My first ‘unhappy’ customer

Just before Christmas I encountered an unhappy situation with a customer which got me thinking about what to do in the event of an unhappy customer.

When running any business the art of communication is vital. You really need to get this right. So just as cake decorating, cooking or baking is a skill so is communicating with the customer. Communication gains you the business or causes you to lose it.

Nobody raves about average so we have to have the right skills and good customer service lies at the heart of any business.

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I do believe it is our attitude that helps us when we encounter a problem and have to deal with complaints later. Am I right?

Have you ever been upset with a product you purchased but, when you got there how you complained was mostly dependent on the way they treated you. If they were really nice you tended to be more patient and give them the benefit of setting things right; if not.. you got more upset. So in reality it depends on effective communication and customer service, right?

When I first started working as an employee the policy “the customer is always right” would always bug me. Sometimes it would bother me that the customer could NEVER loose face. We would accommodate as much as we could even when we knew the customer was taking advantage of our kindness, our generosity and sometimes even our patience. That was what our company policy was – the customer is the most important, no matter what. But is the customer ALWAYS right?

But, it’s only cake!

Don’t use the sentence “It’s only cake” to a cake maker/ decorator. He or she will get very sensitive, emotionally worked up and maybe exercise all their energy to give a detailed explanation as to how how it’s not just cake.
I know the feeling. I feel like I want to let the customer know that there is a lot more than just ingredients to baking the cake.

PROFESSIONALISM

As with any business cooking, baking and cake decorating has to be conducted professionally. So, once  you decide to do this as a business you are no longer just a Mum baking cakes or cooking anymore, you are a professional person and you have to conduct yourself professionally.

No matter how rude you think the customer is, you must remember that the customer speaks for himself as an individual not for all customers, you on the other hand speak for your business. What you say is perceived as you speaking on behalf of your business.

THERE ARE DIFFERENT TYPES OF CUSTOMERS THAT WILL PLACE ORDERS.

  1. Some haven’t a clue what they want,
  2. Some will want everything but can’t afford anything,
  3. Some will want everything but are unaware of the efforts that goes into making it. (because they have never made or decorated a cake).
  4. Some will know exactly what they want and are willing to pay for it.
So, sometimes you will get the order and sometimes the order will not get placed at all. The way you dealt with the person and their enquiry will be remembered. The person will not always remember what you said, or did but they will remember how you made them feel and they will tell other people.
Some things I have recently had to think about:
Am I:
  • Over pricing my products
  • Under-pricing my products
  • How much hourly wage should I charge?
  • Am I marketing to the right people?

In my time as a business owner I have tried to extend to my customers  kindness, generosity and patience as well as a thoroughly professional service. Almost a whole lifetime has been spent in the food trade in one way or another, parents who were chefs, working within the trade myself and married to a baker with 30 years experience. I consider my skills to be more than adequate – my passion and pleasure and love is extended to the customer and so far I have had no problems. Being very much a people-person and having taught for quite a number of years I do believe I can handle people well.

I’ve had one non-payer who soon coughed up once I politely reminded her that she owed me, but other than that I have been having a lovely time – busy with orders, enquiries and cookery lessons. It has been fabulous.

Therefore it came as a complete surprise to me when I found myself confronted by an unhappy customer!

It was strangeness of the situation that had me flummoxed.

Here is the scenario. Read it and think what you would say or would have said to the customer. What would your answer be? You may have a very different take on this topic and that’s ok. I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.

The request came through on social media for 40 cake pops for Christmas Eve.

Customer – Hi I’m asking in behalf of my Aunty. Have you got any spaces free to make animal themed cake pops needed for Xmas eve but happy to have the a day or 2 before if they will last.

