How To Tactfully Deal With Strange Clients/requests/people, Etc

Business By Sweetnkind Updated 9 Apr 2014 , 4:07pm by morganchampagne

Sweetnkind Posted 4 Apr 2014 , 5:04pm
post #1 of 29

AI've come across numerous threads on experiences with difficult customers/strange requests, so I thought why not Start a thread on specific strategies to tactfully deal with such difficulties and still be able to maintain a good rep for our businesses.

I have a story to get things going. A few weeks ago I ran into a friend who insisted that we get together sometime so I can "teach her how I do all this baking stuff so she can do it too!" Talk about a bold statement!

Well, I'm quite proud of myself because without missing a beat I replied ,"that would be so great! You know people ask me all the time if I would teach them, and I guess it's high time I started teaching some classes. So when I do, I'll definitely let you know how to sign up." :)

The poor thing stopped, thought about it for a split second, and then awkwardly (but sweetly) replied "uh... Yea! Please let me know, I'd love to learn"

So what difficulties have you guys tactfully overcome?! Do tell!

28 replies
Gingerlocks Posted 4 Apr 2014 , 5:16pm
post #2 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sweetnkind 

I have a story to get things going. A few weeks ago I ran into a friend who insisted that we get together sometime so I can "teach her how I do all this baking stuff so she can do it too!" Talk about a bold statement!

Yes, because it will only take about 4 hours to learn this whole professional decorating malarkey anyway..

pastrypet Posted 4 Apr 2014 , 7:38pm
post #3 of 29

Quote:

Originally Posted by Gingerlocks 
 

Yes, because it will only take about 4 hours to learn this whole professional decorating malarkey anyway..

 

Heeheehee.

 

OP, have you seen the thread about what not to say to a baker?

http://cakecentral.com/t/751860/things-not-to-ask-say-to-a-baker

There are some doozies in there.

jenmat Posted 8 Apr 2014 , 5:34pm
post #4 of 29

I'm the queen of tactful replies to stupid questions, so feel free to PM or ask me and I can usually come up with a good way of telling someone where they should go and make them enjoy the ride. :)

 

Usually I begin with acknowledging their "issue"- while I understand that you are on a tight budget and cakes can be very expensive, I am sorry to say I can't meet your price. I'm sorry I couldn't be more helpful!

 

Basically if you show that you understand their feelings, or at least acknowledge them, you can usually soften the blow of whatever you have to convey. 

AZCouture Posted 8 Apr 2014 , 6:22pm
post #5 of 29

AOhhhh that's so cute, she thought you were just

Original message sent by jenmat

I'm the queen of tactful replies to stupid questions, so feel free to PM or ask me and I can usually come up with a good way of telling someone where they should go and make them enjoy the ride. :)

Basically if you show that you understand their feelings, or at least acknowledge them, you can usually soften the blow of whatever you have to convey. 

You know, for all the tutorials and DIY photos/threads/blog posts/Facebook topics out there, you never see anything about communicating with customers, or handling "issues". Not that there isn't advice out there, but real life examples, or role playing. Like literally, different people chiming in with their EXACT word for word replies and tactics.

That might be interesting to start a thread with a practice "inquiry" from someone that gets interesting, or tricky, and people can chime in with what they would say.

jenmat Posted 8 Apr 2014 , 6:43pm
post #6 of 29

Quote:

Originally Posted by AZCouture 

Ohhhh that's so cute, she thought you were just
You know, for all the tutorials and DIY photos/threads/blog posts/Facebook topics out there, you never see anything about communicating with customers, or handling "issues". Not that there isn't advice out there, but real life examples, or role playing. Like literally, different people chiming in with their EXACT word for word replies and tactics.

That might be interesting to start a thread with a practice "inquiry" from someone that gets interesting, or tricky, and people can chime in with what they would say.

Definitely agree with this. I do vent when someone has an issue that is now my issue, but I can usually word my actual reply in a professional way that still helps the customer feel validated. It's amazing how many times I've seen a person on CC get (bad) advice and then reply to a customer with something so terribly rude I can't believe they actually sent it. Venting is one thing, but good business is another. I would be curious to see different scenarios and how good business people who actually handle the situation. 

AZCouture Posted 8 Apr 2014 , 6:48pm
post #7 of 29

"Ohhhh that's so cute, she thought you were just" I have NO idea where that came from...lol!

AZCouture Posted 8 Apr 2014 , 6:52pm
post #8 of 29

Quote:

Originally Posted by jenmat 
 

Definitely agree with this. I do vent when someone has an issue that is now my issue, but I can usually word my actual reply in a professional way that still helps the customer feel validated. It's amazing how many times I've seen a person on CC get (bad) advice and then reply to a customer with something so terribly rude I can't believe they actually sent it. Venting is one thing, but good business is another. I would be curious to see different scenarios and how good business people who actually handle the situation. 

