Thursday, March 26, 2009

Angry Brides...

or customers.
It's almost the start of wedding season for us. We've had a couple of weddings, but the real busy season hasn't hit yet. I'm looking forward to it, making the weddings is one of the best things we do, each one is different and we know that the cake is for some ones special day! But, inevitably, there is almost always one cake/event per year that doesn't go as planned. Why, well, there's many reasons... 
First, let me say, that we try our best. I don't know anyone that is out to screw the customer, especially vendors in the wedding business. Wedding vendors enjoy being part of some ones special day. We like bringing our brand of happiness to their wedding day and we realize how important that day is. We do not want to be the one's responsible for something not going right for someones wedding. In fact, when it does, we're very upset about it. We take it personally. We don't shrug it off and say, oops. We agonize over it for days, and we're upset at ourselves and the situation. That's why we really try to limit any area where problems can occur, we have check lists, contracts, notes... But, sometimes things happen. 

As I said before there are a few reasons why something might go wrong. We've screwed up, or something happened beyond our control. Let's take the last one first... 

Beyond our control... rain, car accident, flat tire etc. These are types of elements that we can not foresee and, honestly, there's not much we can do about it.  If we're in a car accident while delivering your cake or flowers, you probably won't have cake or flowers, and we can't control the weather, if you choose buttercream or extremely delicate flower on a 95 degree July day for an outdoor wedding, there might be problems. As wedding professions we try to avoid these problems and steer you towards a solution where these situations don't present themselves. Listen to us, we've been there and we know what we're talking about. 

We've screwed up.... Yes it happens. I'm a very small business and yet I'm meeting with at least 8 brides a week and talking to another dozen via phone or e-mail. Then on the day of your wedding, I'm probably dealing with 3-4 other events as well. We are aware that we're juggling a many thing and have systems in place so that nothing goes wrong. Yet, there are going to be the rare occurrences where something slips through the cracks. We misread a contract, our notes aren't complete, someone on our staff misses an element on the design, or we make a judgement call... Things happen. I can tell you that when something does go wrong, it's unlikely to ever happen again, though that is little relief for the bride. 
The hardest one of those is the judgement call. When we (the vendors) make a call about something we deem small, a non-issue. Substituting one small white flower for another in a bouquet, making a cake easier to disassemble because we know it's a home wedding, shooting a photo in black and white instead of color... We make these calls based on our experience, based on questions and experiences we've had with other brides and based on the current circumstances. 9 out of 10 times these judgement calls are correct, we're making the right decision based on the situation, and no one has any problems with it. It's the 10th time, though, when for some reason, this small detail is a big issue for the client. These are the hardest to deal with. Feelings run high with weddings! 

What's the solution? First everyone take a deep breath. Don't rush into something, give yourself some time for perspective.  Don't make a phone call or send an e-mail you're going to regret. When confronted with an angry or upsetting situation I write the e-mail, but then I let it sit overnight and re-read it the next day when my feelings have calmed down. I then do a lot of editing and then hit send. And e-mail... it can be great because it has no feelings in it like a voice does. But that can also be the problem, you read it one way, the recipient reads it another.  

Vendors.... The best thing to do, if we've screwed up in some way and we know it, is to admit it. Apologize, explain what happened and offer some sort of restitution. I think most people will accept a sincere apology. There's really not much more we can do. 

Customers.... make sure your estimate/invoice lists exactly what you want. Are the colors specified, is the type of frosting, filling, decoration listed out to your satisfaction. Remember wedding vendors meet with you months before your wedding and see many more brides after they've met with you. They will not remember everything that you talked about. It's better to be a pest and have them edit the contract so it says exactly what you want, then to leave it and rely on their memory. It will also help us if you insist on every detail being in the contract. That way when your wedding come up and we look at the paperwork there's no room for error. 
If something does happen and what you received is not what you expected... be calm. It's unlikely that the vendor did it on purpose. Ask what the problem was and tell us what type of response you expect... a gift certificate for another cake, money back, a full refund... It helps us know what to do, and also allows us to judge how upset you are. If you're asking for a replacement bouquet or cake down the road, you like our work, but weren't please with this time. If you want money back, we know you're upset and want some form of restitution. If you're asking for a full refund.... you're really mad. It's unlikely that you'll get a full refund, most places have to cover at least the cost of the product, but we'll probably offer you something significant back. 

Hopefully this will help everyone involved.... Here's to a great, problem free wedding season! I'll report back in October and let you know how we did! 

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