How to Ask Customers for Reviews
The secret to 5-star reviews is exceeding your clients expectations and crafting a workflow that ensures at the end of the day they feel amazing about the experience of working with you! That doesn’t just happen though–it takes some serious planning!
“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
The key to getting 5-star reviews is a structured service-based workflow that consistently exceeds your client’s expectations from the moment they reach out to you, to the post-event email where you ask for a review. How can you make this happen? Well, it starts with understanding a little bit about marketing psychology–the best way to set and exceed expectations is to empathetically understand where your client is coming from, and proactively anticipate their needs. No, you don’t need to be a mind-reader. And I guarantee you will still be surprised–but it is how you handle surprises, missteps, and mistakes that will define how your client feels about their experience working with you. A 5-star review doesn’t only come from a perfect experience–it’s the result of crafting an experience that makes your client feel incredible and cared for.
There are so many moving parts and levels to crafting an experience that will define how a client feels about you–the culmination of all these moving parts will determine the length and quality of your reviews.
5-star reviews don’t happen by accident– they are the result of many parts that make up a huge experience. From the first time you respond to a client to the last time you reach out to them, these points of communication and service add up determine how a client feels about you. How a client feels about you, and the way you exceeded their expectations for their experience working with you, will determine the length and quality of your reviews.
So, what exactly is the key to receiving those raving 5-star reviews?! Well, it all comes down to a plan, which I’ll outline below.
Have a Strategic Plan for Providing Great Customer Service
I’m sure you’ve heard the adage, “the customer is always right.” Well, I don’t necessarily believe that is true, nor does that perspective help create an empathetic and caring environment when things don’t go perfectly as planned. Instead, I prefer the quote, “the customer’s perception is your reality.” By acknowledging that you must maneuver within a situation based upon the perception of your client, you’ve opened yourself up to controlling a client’s perception by anticipating their needs. How someone feels about you is subjective and complicated, but the best way to control a client’s feelings is through great customer service.
It is through customer service that you have a hand in how someone feels about you, how they feel about themselves while working with you, and how they feel about the entire experience. By doing exactly what a client expects, you’ll receive average positive reviews. By exceeding expectations, every step of the way is how you get amazing reviews!
Exceed Expectations by Providing Value
What does a client get from working with you? They receive photos, but that should be the bare minimum. If you want to exceed expectations, the value a client gets from working with you needs to go beyond the images. You need to have incredible communication, consistently provide additional value, and do everything you can to give your clients a positive whole experience. Don’t think about customer service as a photography as only the day of the shoot and providing the images afterwards–focus on the whole experience. To get raving reviews, it’s not enough to have just good photos. At the end of the day, you need to have a heart of service and truly want your couples to feel SO GOOD about themselves and their elopement experience!
Don’t Assume Your Clients are Familiar with the Photography Industry
Photographers are notorious for over assuming how much clients know about the ins and outs of the industry. All the time I see photographers in Facebook groups asking what to do if a client questions something in the contract or asks about how part of the process works–questions don’t automatically mean there is a red flag here! Sometimes, people just really don’t understand the importance of a certain legal statement in a contract and would like an explanation, or maybe they misunderstood something because they rarely read over contracts anyway. Just because you know every line in your contract is important and essential, that doesn’t mean they do.
Instead of becoming concerned that your client doesn’t trust your process, take their questions as an opportunity to educate them–help them feel empowered in their decision to work with you! Also, if someone is ever confused, I take that as an opportunity to reevaluate my workflow. Maybe there is a better way, or a more thorough way, to explain whatever it is they are confused about. I firmly believe that questions are not red flags–they are opportunities to better my communication and help this client, and future clients, understand this process. I ask myself, “how could I have better set expectations and prevent miscommunication?”
Understand Your Client’s Perception is Valid
If a client is coming to you with a problem, a question, or a suggestion– what they believe is REAL FOR THEM. I’m not saying every client is right, what I’m saying is that there are ways to fix the situation without assuming one side is right or wrong. While there might occasionally be 1% of clients who are truly just trying to make your life harder, 99% of the time both parties want exactly the same thing–a fair, honest, and fun experience.
