmelden und nach Israel fahren. Ich befürchte nur, dass ich schon etwas zu alt bin für die Zielgruppe ;-)

    Grüße aus Bet Shemesh,

    Sweta Frank

  21. Malka says:

    I was bored watching video 1. I was moved to tears watching video 2! Kudos to you for graciousness and your outstanding work. May H’ continue to grant you much hatzlacha!

  22. Liz Cohen says:

    Thanks for sharing your insight – it’s a really valuable lesson to learn, as you clearly know, and sharing it makes it valuable to the rest of us ;) As someone else in video production, I really appreciate the client relations aspect and the actual video production details. We’ve all been there!

    Not sure which video, but I did think both made sense for the cause.

    • Shmuel Hoffman says:

      Hey Liz. Thanks for your kind words. Yeah, client relation for me is everything. I thank them everyday (not literally but in my thought) for helping me to provide for my family. Because the truth is I wouldn’t be able to sustain a family without them. And I think thats true for everybody because money comes from people.

  23. Yonaton Kllein says:

    I watched them with out sound since my office computers speakers are no longer around. I pcked of your viid right away

  24. Miryam Blum says:

    I didn’t read anyone else’s comments before writing this. I also didn’t watch past 2:30 of the Mach Hach B”Aretz Promo. I hope I am guessing correctly that the one you made is Mach Hach Promo 1. It was far more upbeat than the other one, and made me feel like I wanted to go on Mach Hach (and I finished high school about 35 years ago – and have been living in Israel pretty much every since).
    I think your response to your client’s disappointment was very courageous and was the right thing to do. I wish you much success in your business.
    I am a translator by profession and have translated scores of short Hebrew promotional films for voice-overs and subtitles in English, so I’ve seen my fair share of marketing and fundraising films.
    I have also had many occasions when I’m overcommitted and receive referrals from satisified clients, and just can’t keep up the pace or deliver the same quality to everyone because of time constraints and attempts at outsourcing. When it’s your quality that the clients want, some way or another that’s what you’ll have to give them, and outsourcing with supervision is not the answer. Pesonally, I have had to give hefty discounts on work that wasn’t done to my client’s satisfaction, and keeping everybody – including yourself – happy is sometimes not realistic… but we keep trying.

  25. roy says:

    I recognize your “hand”… #2 w/o a doubt.#1 is OK… but #2 is awesome.

  26. Luisa says:

    I think what you posted made a ton of sense. But, what about this?
    suppose you added a little content? I mean, I don’t wish to tell you how to run your blog, but what if you added a post title that makes people desire more? I mean HOW TO TURN A SCREWED-UP VIDEO PRODUCTION AROUND AND MAKE THE CLIENT HAPPY is kinda plain. You should look at Yahoo’s front page and note how they create post headlines to grab viewers to click.
    You might add a related video or a related pic or two to get readers interested about everything’ve got to say. In my opinion, it would bring your blog a little livelier.

  27. Shmuel Hoffman says:

    Hey Luisa.

    Thanks so much for your comment. Can you guide me what exactly do you mean? Are you talking about the content? Or the headline in general?
    What else would you like to read about or have improved? I really care because this blog is for my readers and I want to be of strong value. Let me know.

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  29. Tony Segreto says:

    Cool post Shmuel! It does take a lot of guts to write an article like this. Being in video production myself I know how horrible a botch project can feel. I am glad that you were able to rectify things with your client and maintain a great relationship. In many circumstances things like this are difficult to recover from but your judgement and honesty have done you well. Wish you the best!

  30. Shmuel Hoffman says:

    Thank you Tony, for your warm and encouraging
    words.

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