I shot a wedding a couple of weeks ago and told the couple beforehand that it may take 4-5 weeks to edit the images and maybe even a little longer if I have a busy wedding season. It has been 5 weeks now and I got a very rude email from the bride this morning. She said they don't want to wait any longer since they have paid good money and I should stop putting off their wedding. I replied nicely that this was not the case and reminded them that it has been a busy season and that I'm sorry it has taken so long. And I assured them that I will do my best to finish them as soon as possible. Now she's not replying. Still, I'm very sad that she got so rude. And of course I worry that I will get no or a bad recommendation. Maybe I should mention that I did send them a couple of images for their thank you notes 2 weeks ago, so it's not like they haven't seen anything.
Can you give me some advice?
As Soon As Possible
I got waves of nausea reading this email. But that's how I roll. Nauseous. Whenever I become nervous or overwhelmed, my first inclination is to throw up, which I think is way tacky, and terrible if wearing cute shoes. Anyway, I'm sorry you're sad...enduring a person's rudeness isn't any fun. I'm sure you're feeling bad enough and her lack of response is unsettling. However (and you knew the however was coming!), I can't say I disagree with the bride.
The key in most business interactions is to manage expectations. It sounds so simple, but it's often overlooked. If you told the bride it was going to take five weeks for her to see her images (even if you added a caveat about needing more time during busy season), the only thing she heard was five weeks. Seriously. We're talking about a bride who's insanely excited to see her wedding images and if you didn't meet the stated deadline, it's easy to understand her frustration.
What you're saying is you're busy, but what she's feeling is overlooked. You even stated she asked you to "stop putting off the wedding" which leads me to think she has reasons to think she was placed on the back-burner (even if that's not the case).
If in the future you suspect you'll need more than 4-5 weeks to process wedding images, always buffer the timeline so you can under promise and over deliver. For instance, next time tell a bride you'll need 6-8 weeks to process the images, then deliver them earlier than she expected for optimal results. In business, there's no such thing as trying...you either did or you didn't. Sure, you might've been trying really hard to get the photos completed in five weeks, but at the end of the day, the bride is still a dissatisfied customer who won't likely recommend your services. And that's the last thing anyone wants.
Wow. Am I Debbie Downer today or what?! Let's chat about how you can remedy this situation (even if you don't feel at fault...remember, the customer is always right):
1. Do everything you can to finish the wedding edit and get the photos to the bride...we're talking about a code red rush now...haul booty and get it done! The longer she waits, the more upset she'll become.
2. Offer her a small album or a canvas print as a way to make amends. You'd be surprised just how far a gift can go to smooth things over.
3. Send a hand-written note expressing how much you appreciate the bride as a client.
4. If you're in busy season, this isn't likely the only wedding you're stretching the 5-week processing time. In light of this, I'd strongly caution you to take active strides to ensure this doesn't happen again with other recent clients. If this becomes a pattern, your business may suffer serious repercussions. If you're behind in editing, buried in work, or simply need to take a break, I strongly suggest you outsource your wedding processing to a professional company that'll take great care of you. I'm particularly fond of Photographer's Edit as their customer care and 7-day turnaround is stellar. If you'd like to try them out, feel free to use the jstar2012 code at check out for a 20% discount.
I wish you only the best as you work at keeping your clients happy and managing their expectations. When this happens, recommendations will pour in because people feel like you kept them a top priority.