Fact: A person is MORE likely to review a business positively if they had a bad experience, communicated it, and the business went above and beyond to fix it than if everything went perfect.
I am not saying you should hope things go wrong, of course. But there is room to make mistakes, fix those mistakes, and learn from the situation without everything falling apart. Exceptional customer service is that sweet spot of flexibility and planning–put in the work to be prepared for all situations, and then be able to pivot confidently when you need to go with Plan B.
Control What You Can, Don’t Stress What You Can’t
Within a client’s experience with you, there are things you can control and things you cannot. This applies to the ins and outs of running your business and providing great customer service. Things you CAN control include your communication workflow, your technical expertise, and your responses in any given situation. What you can’t control, don’t sweat. Whenever possible, turn the things you can’t control into moments that give you control over your client’s emotional response. For example: you can’t control if the weather is going to do what the projections claimed. But, you can bring along leggings, hand warmers, and a blanket to keep your clients comfortable. You can’t control if your client’s will be too excited to eat breakfast before you meet up, but you can pack snacks to stave off hanger. And these are just examples of day-of solutions to further exceed expectations and provide value to your client’s investment in you!
What about the planning process, how can you control your client’s feelings about that? First, you need to design an intuitive and comprehensive communication workflow.
Designing a Workflow
When designing each step of your client communication workflow, tell yourself “this is the expectation that I am setting, and this is how I’m going to exceed those expectations at every single step.” From the initial inquiry to the final email where you end up asking for a review, anticipate your client’s questions and set expectations that you KNOW you can exceed. There are so many moments to go above and beyond, and it begins with your very first point of contact.
The moment your client books, support their decision by providing a planning guide or something extremely valuable to them in this decision. From those first crucial moments of communication, the value of customer service you provide is all meant to help your clients feel more and more confident in their decision to hire you. To maintain that expectation, every single email that guides couples through the stages, we give “next steps.” Simply informing someone of what to expect can elevate your business above all others that don’t provide such extensive communication.
On the day of the event, continue to exceed expectations by preparing and anticipating everything you clients might need. Help zip up a dress, or offer a snack. If you’re hiking, bring handwarmers and extra headlamps, just in case. Stick the client’s bouquet in your backpack, or bring an extra pair of leggings in case they get cold under the dress after sunset. Bring a Mary Poppins purse of extras for every occasion!
After the event, we deliver a sneak peek within a few days–even thought we promised it within a week. The same goes for image delivery–we exceed the number of images promised and deliver it early.
You have the opportunity through setting expectations to mold client’s perceptions. Being a little in control of how the client’s view your work–early & exceptional–is strategic for this reason, while still being subjective because we can’t actually control how anyone feel about us.
The No. 1 that I added to our workflow, which has resulted in 5-star reviews, is a day-after thank you email. Instead of waiting to send the previews or gallery, I send a gushing detail-filled email the day after an elopement. Writing everything down not only helps me remember all the details, but it truly solidifies to your couple how much everyone is on the same page about the quality of the experience. Honestly, this is the MOST important email in our workflow, aside from the initial inquiry. By being super heartfelt and personal, the response I get from couples is a reflection of that. At this point, I’ve been working with a couple for months, maybe over a year, and they’re on an emotional high from experiencing this amazing day! My heartfelt email will prompt a heartfelt response, which is often where I get gold for our testimonials. It’s also a great thing to look back at later when writing blogs!
Product versus Experience
Okay, I’m going to dig pretty deep into marketing psychology here for a second–bear with me!
When determining the value of something, there’s a spectrum of “worth” that every buyer is viewing. When determining the value of a physical product, someone will look at the specs. When valuing the worth of an experience, they look at the products and services that make up this experience. Businesses that succeed outperform their competition by differentiating themselves with the intangible side of their business–the experience.
The photos that you deliver might have been taken on the exact same camera & lens as another photographer who has the same number of years of experience. But, if you’ve crafted an experience that is valued higher, your product is worth more to a potential client. This isn’t about false perception, this is a REAL perception of differentiation that a client will be aware of. Providing a 5-star experience does involve investing in steps throughout the experience that provide higher value.