Oh my goodness, YES! I say it every once in awhile, but there are so MANY people who obviously don't see the difference between how we talk here when venting, and handling situations with the customer in real life. Nothing goes out of my email box that isn't as courteous and respectful as possible, no matter what happens. But I also do everything within my power not to attract the kind of customers who will ever become a problem in the first place! And that is so very key right there. No matter what, most of us are going to get a doozy at some point, doesn't matter how well you treat people, or how top notch your customer service is. But regularly having issues and problem clients? Might be more that they are just jerks period, and it might be a matter of how they are treated during and after the ordering process.

howsweet Posted 8 Apr 2014 , 7:27pm
post #9 of 29

A

Original message sent by Gingerlocks

Yes, because it will only take about 4 hours to learn this whole professional decorating malarkey anyway..

hahaha! :D

Original message sent by AZCouture

Ohhhh that's so cute, she thought you were just You know, for all the tutorials and DIY photos/threads/blog posts/Facebook topics out there, you never see anything about communicating with customers, or handling "issues". Not that there isn't advice out there, but real life examples, or role playing. Like literally, different people chiming in with their EXACT word for word replies and tactics.

That might be interesting to start a thread with a practice "inquiry" from someone that gets interesting, or tricky, and people can chime in with what they would say.

Good point, we usually share what we'd LIKE to say. ;)

MBalaska Posted 8 Apr 2014 , 7:31pm
post #10 of 29

Quote:

Originally Posted by Sweetnkind 
".......A few weeks ago I ran into a friend who insisted that we get together sometime so I can "teach her how I do all this baking stuff so she can do it too!" Talk about a bold statement!........"

 

Sweetnkind:  how about this answer.  Only because you said she was a friend (that you'd perhaps like to remain a friend) and not just an acquaintance.

 

 ""I'd love to see you learn to decorate professionally......Bring over one of your homemade hand decorated cakes someday so we can see what level you are at right now.  I can point out books, DVD's, and tutorials that will help you gain your skills.""

costumeczar Posted 8 Apr 2014 , 7:32pm
post #11 of 29

Oh my, I could write a novel with the weird and rude emails I've received. Now that I'm selling on Etsy I get an entirely new level of weird messages every day, too. They go beyond weird to "did you forget your brain when you got out of bed this morning?"

howsweet Posted 8 Apr 2014 , 7:34pm
post #12 of 29

AI had a customer calling literally in tears about her cake situation and how her daughter is on drugs and never ordered a cake for the grand kids this weekend. She seemed so nice and I felt so bad for her, so I agreed to do it. Then she didn't follow through. I have a feeling I'll hear back from her tomorrow and I will not take the order. What should I say? I just know she's going to be sobbing and very understanding that it's just too late which is going to be really tough.

It might be easier to just plan for the order, haha. I have never had anything like this happen. I have strict deadlines.

as you wish Posted 8 Apr 2014 , 7:49pm
post #13 of 29

ADon't you just hate when you break your own rules and it backfires on you? I have a delivery scheduled for this Friday and the customer contacted me to change it to pick-up. I don't like changes after things are set, but thought it couldn't really hurt so I gave her my address. She then changed her mind back to having me deliver. I now have myself worried that she has me delivering to a fake address half an hour from my house so that she and her band of thugs can burgul my house when they know I'm not there!

AZCouture Posted 8 Apr 2014 , 7:54pm
post #14 of 29

AOh good grief [@]asyouwish[/@], do you carry a firearm when you deliver your cakes? Sounds like some scary customers!

as you wish Posted 8 Apr 2014 , 7:56pm
post #15 of 29

ALol! I might have an over-active imagination! :)

costumeczar Posted 8 Apr 2014 , 7:57pm
post #16 of 29

Quote:

Originally Posted by as you wish 

Don't you just hate when you break your own rules and it backfires on you? I have a delivery scheduled for this Friday and the customer contacted me to change it to pick-up. I don't like changes after things are set, but thought it couldn't really hurt so I gave her my address. She then changed her mind back to having me deliver. I now have myself worried that she has me delivering to a fake address half an hour from my house so that she and her band of thugs can burgul my house when they know I'm not there!

That's what I would think too!

Gingerlocks Posted 8 Apr 2014 , 8:17pm
post #17 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by costumeczar 
 

Oh my, I could write a novel with the weird and rude emails I've received. Now that I'm selling on Etsy I get an entirely new level of weird messages every day, too. They go beyond weird to "did you forget your brain when you got out of bed this morning?"

