Making sure that we’re fully aware of our clients needs and expectations is something that has always been really important to us. We’ve never had an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mindset. Instead, we like to keep our core values the same and use feedback to help us tailor other aspects of our business to best suit our couples.
For the last couple of years we’ve participated in The wedding industry awards. As part of the entry process couples rate you anonymously and provide written feedback on the service you provided for them. Reading the comments at the end of the process is always great. It allows you to review what couples have said and see how they scored you on certain factors, such as pricing. Did they consider you to be good value for money, for example.
This year, we’ve entered TWIA again, but we wanted to gain a bigger picture. Aside from the occasional price increase to reflect rising costs, it’s been a few years since we made any kind of major change to our business. As a result we decided that we wanted feedback to be more specific and to address what we consider to be key areas.
One really important thing for us was to understand why couples had booked us. What factors were they taking into consideration. Is it all about price, recommendations, convenience?
We also wanted to know how things could be improved. How useful did clients actually find things like their USBs or online galleries. Are they even relevant anymore? We wanted to collect a range of feedback and use the comments provided to really help us establish what our clients want, what they like, what they don’t like and how we can improve the service we offer moving forward.
So we decided to take action. We created an in depth questionnaire that asked our couples everything from how they found us initially, to why they booked. We asked about the booking process and what products or services they would like to see introduced too. For us, it was about trying to establish their over all level of satisfaction with what we are currently offering, vs what they would have liked us to offer in an ideal world.
Note: This questionnaire is still open and ongoing so information is subject to change. We received a huge response almost immediately so we wanted to look at the feedback given so far in case it flagged up any thing urgent. Information is correct as of October 25th, 2017 and will be updated with the next batch of feedback forms as necessary.
We shared the link to the questionnaire on our personal and business Facebook accounts as well as our instagram page. The posts privacy settings were set so that only previous clients could view the posts or access the questionnaire URL. This meant that well meaning family, friends or other suppliers couldn’t fill in the form.
Clients were also given the option to submit their forms anonymously and we did not aim to collect any identifying data. We thought this would be the best way to ensure that feedback received was genuine and honest.
Things started out fairly simply. We asked respondents to let us know how they found out about us originally.
It turns out a third of couples found us originally through social media. That’s Facebook and Instagram mainly. We knew a few people had found us that way over the years as they’d mentioned it in their initial enquiry, but we had no idea it was such a high percentage.
Around a quarter of couples found us whilst searching google.
Around a quarter found us as a result of a referral (from a friend, family member, their venue or another supplier) We have broken this down further for our own information, but to keep it simple we lumped in referrals all together.
The remaining 17% (ish) all found us in random ways- blogs or magazine features or via The Wedding Industry awards for example.
This is a huge turn around from when we first started out. When we were first starting out pretty much all of our bookings came exclusively from recommendations. Now, we find that unfortunately, whenever we get an enquiry from someone who’s come to us as a recommendation we are already booked. So the results could well be very different if we were actually available for all of the dates we need to turn away.
Why did couples book us?
There were 23 different reasons given for why people booked us. Their reasons ranged from seemingly obvious things like pricing, through to not so obvious factors such as us being around the same age as them or the fact that a female photographer was available.
The top 3 reasons however were as follows:
- Quality of the photos
- We seemed nice
That was mind blowing for us. Although we realise that first impressions are important, we didn’t realise HOW important. For our couples, the fact that we seemed nice was just as important to them as the quality of the photos. Almost every single response listed the quality and the fact we seemed nice as one of their top 3 reasons for choosing us.
In second place was the style of our work. To our couples the way we worked was super important. Our relaxed, documentary style coverage was a big factor in why they booked us. For more than half of respondents, it was a top 3 reason they booked.
In third place is the fact that there are two of us as standard. For most of our couples having two photographers was part of the reason they booked. In fact two thirds of couples were specifically looking for two photographers from the very beginning. 50% listed it as a top 3 reason why they booked us. The other 50% said they loved our work so much that they would have booked us even if there had been just one of us, awww!
Money talk: Cost, price, value for money?
Surprisingly 66% of our couples said we were one of the CHEAPEST photographers they considered. Only one couple reported that we were the most expensive photographer they looked at. This was news to us as we’d always believed that we were on the more expensive side with our pricing. “Definitely cheaper than other photographers of the same style” was one stand out comment.
We have never been big followers of others work and pricing isn’t something we’ve ever consciously tried to keep in line with others. We have always just based our pricing on our outgoing costs and what we feel is fair for our work. Apparently, that’s something we got wrong and we’re falling behind our peers in this sense.
Sticking with money talk for a moment, every single respondent rated us as “good” or “very good” value for money.
Should this be embarrassing? I’ve become “known” for the quickness of my replies and my obsession with staying on top of emails and messages. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise really to see that everyone rated our efficiency of correspondence as “Excellent”. It was nice though to read that in addition to this, everyone who responded also rated the politeness and professionalism of correspondence as “Excellent” too.
Quality vs Quantity?
As a photographer, what you really want to know is how couples feel about the photos and the services which directly relate to delivery of the images. What are wait times like, for example. Are we delivering too many or too few images?
We’re pleased to say that when it came to rating the quality of photos, it was another full house. Every response rated the quality as “Excellent”. Phew! Well at least we seem to be getting that bit right.