Me – Hello there I could make you some but probably for the 22nd or 23rd? If you could send me a photo of what you’d like then I can work out a price for you. Thank you for your enquiry. Look forward to hearing from you

Customer (sent a photo)  That sort of thing but can be what ever animal my Aunty said. She also said could she have 40 made please. It’s a animal themed party apparently so can be from domestic animals, zoo and farm ect.
Me – Hello – here is the invoice. I deliver for free in XXXXX & villages and thought I’d do a mixture of vanilla and chocolate flavours but just let me know if you’d like something different. I thought I’d wrap them individually and arrange them in a bouquet type thing so they can go straight onto the party table. Is that Ok?
Customer – Right I’ve rang her and all is OK but she’s super old fashioned and not up on the Internet banking ect and asked if she could pay u with cash she’s happy to drop it off to your home.
Me – She can pay me when I deliver that’s not a problem.
When the time came I baked the cakes. I let them cool and then broke them up and added some chocolate buttercream to the crumbs. I then formed it into balls and refrigerated them.
A few hours later when they were firm I set about inserting lolly sticks and coating each of the balls in different coloured chocolate. Each cake required 2 layers of chocolate so my lovely husband began to help me. We added ears, noses and eyes to some of them. At 9:00 pm having spent six hours on them I decided to stop for the night. Poured myself a glass of wine. Took a photo with my phone (all my photos are simple snaps – no professional photos). I sent the photo to the customer and a message to say they were unfinished but I’d continue the next day.
I was actually quite pleased with them. In the middle of the night I checked my phone.

BAM!

 Customer – XXXXXXXXXXXXXX That’s my Auntys number I shown her the pictures and there’s a few things she’s not happy about. So I said she needs to mediate with u because I don’t want to be the messenger.
I had a bad feeling. A very bad feeling but I was also tired and overworked. It was the day before Christmas Eve and I’d done nothing for my family Christmas.
To cut a long story short things got rather unpleasant. Actually very unpleasant.
Just to be clear, no money had exchanged hands and the product had not been seen or tasted by the customer.
A long conversation and a nasty text later I put a stop to it all and recommended that we cut our losses and agreed to disagree over whether or not my cakes were ‘amateurish’ or not. In my heart I felt the customer had buyers’ remorse and didn’t want to pay the full price, so I donated them to a local church for the crib service.
Did I do the right thing? Should I have given the customer another chance? Should I have continued and delivered the cakes? Would the customer have been happy or refused to pay the full price? Was the customer right? The unpleasantness in the text was very thinly veiled.
I don’t know.
But she was complaining about a half finished product – no complaining about a photo of a half finished product. 
I decided to cut my losses. However, I have also decided to consider how I will handle customer complaints in case I ever get some.

PROFESSIONAL ME VS EMOTIONAL ME

I am a women of the heart, juggling home, husband, family and business.

It’s easy to get emotional and even more easy to get upset but I am also professional and just as I do everything in my power to provide a professional service I strive to be professional when it comes to effective communication and customer service too!

I want my a business to be a professional, successful one while still maintaining that softness where it matters most.

Last but not the least -I’d love to hear any experience you may have had with a customer that was beyond the ordinary. Was it a complaint that really got to you? Was it a cake order that took it’s toll? I love stories and oh boy you could spend an evening with me just laughing at my stories.

 

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. lexilem43 says:

    Suzie, you definitely do not need to justify your actions. The only right way to deal with a complaint like this is to be yourself and trust your judgement. People are not only buying your exceptional product they are buying you, your personality, your kindness, care and love of what you do. By the way any readers, I and my children tried Suzie’s pop cakes and yep you guessed it absolutely no complaints here, in fact only remarks like ‘these are the best pop cakes I have ever tasted!’. You did everything that was asked of you, clearly the customer had a different product in mind, there was nothing wrong with yours and I expect she realised this after you quite rightly cancelled her order. I think a written contract in future may help you not loose money in this way. A non refundable deposit from your customer would be great. The customer is not always right, can be unreliable, ignorant, rude and hurtful so you need to be clear you reserve the right to cancel an order should you not be happy with their dealings in any way. Make sure you only do above board pleasant business and if a customer is not in this bracket you are not interested in providing them your most excellent service. xxx

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ahh! Thank you Lexi! You are so right and one of my best business advisers – without your wisdom I would have come unstuck many a time!

    Like

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