Monday, February 13, 2012

Discounts Aren't What Complaining Clients Want

I'd thought that I'd written about how to handle clients complaints on here before, but when I did a search I couldn't find much about it. Which is interesting, since that's one thing that people always seem to be confused about.

So then...How should you handle client complaints? There seems to be a few ways that people respond to complaints.

First is to refund the cost of the cake, or a partial refund.

Second would be to refuse to refund anything if the complaint is ridiculous. And some are.

Third would be to offer a discount on a future purchase.

This is the one I want to address...Discounting future purchases only makes sense if the client is someone who's a regular of yours. It also only makes sense if the complaint about the product is something that the client is willing to overlook, if that makes sense.

For a wedding cake that falls over, a coupon good for 50% off a birthday cake to be ordered in the future is not an acceptable tradeoff.

For a birthday cake where the colors were supposed to be pink and red, but you made it orange and red, it might be okay.

It's a matter of degree, and of frequency. If I'm a new customer and the service that I got was crappy, I'm certainly not going to go back to use a 50% off coupon for something that might end up being just as bad.

I recently had a lovely experience with Delta airlines...To make a long story short, they ripped me off for in-flight internet, then wanted to give me a voucher for free internet on my next flight to make up for it. I don't fly that often, so they were basically telling me to go pound sand. (The full story is here)

I'm not a frequent flyer, so a coupon does me no good. If I did fly a lot I might have been able to use that coupon, but it wasn't what I'd asked them for.

When I have an experience that's sufficiently bad to make me ask for a refund, I also want to be done with it. I don't want to hold onto a coupon, I want my money back.

So personally, my advice on the idea of offering a discount is to not do it. I know that some people think it's a good way to keep the client "in the loop" and show them a better product in the future, but that only works if the client has been a customer before and is willing to buy from you again.

 Kara Buntin owns A Cake To Remember LLC in Richmond VA, and cake supplies online at and


Jenniffer said...

Kara, the "next time discount" is definitely the most horrible way to satisfy a client. "You got food poisoning from our pizza? Well the next one is half off!" No thank you, no one gets a second chance to kill me! ;)

For minor complaints I have found that most people just want a sincere "I'm sorry, I'll make sure this doesn't happen again".

Kara Buntin said...

I always think the same thing when I see someone say that they offered a client a coupon...No thanks! That's one coupon that I wouldn't use!

Jennifer said...

I couldn't agree more. When I see that suggested on a posting, I think it sounds ultra insincere.

I did do it once, on the customer's behest. The raspberry filling I made wasn't sweet enough, and I offered a full refund. She laughed and said a coupon on a future order would be better, since the other half of the cake was still awesome.

She's now one of my best customers.

Sometimes people don't think you're going to take them seriously, so when you do, it really works out.

BTW- did you know that is what Carnival did at first to those people who were in that crash? 30% a future cruise. Umm, if I didn't want to sue before, I surely would after!

Canterbury Cakes said...

You all make some really interesting points above. I guess those who offer coupons or discounts off future cake orders struggle to reconcile with themselves that they need to take a hit due to their error & it gives me the impression that they're then trying to turn it to their advantage by encouraging the client to invest further in their services. I think it's fair enough if the complaint is trivial, but if the baker has been in serious error then they should take it on the chin & give a full refund. That said, I've heard a lot of horror stories of clients lying to try their luck for a refund...luckily it's never happened to me...YET...

Kara Buntin said...

That's true, but I have no trouble telling someone that I won't be giving a refund if I know that they're just trying to put one over on me. It doesn't happen very often...I can think of two people in 16 years of doing this who came up with reasons that they wanted a refund and I knew that they were just making things up. When I called them on it (in a polite way) I never heard from them again. If I make a mistake (and I have) I generally address it before the client can even notice that I did it, so there's no question about it. I once put the wrong filling in a wedding cake tier, and when I realized it as I was taking out the sheet for the caterer to tell them what flavors were on each tier, I also took out my checkbook and wrote a refund for that entire tier payable to the mother of the bride. She didn't want to take it, but I told her that if I hadn't delivered what was ordered then she shouldn't pay for it. Who cares about the cost of one tier of cake in the long run.