Hello. I just woke up this morning to an email in my inbox from a customer I made a birthday cake for on Saturday. I just wanted to post her email and my response, because I guess I'm just needing a little pat on the back and someone telling me it has happened to them, too. I've been in business for almost 10 years and I've never had a single person tell me they hated my cakes. Maybe someone has but just didn't tell me, I suppose that is more probable, but this was just a real downer on me this morning. I feel like the wind was knocked out of me. Do you think my response, below her email, was appropriate? My profit margin on scratch cakes is really low as it is, and I or my husband didn't think it would be appropriate to offer a refund when it appears to just be a matter of taste preference.. I am a full scratch baker, and I think what's going on here is that she has just never had a real scratch cake. She came to me because she was looking for a "home baked cake" which she said are always better than grocery cakes. But maybe she's never had a "home baked" cake that wasn't really a box cake. With Crisco creme. I don't know. I'm just feeling really bummed. I guess I should consider myself blessed that this is my first bad report in almost 10 years, but gee. That doesn't make this hurt any less.
Here is her email. My response follows.
Hi *name* -
I wanted to express how disappointed I was in my cake on Saturday. I thought the decorating was GREAT! However, the taste of the cake was very disappointing. The cake was very heavy and dense. Also it was pretty dry. The frosting was not very sweet either.
Most of the adults could not really taste the strawberry flavor, including me. The true testiment was that none of the children finished their cake...not even just the frosting.
Like I said the decor of the cake was a great centerpiece, but to
spend so much money on a cake that did not take taste well was very disappointing
Wow, I am so sorry to hear that the cake was not enjoyed. I did sample the "cake crown" - the part that rises in the center that is cut off to level- of your cake before putting your cake together, as I always do, and it was the same flavor and moistness of the strawberry cake that many people have ordered and re-ordered many times. I've never had anyone tell me they didn't prefer this strawberry cake to others they have had, so I feel really terrible that it wasn't what you expected. I've never heard this before from *anyone*, about any of my scratch cakes, in 9 1/2 years of business, so it really saddens me.
The cake is one of my more dense cakes, but that is very typical for scratch cakes - unfortunately, something that most people in this country are not familiar with anymore. Even most home bakers are using box cake these days, which has a lighter and moister mouth feel, due to the addition of vegetable oil, hydrogenated oil and chemicals in the mix. The strawberry flavor is also not as intense as a box strawberry cake, since I don't use an artificial flavor additive, but two pounds of fresh strawberries. As far as my buttercreme, you are correct in that it isn't very sweet.. something most people like about it, because as a true buttercreme with no Crisco, it isn't overly heavy and sweet. It's the norm in this country to create "buttercreme" that is made with zero butter - only Crisco, sugar, and butter and vanilla flavor - and it is the really sugary frosting that most people are familiar with. (And most people scrape off.) I've only had one other person say they didn't like the sweetness of my buttercreme, and it was someone who just liked whipped creme frosting, which only has a scant amount of sugar, so they just wanted *less* sweetness.
It's possible that you and your guests just prefer the more sugary flavor of traditional American buttercreme Crisco frosting, and it's true that some people do.
Like I said, though, I am really saddened to hear you didn't enjoy it, because I have never had anything but rave reviews on the strawberry cake. I made some cupcakes on Saturday from the same batch, and they sold out and someone emailed me to ask for some more.
If you would like to try a different flavor of cake at your next event, I will be happy to do it for you with a 25% discount, which would make it at cost for me to bake. My chocolate silk cake is definitely a lighter cake, and it has an intense chocolate flavor that might be more to your liking. But I understand if you decide that perhaps my style of baking is just not for you. It makes me sad, because like I said, I've only ever gotten rave reviews in almost 10 years of business.
If I can help you in the future and you'd like to give it another try, I'd be more than happy to hear from you again.
I am so sorry the cake wasn't a hit at the party.
