enough to have customers call, ask questions, get answers and go on with their lives. We needed them to take more time out of their day to tell us how great we were doing. This seemed illogical to me. “Yeah! I get to take time out of my day to call my credit card company and I want to spend extra time on the phone after I’m done solving my problem telling them how great they are!!!” Said nobody, ever. Unless, you were in that person’s shoes, then you might take the time to do a comrade a favor when you can. I know I do.
I used to be a top performer in customer service. I solved problems. I solved difficult problems and cleaned up messes. I was fast and efficient at my job and often, my boss was asking me to answer his questions because I knew the job better than he did. I could literally answer 25-50% more calls more than the person next to me. But, that person next to me was a better salesperson so they were rewarded for getting someone to leave feedback. They were able to produce a statistic that was important to the company through their power of influence. They made someone stop and say good things about the company. They made the company look good in a tangible way. They helped fill this column on the company spreadsheet filled with data they could use to manipulate their marketing. I got bigger bonuses because my overall performance was better but it just really bugged me. Maybe because I hated the fact I couldn’t do it well but more because the practical side of me thought it was a waste of time when there were other customers waiting for actual help with their accounts.
Online reviews are essentially used as sales tactics. There is a lot of hype around reviews and there are a lot of people who take them very seriously but there are also a lot of people who don’t. For all the people who have said they chose me to marry them because of my reviews, very few have taken the time to leave a review. Honestly? Many of those couples wanted me to marry them in secret so they weren’t about to go online a leave me a review for my services. They didn’t want anyone to know they used my services. That’s the point. One of my services is a discreet, legal wedding. I would say most of my everyday customers are indifferent, and they like it that way. It's not that I didn't provide a service they were happy with, it's just regular people generally live busy lives filled with other things to do. They might not want to become part of the conversation online, they just want to listen in.
Reviews are really important when it comes to online presence and getting your website or information to rank higher in search engine results. If a wedding website can get me to get my customers to leave a review on their website, it looks better for their website. In fact, I get rewarded when I receive a certain number of reviews each year. I get $10 off my yearly advertising rate for each review I receive up to $100 off per year. If I get 10 or more reviews I also get an award badge to put on my listing and on my website. I understand I’m paying for the whole package and the advantages it gives me in attracting couple to marry. I’m not saying reviews aren’t important, I’m just putting them into perspective. I think customers should understand this.
The more couples a large website can get to register with them the larger their client base becomes. The larger the client base the greater chance they have to make money. They can charge more for advertising and, hopefully, make passive income off of you. If you sign up for on online gift registry through a wedding website, the wedding website makes money off of that. Sign up for a gift registry through my website so I can make money too! The more a company can get you to engage through their website, the greater possibility they have to make money off of you. They send me advertisement to buy stuff through them too. Buy magazine subscriptions or gifts for your clients...
When the large wedding website was giving their seminar about reviews they encouraged making getting the review at the end part of the process. Basically, the suggest you talk about it through the entire course of interactions. “And after I deliver your prints, I’d appreciate it if you leave a review. I’ll send you a link, it’s easy….” You haven’t even had the pictures taken yet, but the idea of leaving a positive review is already planted in your mind, maybe 5 times. They have the sales technique down to a science. Sales and marketing is a science, it's a mind game, and they have statistical data to back it up. Having that data makes them an authority. They have something tangible to show. And we all know we should listen to authority, don’t question it…. (not)
I value my online reviews and I’m grateful to every customer who takes the time to leave them, but honestly? I had to ask most of them to do it. They didn’t spontaneously feel the need to leave a review - at least not enough to figure out how to actually to it on their own. There are some people who do yelp or generally leave reviews but I’m a wedding officiant, not a restaurant. I’m proud of my work and it’s important to me that my customers are happy, however it’s incredibly difficult for me to ask someone to leave a review. It’s literally painfully awkward for me. I'm not a salesperson. I do my best to be an expert in my field and provide information to people who are looking for it.
The places that gather reviews aren’t necessarily the major source of my customer base. It's more of a part of my overall marketing and SEO plan to drive people to my business information and my website. My backlinks from those websites help my business webpage to rank higher in searches which will hopefully help you find my business more easily. My customers didn't necessarily start their wedding planning process at those websites, I have to ask people to go to those websites and leave a review there. Leaving a review isn’t always quick and easy. If you go to a wedding website you have to give them your information and fill out questionnaires and then leave a review the way they want you to leave a review. It’s not like going to facebook a pressing a button. It requires effort. It’s not always easy to do on a mobile phone either.
Several years ago, when I was just starting out, if I had a good rapport with a bride or groom I would ask them to leave a review and they usually would. Bonus points to the couples that both left reviews! I thought that a less than 5 star review with an honest assessment was sometimes better because then a perfect score because when people read those reviews they would get a much better idea of who I am and what kind of services I provide. People actually want to know the story behind something less than perfect. I have literally gotten excellent feedback from those particular reviews. Brides would say they understood where that person was coming from but it wasn’t really important or they could spot a crazy person pretty easily and call it crazy. Or, just like when I read feedback on Amazon, I learn more about something and maybe, another person's junk is my treasure!
