I completely hate to call out my clients, but sometimes, a narrowly avoided catastrophe must be shared with the world so that the same mistake can be avoided. And so… I’d like to share a little story I like to call “The Power of the Review.” (And… I apologize in advance for the length of this post. For those of you who know me, you know that I’m never at a loss for words!)
I recently started working with a new client who is about halfway through the wedding planning process. Let’s call her Jane, shall we? Although Jane has already figured out a lot of the details for her fall shindig, one big item that hasn’t yet been booked is a photographer. When Jane and I first met during her initial consultation, she mentioned that she was having a tough time finding a photographer she really liked. She had looked through tons of photographers’ websites and had only found one whose work she absolutely loved, but she quickly learned that the photographer was already booked for her wedding date. As soon as Jane and I started working together, she mentioned that she had found two other photographers online whose work she adored since our initial consultation. She had already been in contact with them to see if they were available for her wedding date, and she was thrilled to find out that both were available and were willing to travel for her wedding with nominal fees. (Neither of the photographers was from the Dallas-Fort Worth area). She had spoken on the phone with each of them and particularly connected with one of the photographer’s personalities. Jane sent me links to the two photographers’ websites and asked for my opinion before she signed on the dotted line.
Now, as a wedding planner, part of my job is to help a client choose vendors that are a good fit for them in terms of style and budget (and often vendors who will match up well with the couple personality-wise). Of course, it’s always my preference to work with vendors I have worked well with in the past or to work with vendors I may not have worked with yet but whose work I admire. But many times, my client may have already selected a few vendors that they want to work with before I’m brought on. Needless to say, my involvement in the vendor selection process varies from client to client. But let’s get back to the story…
As my client requested, I went to the photographers’ websites to check out their work. I liked it! Professional looking websites. Professional looking photographs. I could definitely see why Jane liked what she saw. I then went to Google and typed in the name of each company, followed by the word “reviews.” Now here’s where it gets interesting…
The first search engine result for Photographer A was WeddingWire. On the site, the photographer had many positive reviews, but when I sorted the reviews by lowest ranking, two reviews popped out as particularly negative (as in 1.2 out of 5 stars and 2.2 out of 5 stars… ouch!). The reviewers comments of “extremely disappointed” and “wouldn’t recommend to anyone” and “If I were to do it over again, I would find a different photographer” were really troubling. Sure, maybe they were dealing with a bride that just couldn’t be satisfied with anything. But, call me crazy, comments about the photographer wanting to leave the reception early before the contracted time was up, being rude to the couple’s wedding planner, and the groom’s head being cut off in a lot of the pictures just doesn’t sound like a bridezilla client to me. On to Photographer B.
The first search engine result for Photographer B wasn’t WeddingWire. Or The Knot. Or Wedding Channel. Or any other commonly used wedding vendor review website. Nope. It was a website titled DoNotHirePhotographerB.com. No… for real. I can’t make this stuff up! The WeddingWire review was actually the eighth result, just below a page from the Better Business Bureau featuring a formal complaint filing. I could go on for days about the negative comments Photographer B received, but let’s just sum it up by saying there were not one, not two, but three WeddingWire reviews with an overall 0.0 out of 5.0 rating. (I mean, how bad to do you have to treat your clients to get ZERO stars?!?) and several more under the 2.0 rating mark. Yikes!!
The moral of the story is, do your research… particularly if you’re not working with a wedding planner from the very beginning who can make solid vendor recommendations for you. Google your vendors and see what comes up. Ask to speak with a few of their previous clients. Ask people you know for recommendations. Anything! Just don’t judge a book by it’s website homepage, if you will.