Speaking as a hobby baker, I think you handled and responded to her email in a very professional manner. I like how you explained why she may not have like your cake, while still being professional about it.
I think your response was fine and professional, though maybe a bit long winded.
I think you handled that really well and sounded sincere. The explaination was a bit long, but I understand you really wanted the customer to understand.
I'm always a bit long-winded. I was formerly a writer.
I think if I would have cut something out, I would have either come across as haughty, or at least not genuine.
I agree that your response was nice and professional. I like that you offered a discount on a future order. This will give you the opportunity to give her a cake she will enjoy.
I wonder about her statment that no-one finished thier cake. That seems like an exageration to me if the cake tasted as it should in your taste test. In my experience, a cake has to be pretty bad before children wont eat it. It makes me wonder if she was just trying to get some money back on the cake.
BTW, I make buttercream from butter as well, and it tastes so much better. I've never had anything but great responses from mine. I have certainly never heard someone say it wasn't sweet enough!
Don't feel bad, it really does sound like she was feeling you out for some sort of compensation.
Wow, your response was so well written, and polite. I didn't get any negative vibes at all! And really impressed with the %25 discount- thats very nice of you!
I actually got a 3 star review once and it made me sick I freaked out - the gal that posted it liked my cupcakes just fine, but, and I quote, "they were not as big as a Sprinkles cupcake". I replied that she was correct, the cupcake she got was NOT as "big" as a Sprinkles cupcake since she got a FREE sample cupcake at a tasting event, and if she'd like to place an order of my regular cupcakes she'd see that they are actually larger then Sprinkles. Her review remained up for about a month then she took it down. People love to complain. But it still hurt my feelings. You can't please everyone, at least she emailed you in private instead of posting it on a review website somewhere. But I totally understand where you are coming from, I know I will be totally devistated when I get a negative review one day which I know is bound to happen.
Your response is fine, but as a fellow long-winded typist, I am often told the "tone" of my emails are condescending, so when dealing with the public I try and keep them as short as possible and have gotten pretty good at seeing any possible pitfalls. So, here's my 2 cents... The use of "in this country" implies separation and can be taken accusatory of "you" vs. "us" or "them". Be careful with that one. Instead of saying "you", always say "us" or "we". I probably would have said something along the lines of -
"Hello, I am so sorry that you were not satisfied with the texture and flavor of your cake. I bake all my cakes from scratch using 100% premium ingredients, the result is a heavier texture then pre-packaged box mix cakes that are used so freely in the baking industry, which is probably more of what you expected. Fresh produce is unpredictable depending on the growing season and the flavor intensity of berries changes from month to month, harvest to harvest. I am committed to using fresh ingredients and I don't add artificial flavors to any of my cakes, so you felt the flavor of the strawberries were not as intense as you anticipated it is probably because of this."
Then move on to what you are willing to offer to make it right. Chin up!
I think you handled it brilliantly! And great advice Debbie. Although you were referring to people other than yourself prefering mix cakes using "we" is definitely the softest way to state the norm even if you are contracry to the norm.
Rest assured you didnt say anything wrong nor did you do anything wrong so head up. You gave her exactly what she aked for. She just didnt know what she wanted when she asked for it.!
Your response was great..A bit long but I tend to be long winded also..I don't find it odd that the kids never ate the cake as they hardly ever do..Even the icing..I throw more cake away at my kids parties always...they lick it and run off...So that is simply silly to use that as a reason...
Don't worry..You handled it very professionally and if she wants to try another cake you gave her the option and discount...and if not..so be it!
Well i am a hobby Baker too. But when i make cake for a few friends all of them like the dense cakes and all butter frosting, than the Light and fluffy cakes. I guess that is personal preference.
You dont have to feel bad about it. I know what kind of effort and love goes into baking a cake from scratch using real ingredients. You have replied well and offered a discount too. But yes could have kept it short and not used the words "in this country".
But a pat on the back from me to all people who bake cakes from scratch at home.