Appreciating the less than perfect reviews in the beginning, was good, and then it was bad. Nobody wants to see less than 5 stars anymore. Merchants and service providers literally ask you that if you are going to leave a less than 5 stars review to contact them first so they can make it right. Or at least talk you into not leaving the review. What the reviews say no longer really matter, just as long as you leave 5 stars. Sometimes, I leave 5 stars but still give honest, detailed feedback. If I have nothing nice to say, I say nothing at all, or, if given the opportunity to leave an honest review for the company without sharing it with the public, I do. Honest feedback is important. Sometimes you don't know there's room for improvement unless someone points it out for you. I appreciate that.
What I found out the hard way is review sites don’t just ask you to leave a general review, they ask you to review different parts of the services you received. It’s not good enough a customer had an overall great experience, now, they ask you to break down the experience into parts. This is an incredibly gray area. All of a sudden they are asking the customer to think more critically about things. The most recent time this happened a customer gave me a 4.5 out of 5 when she rated my communication skills. Although she never answered any emails after she scheduled by email. My online scheduler showed me my emails were delivered but never opened. I had to try several ways to contact her to confirm information. Another person gave me a 4.5 out of 5 for the value of my services because she didn’t think the package she paid for was worth the price, even though I explained the differences in the packages to her and how she could do those extra tasks herself, for free and save $100. Or a 4.5 out of 5 for professionalism because they didn’t think my absolute, bargain, quickie wedding was professional enough? You paid $50 for me to marry you in my living room. What exactly were you expecting? You were wearing jeans and a t-shirt. One of my favorites was a bride that gave me 4.5 review and then a few years later asked me for a job!!!
Reviews and statistics are really only based on the people who leave reviews and the people who engage in online surveys and questionnaires. There are thousands of couples that get married that will never fall into those categories. The statistics are gathered to market to certain couples, generally couples that are going to spend a lot of money on their wedding. If a company can present statistics in such a way that they can make them look like absolute facts they are hoping you will respond to them as absolute facts.
If a statistic says the average couple spends $24,000 on their wedding and you only spend $12,000, it looks like you actually got a bargain! It doesn’t matter that you live in the affordable midwest and those statistics come from a major metropolitan areas with an entirely different cost of living to take into perspective. The dollar amount usually includes the ring too. So, you could be sporting some serious bling on your finger but had a totally affordable wedding because of your personal priorities.
There could be hundreds of happy customers that didn’t take the time to leave a review. I recently got a very good perspective from a couple. They were probably one of my top 10 couples to marry, ever. They were looking for exactly what I specialize in and I was able to provide them with exactly what they needed. We really clicked. Every email and interaction, the day of the rehearsal, the day of the wedding, it was all perfect. I was in tears reading their love story! We were all in a holding area before the wedding, just hanging out. The bridal party was relaxed and friendly. The wedding was about friends and family gathering from all over to be together. I was literally thinking, maybe I can ask them for a review? Then, the bride said she was so looking forward to the next weekend when she would NOT have to worry about anything wedding! She could get on with finishing her masters degree program and then move with her new husband to his residency program. She had literally had enough of their wedding and after that day and was getting on with her life. A few weeks after the wedding I received a beautiful, handwritten letter that thanked me for making such an incredibly stressful situation so easy for them. Me and my services were perfect from start to finish. The note was literally everything! Who needs an online review when you have something so special? I did email afterward and ask them to leave a review, I still haven’t gotten one, and that doesn’t mean I won’t get one. But I really don’t expect it. They have moved on with their lives, like people do. I did have another doctor leave me a review a year after his wedding. He probably had a few minutes to clean out that email folder and was kind enough to open the email I sent asking for a review a year earlier. He was busy with helping sick people in the meantime….
I will say this, you can’t pay to get rid of reviews. If someone leaves a bad review, there are ways to dispute it, like they need to produce an actual contract or proof of purchase. You have provide legal documentation to prove your case. Someone can’t just make up a bad review or retaliate because they don’t like you. But if it’s a legit review, it stays. That’s what makes large, reputable websites that gather reviews worth it. Someone was angry because a conversation went bad and I refused to marry him. I disputed it with the website and they removed it while they researched it. According to their policy, the person who left the review would have to prove services were actually rendered, paid for or that we had a contract. He obviously couldn't. I had someone rate me with 1 star on my Facebook page. I have no idea who that person is they weren’t a customer. They rated my facebook page 1 star, not me or my business. I can't delete that. On the other hand, I get great reviews on my facebook page from my fabulous, every day, low budget customers. You won’t see those unless you go to my facebook page. You won’t see my Google reviews unless you go to my Google listing. You won’t see my reviews on The Knot unless you go to The Knot. WeddingWire had a widget so you can read my reviews on my webpage. But, mainly, they all want me to send you to their website to read my reviews. Well, actually, they own the reviews. They are just reviews about me and my business. Sneaky huh? And brilliant marketing. Because hey, customers consider online reviews the same as a recommendation from family or friends. It's easier to go along with the crowd and blend in, especially if the crowd is large and loud enough. Little do you realize, the size of the crowd and it's volume is being controlled by online marketing masterminds making money, more than it is actual individual people.
Victoria Meyer is the founder of Marry Me In Indy! LLC. She's been officiating weddings in the greater Indianapolis area for over 8 years and has married over 2500 couples.