Increase the Value of Your Client’s Experience
The moment you purchase something is the moment you have the MOST buyers remorse. It is at the point of booking, when a client pays, that they psychologically have the most regret. This is a moment within your workflow to secure the client’s comfort and trust in their decision to hire you! This is a really good reason to give a booking gift–something tangible of high value. High-quality tangible items differentiate between luxury companies and companies of perceptively lower value–even if what you paid for is technically the same. Aside from a gift, send a high-value email immediately. As soon as a client books, we send an exclusive planning guide–something tangible they can refer back to many times as they plan their event with us. This sets expectations that you will be delivering a product of quality, while also using these moments to further prepare your client to be confident in their choices throughout the planning process–the more your clients know what to expect, the more comfortable they will be with every decision.
How to Exceed Expectations Realistically
Customer service is about finding the balance between exceeding expectations for clients while also setting personal boundaries that allow you to live your life. I’ll never suggest that you sacrifice your personal space just to be available to answer client emails the second they hit your inbox. But, you can find ways to ALWAYS respond faster than a client expects. You do this by telling them what to expect from you at every stage of the communication process. From the very first inquiry, tell them when to expect a response, and then exceed that expectation. If you know you can always respond within 24 hours to an inquiry, say on your contact form that you will respond within 48 hours.
If you know it’s not possible for your response time to be as fast as you want it to be, then it might be worth outsourcing your initial emails. Even if it means one or two more bookings per year, the return on investment (ROI) for outsourcing emails can be financially beneficial if a faster response time results in more satisfied customers.
Set communication boundaries. People have an expectation of immediate communication – we live in a business world where customers have learned to expect chat-room response times and 24/7 customer service. The moment a client hits ‘send’ on your contact form,, they are thinking first and foremost about themselves and their need for a photographer–they aren’t thinking about you as a single person or what your team looks like. But the moment you say, “expect to hear back within X hours” it sets a realistic expectation that eases the impatience of waiting off your customer, so they’re more excited when you do respond. “Thank you so much for responding so quickly,” is how SO many of our client’s emails begin! If you cannot respond within 12 or 24 hours, seriously consider outsourcing your email response. If you’re not available, hire someone who can be. Responding quickly immediately sets the tone for a positive communication relationship throughout the planning process.
Define for yourself what your professional boundaries are, set expectations that are longer than what you can meet so you can exceed those expectations.
Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
First and foremost, my goal is to serve clients. In every aspect of my customer service I ask myself, “what response will make my clients feel best about their experience?” I know some photographers will disagree, but I don’t think it’s worth getting upset when a client crops an IG image, puts a filter on it, or forgets to tag me. At the end of the day it’s more important that my clients are happy than that they aren’t helping push my preferred method of advertising with each post. Plus, 90% of the time, they likely forgot–if you want credit, just comment on the image something like, “this was such a great day & it was an honor to photograph this moment in your lives!” Often, the couple respond happily or even tag you. Not all social media blunders are equal–if it was another vendor or business who didn’t give credit, that might be worth mentioning. But, when it comes down to my couples–if they’re happy, I’m happy.
Another place to go above and beyond to show great customer service is with editing requests. It’s not often, but sometimes we’ll have a couple reach out asking for the sky to be more blue, or the greens to match more of what they remember, and I do it. If it’s a super easy fix, I don’t mind. What matters most to me is that clients love their images. I’m more proud of having happy clients than I am attached to my art. But that’s just a personal stance. Might sound crazy, but I consider myself first and foremost an experience provider, that is more important than the “artistry” of my images. Being able to step back and see any questions or requests as an opportunity to give incredible service, instead of as a personal attack on my art, really helps me empathize with my clients.
How & When to Ask for Reviews
To get reviews, you want to ask at just the right moment. You don’t want your clients to push the email aside and forget about it, and you also want to ask at a moment when the details of their day are at the forefront of their thoughts. The day-after heartfelt email isn’t where I ask for a review on The Knot, Weddingwire, or Google. Instead, our workflow results in two separate instances where we confirm the couple had an amazing experience, before sending links for reviews.