I think it was polite, but too long winded. I would take out the snippet about the cost of the cake right after the discount though.
Personally speaking, I wouldn't offer a discount - and I know I may not be in the norm. Cake, like everything else is palate-dependent and you can't please everyone. I learned that after I did a bridal show and offered standard cupcakes with american buttercream, and premium cupcakes with IMBC. The mother hated the american as it was too sweet, but loved the IMBC. The daughter (bride) hated the IMBC and said it tasted too much like butter and loved the american. *shrug*
If it is an obvious mistake I made (including overbaking), then I discount. If it is something subjective (such as dry - to them but I know I baked it perfectly) then I just say sorry you didn't like it!
I'm sorry you got a bad review! I know we all want to make our customers as happy as possible with our baking, and I think you sent a very polite response.
If you'd like another baker to test out that strawberry recipe, I'd be happy to help . Actually I've been searching for a good scratch strawberry cupcake and am really hoping you'll share one that's gotten you rave reviews for almost 10 years! But I definitely understand if you don't share recipes.
Again, so sorry about this one bad review, but take it in stride. 1 every 10 years is pretty amazing!
I think you handled it very professionally. Keep your chin up and don't second guess yourself. I also agree that you cannot gauge how great a cake is based on how much of it a child ate. My daughter loves my cakes but she was so busy playing with her uncle last night that she only sat down long enough to take a couple bites. You were also very generous to offer a discount on a future order.
[quote="Kiddiekakes"]don't find it odd that the kids never ate the cake as they hardly ever do..Even the icing..I throw more cake away at my kids parties always...they lick it and run off...quote]
Really? My kids and thier friends eat every scrap of cake! I usually run out! They fight over everything from the cake batter to the icing left on the cake board! The only time I've seen leftover cake was at a party when they bought the cake at a supermarket...
Oh I'd die. I have never heard one bad thing about my scratch baking/real butter cakes and icing either, and I am in the criscocreme/box mix capital of the world! I guess it was a bit long winded, but I can't say I wouldn't have been tempted to do the same. Hope it works out for you.
Some people don't even know what real strawberries taste like. They're looking for the artificial taste of strawberry milk or something. You handled it perfectly.
Like everyone else, I do think the reply was a little long and wordy.
Overall, I think the reply was professional. I think that it an explanation was needed about the difference between textures of scratch/box mix and the crisco/butter buttercream.
The only negative thought I have is how you compared her opinion to "everyone" elses. Personally, if I don't like something I don't care if I am the only person in the world that feels that way - it won't change my mind - I still won't like it. I would be annoyed reading a response to my opinion telling me over and over that I am the only one that has had a problem and to you everything tasted fine.
I would have just given an explanation of why the cake was dense and buttercream not sweet, offer the discount and leave it at that.
Personally, if I don't like something I don't care if I am the only person in the world that feels that way - it won't change my mind - I still won't like it. I would be annoyed reading a response to my opinion telling me over and over that I am the only one that has had a problem and to you everything tasted fine.
True, and I would have had a hard time not saying something like that, and would have gotten myself in trouble probably.
Thanks for all the advice.
She did respond back to me and went off on me even worse than the first time, saying "that response is not at ALL what I expected/how dare you lecture me/I always order scratch cakes/I will not need the 25% off because I will never order from you again, nor any family or friends or anyone else at the party". I was just blown away. It was just full of anger and nastiness.
I do regret not keeping it more simple, and I really love the wording that FromScratch had to suggest (should I ever need to respond to something like this again...hopefully not...), but given the words in her second email, I don't think she would have been happy with any response other than "I'm sorry, yes I know my cakes and my frosting sucks. Here, take a complete refund and have a free cake next time."
I responded with a simple "I'm so sorry if my response sounded condescending or if you thought I was lecturing you. It was not at all my intent and I apologize if I came across that way" kind of response. And then I wished her a blessed holiday season and a wonderful year with her son, and that's it. I hope that will be the end of it. If not, if she emails me back again, and demands another response, I am just going to call her. Email just doesn't convey tone and emotion correctly, and it's obviously not working in this situation.
