I run my business under the Texas Cottage Food law. I rarely advertise and the majority of my business is from word of mouth.
I did a tasting and consultation for a 200 serving quienceanera one year ago. The mother was getting prepared and shopping around way in advance. I spent almost 2 hours with them. She said she would keep in touch in regards to actually booking the cake. Fast forward six months later and she booked her cake with me. The cake is due early July. This lady has since come to my home THREE more times but these times she has come as a guest to another clients tastings/consult (her friends/family). After every consult, she starts asking about her order and starts changing things around (another 30 mins). She has also sent me numerous emails and called several times (at least 6 times) to KEEP changing even more things!! It is so frustrating!!!! This morning I emailed her to remind her that her final payment is due this week. She emails me back wanting to know if she can drop the money off and discuss changing flavors and some design aspects. I KNOW she will call if I am not available in person to discuss. I have a bad feeling about this order. I can just sense that there will be something that she will say is not up to her expectations. I wish I'd cut her off months ago but I couldn't given that her order was going to bring me a nice profit (will cost $850) and she's referred several other clients. I'm all about customer service and earning your clients patronage but this lady takes the cake (no pun intended). I feel like I'm going to pull my hair out!!!!!
Ok, done venting.
I would accept the final payment, take the final changes, and enter a description of those and the statement "No changes of any kind after _______ (the date of full payment)" and make her sign it. You keep the original; give her a copy. If she wants to know why she can't make any more changes, it is because you have to purchase the exact ingredients, prepare the decorations/embellishments ahead because they take time to fully dry, you have other orders you have to complete, etc.
Quite honestly, if she wants to change anything at this stage, she may do so, BUT it will incur more charges, to be paid upfront and immediately. Tell her to bring extra money, if she would like changes, if not, then she may drop off the money, but make sure to tell her, that you do not have the time for another lengthy discussion, you have to get cracking on the cake decorations, as soon as she has paid, otherwise the cake may not be ready
Well this certainly rings a bell to my ears! You are not alone. I have a customer like yours for 3 YRS NOW! I can't get rid of her and she doesn't want to get rid of me either. She calls every Jan 1st for the last 3 yrs to remind me about her son's 2nd,3rd and now 4th birthday cake. By Feb I have received 10 cake photos for one cake theme. By March, she calls crying about a story and she has to change the cake theme. By April I have received 50 emails from her and endless weekly calls. It is very frustrating dealing with a client like her but she has referred many GOOD customers to me who I get repeat business from. One of the most important things I have learned about sales from Mary Kay is her famous quote "Make Me Feel Important". For me, regardless of how frustrating that one (and one only thank God) client is, I always make her feel important and listen to her 101 cake changes. Hope you don't lose any hair dealing with this one but try to nip them in the bud if you see another one coming along. Trust me..I will! It really is not worth the stress of having to be running up and down costing 100 different cakes and taking 100 different calls.
Even if she has provided referrals, you don't need to keep letting her make changes. Just tell her when final payment is due, with a contract about the cake design and that no changes are to be made after contract is signed.
Put your foot down already! Tell her that final payment is due (insert date here) and that NO MORE changes are permitted after that date. Have it in writing and make her sign it and give her a copy.
One word: Contract.
It's too late to bring in one or enforce any rules with this order but for future orders set you limits in a contract and include when changes are acceptable and whether a fee would be incurred.
Others have given good advice. Good luck.
I do have a contract which stipulates that changes can be made up until the final payment has been received. I think that maybe for future orders, I will limit the amount of times an order can be changed.
fedra: good idea!
I've found that the more painful the customer is the more orders I get as a result so I hate to say this but if you want a boat load of orders resulting from this painful order, you're going to have to suck it up, put on your serenity underwear and a pair of boxing gloves - push your way through it, then be too busy when she calls again for another cake. But by all means get every little detail in writing because she WILL come back to bite you if it's not.
Some people have a hard time making up their mind when something costs a lot.
This is not unique to the cake business. You just have to put on your psychiatrist cap, after you get it in writing that no more changes are possible.
It sometimes helps to ask the customer what they are worried about. Then you reassure them that nobody else is going to have their cake design (which I bet is the problem here).