Something that has troubled us for the last few months though is how many photos to deliver. It’s a topic that always seems to come up on photography groups and it’s something people are quite vocal about. Some are totally adamant that it isn’t possible to deliver more than 600 good, unique photos. Some will fight you to the death to prove that couples will never look at more than 450 images. Others shrug their shoulders (figuratively, this is the internet after all) and say they give 800ish. Much to the delight of people like us who are sitting timidly behind their screens gulping at the fact that we’ve happily delivered 1200ish images before now.
So, getting back to the point. One of the biggies for us was seeing how our couples felt about what we delivered. Ultimately, whilst it’s nice to know what other photographers are up to, we don’t really care (sorry!) as generally speaking, they aren’t the ones booking us. What matters to us is that our clients are happy with what we are doing. So we asked.
Only 1 couple reported that they felt the amount of images we delivered was overwhelming. Everyone one else said they believed the amount of images delivered was “about right for their wedding”. This made us feel more confident about what we deliver and made us realise that we should focus less on what other photographers are doing and more on what our couples want.
The waiting game
Another thing that causes photographer anxiety is delivery of the images. We know ourselves what an anxious/exciting wait this can be having received our own wedding photos a couple of years ago. Again this is something that causes much debate. Some photographers deliver in under a week and can’t understand what could possibly take longer. Others work on a 4 month turn around and are happy with that. So this is one question we were desperate to know the answer to.
Is the magic lost if it’s “too quick” and what is “too long”? On average, our delivery time is between 2 weeks and 4 weeks during summer, depending on how our bookings work out. As soon as we start approaching more and 3 weeks we internally panic a little because it’s not what we are used to.
This year our longest wait has been 7 weeks due to an editing backlog. Surprisingly, every single couple, even the ones who’d had to wait a little longer than we would have liked said that they were “very satisfied” with the amount of time it took to receive their full gallery. Every single person also said they received their photos back quicker than they would have expected. This was lovely to know as we put so much pressure on ourselves if we feel we have taken a little longer than usual.
Online galleries Vs USBs
As mentioned above, we received our own wedding photos back a couple of years ago. As is pretty standard now, we received a USB and an online gallery. Sorry, Alex, if you’re reading this, but we have literally never used our USB. It’s never come out of the box! For us, having access to an online gallery is so much more convenient and we’ve never had the need of a USB with our photos on.
We suspected this may be the same for our couples, so we were interested to know their thoughts.
Of the couples who had received both an online gallery and a USB the vast majority had only ever used their online gallery. Given the choice of having the online gallery OR the USB every single person chose the online gallery. Not a single respondent so far, would choose a USB as the primary method of delivery of their photos given the choice.
Over all, 92% of people said they would prefer to have their photos delivered via online gallery.
After the wedding: Products and additional services.
Another surprise for us was to see that more than 50% of couples said they would have liked to have an in person meeting with us AFTER their wedding to either view their photos or to view what products we had available- albums for example.
Knowing that over half of our couples would have liked to meet us again and discuss their options with albums and so on was a bit of a heart sinking moment. It feels like a failure on our part, for not keeping up with a demand that was obviously there.
It’s a bit of a vicious circle for us actually. We have never looked into the option of having a studio to meet couples in because we don’t sell many products. Because of this, it’s never seemed necessary or worthwhile. It’s rare that a couple ask us about purchasing products so we we don’t push or promote them because we didn’t think anyone was interested in them. But, as the results have shown, we probably don’t sell many products because we don’t promote them or invite couples to meet with us and discuss their options. Seems obvious when you put it like that, doesn’t it?
We also asked our couples if there was anything else they’d like to mention. Any other services they would like to see introduced for example. We didn’t really know where we were going with this, but we thought it was good to ask.
Several respondents mentioned the same thing: Thank you cards and maternity or family shoots.
Again, this was a bit of a surprise, but not massively. The nature of wedding photography is that often, couples go on to have families, or to expand the one they already have.
We totally love the idea that couples would want to come back to us as their families grow, but sadly, these just aren’t things we’d be looking to introduce. Weddings really are our thing and we adore them. It’s where we excel as it’s what we’re passionate about (cheese alert.) As a result it’s where we have chosen to specialise for the last 7 years. We feel that introducing other services that are hearts aren’t completely in would be a disservice to our couples.
However, we are so thankful that these comments were raised as it now means we have a better idea of how we can take care of our clients after their weddings. We can begin to look into providing our couples with referrals for trusted other professional photographers who can take care of them and provide them with family photos to cherish.
Based on the feedback we have received, we are going to look to begin making some important changes in our business. We will continue to review our pricing frequently so we can ensure it is fair for the service we deliver and consistent with our peers.
We will also look into how we deliver photographs and what offers the best service and value for money to our clients. Additionally we will research and investigate how we can best meet our clients needs post-wedding.
Our service has never ended after delivery of the photos, but we have a new found appreciation for that fact that our couples needs change after their weddings. We have never, ever intentionally not offered in person meets or “sales sessions” it is simply an area that we genuinely didn’t realise was in demand. Until now we have always assumed, obviously wrongly, that our couples were happy with sourcing their own prints and products. This is definitely something we will look into for the coming wedding season.
A huge thank you to everyone who took the time to participate and share your feedback. The information you have provided has been so incredibly valuable and we’re already making, what we hope will be positive changes.