The response to the initial inquiry, plus the response when a couple finally receive their gallery, are a great indication of whether these couples would be a great candidate for writing a long review.
When I do ask, it’s after a couple has had a chance to go through their gallery and responded twice to requests for feedback. When they tell me how they feel about their gallery, my response to that message is where I ask for reviews. I ask via email, including links to each place I’d like a review, as well as a bit of a prompt. I don’t ever tell couples what to say, but I try to inspire their review to tell a “story of transformation,” which is the strongest kind of marketing message. One of my favorite books, Building a Story Brand by Donald Miller, outlines the 5 questions that should be answered to tell the full transformation story:
- What was the problem you were having before you discovered our product?
- What did the frustration feel like as you tried to solve that problem?
- What was different about our product?
- Take us to the moment when you realized our product was working to solve your problem.
- Tell us what your life looks like now that your problem has been solved, or is being solved.
Adjusting those questions to be more wedding & elopement specific, I’ve come up with this:
- What was the biggest challenge that you faced in eloping & how did that challenge make you feel?
- What changed after you hired me?
- How did you feel about your elopement experience & the images?
- Are there any specific results or changes that you can share?
- What would you say to someone who was on the fence about hiring me?
I’ll even include a paragraph of their words from one of their post-elopement emails, and suggest that they can take that and paste it as a review on The Knot, Wedding Wire, or Google. I’ve laid it all out on a silver platter so even the most busy couple might be able to take their own words and simply copy & paste it into these review sites.
By asking the questions above, you’re turning your client into the hero of their own story. You’re asking them, “how did I guide you and take you from confused or unsure to confident and in a better place than where you started.” This story of transformation, from unsure to confident, is the most powerful type of marketing. Future clients are able to read these kind of reviews and envision themselves in the same position–looking for a photographer, and hopefully finding one who can make their dreams come true!
How to Get Reviews & Testimonials from Past Clients
Yes – you can ask past clients for reviews! While asking for reviews immediately after an elopement can result in more detailed and emotional responses, you can definitely prompt past clients to send you a review. There are ways to organically reach out to people, without seeming pushy or desperate (two of the biggest worries photographers have about asking for reviews). Here is an example of an email that could prompt a review from a past client.
“Hey xx & xx! I hope you two are doing well – I was going back through images from your wedding the other day & was reminded of how awesome [mention something from their day] was! I’ve been trying to get better about marketing my business & would be honored if you could take the time to think back on your beautiful day to write up a review I could use as a testimonial…
[Insert the review-prompting email format from above.]
… Again, I hope you two are doing well & I’d love to catch up sometime!”
In a super authentic and not-at-all-pushy way, you’ve just reconnected with a past client by prompting a memory of their day, making it easy for them to respond positively to your request without having to search the internet for places to leave a review, and you’ve opened up the line of communication for further conversation! Past clients can be your best marketing tool–research shows that couples planning weddings hold personal anecdotes in very high regard when considering who to hire. Great customer service doesn’t need to end when the photos are delivered, and reconnecting with past clients can always be a great opportunity to leave another positive impression.
So, now you know how to get 5-star The Knot reviews, Weddingwire reviews, and Google reviews. You have a super solid communication workflow that anticipates your client’s needs, and you’ve gone above and beyond to exceed expectations throughout the whole process from booking to final email. What more do you need? Well, now you can use those reviews to their full potential!
Future clients will hopefully stumble across your reviews on The Knot, Weddingwire, and Google–but you can also take extra steps to get the raving anecdotes of past clients in front of future clients before they even inquire! Take those testimonials and use them in your marketing–Facebook Ads with a few words from past clients describing how amazing your day made them feel can immediately hook potential clients who are also looking for a photographer who can make them feel confident, beautiful, adventurous, or any other positive adjective. One of my absolute favorite ways to write marketing copy is to let couples write the copy for me–their words about working with me hold more weight than my own humble brags ever will. I know I can craft an exceptional elopement experience for couples–their reviews are what prove I can.