I just want to cry.
I know just how you feel! We always get rave reviews on our cakes, but we did get one a while ago that didn't like our RV. She said she was dissapointed in the cake (It was scratch). This was our response:
We are very sorry that you were dissatisfied with the cake. We appreciate the feedback, and want to improve upon our product in any way we can, as we strive to maintain excellent taste and quality in our products.
Was the flavor of the cake okay, or was it just the texture and moisture content that didn't meet your expectations?
We would like to rectify this situation to the best of our ability. What would be an acceptable solution to you? We could give you a complimentary 8 inch cake in the flavor of your choice if you would like. We value all of our customers and would love the opportunity to work with you in the future.
The important thing is to keep a professional tone (which you did!) and apologize for their disappointment without accepting blame when it truly was nothing you did wrong. I agree that in the future you should try to keep it shorter. Otherwise, you did fine. She's one person, don't let her get to you!
Don't be sad, Debby! How many clients did like your cakes in 10 years? Hundreds, thousands? It means your cakes are excellent. This is one person. Doesn't really mean anything (probably wanted a free cake, that's it).
I've got an order for a cake for 17 December and the lady who ordered it already knows it will not be exquisite as she wanted, it will be dry and 'heavy' (her words, probably means 'dense'). She has never had a cake from me. I did not even start to bake her cake We are at the fifth e-mail today (in 3 days). Some people are just difficult to deal with from the beginning.
I'm sorry to say, and I hope you won't be offended, that I'm not surprised at her response. Your email did sound as though you were lecturing her that she didn't know the difference between box garbage and your quality product.
The fact that you mentioned you were "saddened" so many times made it sound like you were shaking your head at her lack of taste, and the 'no-one else has ever complained' line made you sound very defensive.
Obviously if you've been baking for 10 years and you've never had a complaint, you must be doing something right, so don't get too worried about it all.
I really like some of the wordings others have given that are a little shorter. Maybe write the email and sit on it for an hour or two before sending next time!
ITA with mcaulir and cai0311 about having my opinion thrown in my face repeatedly and implied that Im the one with the problem and everyone else is normal, not a good tactic to take. I also dont think brining up how shes probably used to Crisco based icing and box mix cakes was a good way to go either. It sounds like an insult, like you are saying shes got no taste. If Id gotten your response I would have been angry as well. Id also have been absolutely insulted at the idea of a discount off a future order. I would have been expecting a refund of some sort and a sincere apology.
I have been in your shoes before and I gave a full refund on the order and also threw in a free 8 inch cake to top things off (based on the advice I got from here, Doug specifically). It killed me to refund that order and to make that free 8inch cake (I really questioned that when the cakers here told me it was the way to go) but in the end I had a very happy customer who bragged on me so much she overpaid me for her next order that more than paid for the refund AND the free cake and she sent lots of other happy customers my way. And then I found out you cant bake legally from a home kitchen in Missouri But now all youve got is a really p*ssed off gal who is going to tell everyone she knows how badly your cake tastes and how snotty and rude you were to her AND shes got the email to prove it (in her mind anyways, I dont think you were rude just a few things there rubbed me the wrong way). I dont think there is any way in the world to salvage this one but in the future (should there ever be one) Id stick with LoveMeSomeCake615 response. It shows sympathy and understanding for the customers unhappiness AND puts the ball in their court, what do they think is a reasonable solution for the problem.
I had a gal butcher my hair once and while in my mind I was going to demand a full refund and imagined that terrible hair dresser down on her hands and knees begging for my forgiveness but when the manager asked me what would make me happy I said a partial refund would be fine. In the end I figured shed done the work so she should get something out of it but I didnt get what I wanted so I should get something back. Everyone won.
