“My five year old could do a better job!”. “That is the ugliest cake I have ever seen!”. “I was so embarrassed, I could not serve the cake.”. “No one could believe I paid $xx for such a terrible cake.”
I have read countless Facebook posts by people hurt to the core by comments like these. I have endured more than a few over nearly 20 years in retail. Sometimes, I could tell that the customers had overspent and were trying to recoup some money. Sometimes the customers were having problems completely unrelated to the cake, but you were close and it was easy to take out their frustrations on you. Sometimes, the cakes truly aren’t great.
When you get a complaint, it seems like the end of the world. You worry that your business is doomed. You begin to doubt your talent and wonder if you made a mistake going into cakes. Your insecurities grow and you start to second guess every design choice. Occasionally, you get angry and defensive. Your next several cake orders are stressful and anxiety producing events.
We drive almost every day, but very rarely are in traffic accidents. If we have one, do we instantly lament that we are the worst driver in the world? Do we consider giving up our cars? Of course not! We understand that in life, accidents happen. We need to take that approach with our cakes. Admit the mistake. Accept it. Move on.
There were weeks at our shop where I had a couple hundred cakes go out. We could have been told that 199 were “perfect”, “awesome”, “beautiful”…but the one negative comment would be what stuck with us. We would replay the comment and my employees and I would be in a funk for the rest of the day about that order. My sleep that night would be an endless loop of the conversation with the unhappy customer.
Why do we believe the negative comments more quickly than the positive? Why don’t we savor the compliments the same way we stew over the criticisms? I read a quote the other day that made me think of a lot of the young decorators who are so easily hurt by the complaints. It said: ” There are 7,012,472,832 people in the world. Don’t let one bring you down.”. The longer we are in business, the more we start to realize that one bad (or so so) cake doesn’t define who we are. The longer we are in business, the more we can tell which complaints are real and which are crap. The longer we are in business, the more confidence and experience we have when handling these situations.
I wish I could write down some magic words to tell you how to handle this situation. To some extent, I gave advice about handling the caketasrophes in my blog When Bad Things Happen To Good People. The key is to hold your temper, apologize, offer whatever you think is appropriate and maintain your professionalism. If you did do something wrong, learn from that mistake and work on preventing similar mistakes in the future. If someone who works for you screwed up, you still have to accept ultimate responsibility. (Yes, that sucks).
If you believe that you did nothing wrong, then you have to stick to your guns. Tell the customer that you are sorry that they did not like your recipe, or the way THEIR design looked or whatever. If you feel that they are not entitled to a refund, then do not give one. Be aware that they may complain on a social network, but that could happen any time any day, regardless of whether a customer talks to you about an issue. Know that your core customer base will stay the same and that this one incident will not make or break you.
Post the happy comments somewhere that you can see them when you work. Let the positive notes keep you company as you work. As soon as you can, get that negative incident out of your head. Do not let one person crush your spirit. Remember, we are all artists, but not everyone likes the same art. Believe in yourselves and the joy of decorating. Make today a great day to be designing cakes!