Chalk this one up to a learning experience and move on. Its your only complaint in 10 years, your obviously doing something right! Youve got some amazing baking skills to have made it that long without single fudge along the way. You should be proud of that
I have to agree a bit with the previous poster. Sometimes in our wish to defend our product and educate we can come off as a little know-it-all/condescending and not even realize it. I know you in no way intended to sound that way, but I can see where a disappointed client (someone who is already defensive) could take it the complete wrong way.
It is best to stay sterile and nont emotional. The letter the LoveMeSomeCake suggested is just about perfect... short concise and to the point while both validating the clients feelings and offering them both a resolution and an opportunity to feel like they are being taken seriously with the asking what specifically was their complaint and that you will take their critiques to heart.
The OP's response was too emotional and left a LOT up to the client's interpretation which is ALWAYS a bad thing.
I wouldn't worry too much... she is but one person in a line of many many many others. If this is your first complaint in that many years I'd consider yourself 100% A OKAY.
wow, i'm the opposite of some here! I really thought that the email was informational and nice to know! I thought that comparing the differences made me go "hmm, I don't think i have ever had a scratch cake" Buuut with that said...you never know the background of the other person and i think that's why you got the response you did. Don't take it personal, she probably did want a full refund. keep doing what you're doing because for that one bad customer you will not loose out a hundred others...you'll keep the one's that love you and they'll keep passing on the word. good luck to you
I think she just caught you off guard because you havent had previous complaints about your cake.
BUT Im not surprised that she sent you a nastygram back. I also thought your email was on the condescending side and that you tried to deflect the issues she identified with your cake onto her and other businesses that dont use your methods.
Moving forward it may be helpful to let new customers know that your buttercream is different and not as sweet as other buttercreams but im sure you know what works for you.
Edited to correct spelling
wow, i'm the opposite of some here! I really thought that the email was informational and nice to know! I thought that comparing the differences made me go "hmm, I don't think i have ever had a scratch cake"
This just goes to show how differently people can interpret things, especially online, which is why you have to be sooo careful in your responses to customers. I agree with one of the PP's who said in the future to wait a little while before you respond. Take some time to let the shock and hurt wear off a little. As others have said, it's best not to get emotional or defensive with customers, as hard as that can be. You actually have to kind of detach yourself from the emotion of it, and try not to take it personally. I know that's easier said than done!
I think she just caught you off guard because you havent had previous complaints about your cake
Moving forward it may be helpful to let new customers know that your buttercream is different and not as sweet as other buttercreams but im sure you know what works for you.
Edited to correct spelling
See, that's just the thing. That difference is my total reason for business. I make it known on every website, ad, posting, email footer, etc etc that THIS is what my buttercreme is like. THIS is how I make my cakes. The first page of my website says "my meringue buttercreme is made with all butter, and is not as sweet as grocery store frostings". I talked about how my cakes are made with this person on the phone when she called and ordered it. She ordered it fully informed.
I really didnt mean to sound condescending, but you see, it was because we had had these conversations previously that I thought it would be helpful to explain that maybe what she had before really WASN'T scratch cake. And yes, I am not ashamed to say I likely was writing out of a sense of defensiveness. After she had talked with me about my DIFFERENT style of baking, less sweet style of frosting,and my use of real ingredients instead of flavors, those are the very things she attacked. Yes, I felt defensive.I likely did have too much emotion, but I was perplexed, because especially this cake she ordered was one I have not just gotten good reviews on,but raves.
Thank you all for the feedback, both the criticsm and the support. I take it all to heart.
I'm going to try to keep this as brief as possible:
I experienced a complaint about one of my cakes this fall, similar to yours. It ruined me. I told my husband, "I've made over 120 cakes this summer and this is the first complaint I've received!"
He responded, "One, out of 120? That's better then an 'A' average, isn't it?"
That made me feel better.
The letter was well written, but from a business stand point is it necessary to be so thorough?
When I write back and forth with my customers, I really try to keep it short and to the point. I try to make things concise.
It's business writing and my matter of opinion doesn't count. It's business, not personal.