Something about the anonymity of the Internet allows people to show their inner weirdo...I wonder if some of our customers ever look on here and think "those crazy cake ladies are at it again!" 8O

jenmat Posted 8 Apr 2014 , 9:10pm
post #18 of 29

Quote:

Originally Posted by AZCouture 
 

Oh my goodness, YES! I say it every once in awhile, but there are so MANY people who obviously don't see the difference between how we talk here when venting, and handling situations with the customer in real life. Nothing goes out of my email box that isn't as courteous and respectful as possible, no matter what happens. But I also do everything within my power not to attract the kind of customers who will ever become a problem in the first place! And that is so very key right there. No matter what, most of us are going to get a doozy at some point, doesn't matter how well you treat people, or how top notch your customer service is. But regularly having issues and problem clients? Might be more that they are just jerks period, and it might be a matter of how they are treated during and after the ordering process.

Vetting your customers, especially large order customers is part of this business. It's my responsibility to protect my business from people who could damage it. My cakes, for the majority of circumstances, go to customers who will treat them (and me!) politely and appreciatively. I always approach an email or phone call with a professional, but SLIGHTLY aloof manner which I hope conveys that I while I want their business, I don't NEED their business. That way it is easier to chase away the jerks. Not foolproof, as the crazy sometimes remains hidden for a while, but usually I can spot it. 

jenmat Posted 8 Apr 2014 , 9:14pm
post #19 of 29

Quote:

Originally Posted by howsweet 

I had a customer calling literally in tears about her cake situation and how her daughter is on drugs and never ordered a cake for the grand kids this weekend. She seemed so nice and I felt so bad for her, so I agreed to do it. Then she didn't follow through. I have a feeling I'll hear back from her tomorrow and I will not take the order. What should I say? I just know she's going to be sobbing and very understanding that it's just too late which is going to be really tough.

It might be easier to just plan for the order, haha. I have never had anything like this happen. I have strict deadlines.

Her emergency is not your problem. So will she be emailing you? Phone call? Text? 

"I am so sorry, but at this point it is simply too late to complete any order. I know it probably puts you in a bind, and I'm sorry to have to do that to you and the grandkids, but I hope that maybe next time we can make it happen!"

AZCouture Posted 8 Apr 2014 , 11:28pm
post #20 of 29

Quote:

Originally Posted by jenmat 
 

Vetting your customers, especially large order customers is part of this business. It's my responsibility to protect my business from people who could damage it. My cakes, for the majority of circumstances, go to customers who will treat them (and me!) politely and appreciatively. I always approach an email or phone call with a professional, but SLIGHTLY aloof manner which I hope conveys that I while I want their business, I don't NEED their business. That way it is easier to chase away the jerks. Not foolproof, as the crazy sometimes remains hidden for a while, but usually I can spot it. 

Yep. I've developed a sixth sense and can usually spot trouble from the first email. I think a lot of us have! :D

as you wish Posted 8 Apr 2014 , 11:34pm
post #21 of 29

A

Original message sent by AZCouture

Yep. I've developed a sixth sense and can usually spot trouble from the first email. I think a lot of us have! :D

Absolutely agree! I think it takes a while to learn to trust that "sixth sense" thing though. As with my potential burglarizing gang of thugs lady, I knew she was too flakey to be much fun right from the get-go, but I let my people-pleaser override my fligerdegibet sensor and took the order anyway.

MBalaska Posted 8 Apr 2014 , 11:36pm
post #22 of 29

Quote:

Originally Posted by as you wish 
"............. I now have myself worried that she has me delivering to a fake address half an hour from my house so that she and her band of thugs can burgul my house when they know I'm not there!

 

as you wish that is a very realistic and reasonable concern, as that is one of the methods used by those type of miscreant people.

It might be helpful to say politely............."Well Yes, there will be people at the house all day, but none of them will be able to help you with your cake.""  Trust your instincts. You may not be able to verbalize right now why your "spidey senses" gave you that feeling.

ugcjill Posted 9 Apr 2014 , 12:07am
post #23 of 29

AIt can be difficult to separate yourself and your emotions in a business like this, because the customer has their heart in the product, and often times we do, too.

I love my customers and only act in their best interest. Sometimes that means gently but firmly enforcing the policies I have made. These policies are in place to enable me to provide them the best possible service. Compromising leaves your business or yourself vulnerable to poorer quality or service, and that is in no one's best interest.

I quoted a cake yesterday and my potential client is nervous and wants a filler cake... I don't do those. I haven't heard back yet, I may lose the customer, but I won't have 25 out of 100 people wondering why their cake is different and writing my client out of their will.

I'll try to find my reply; but if I lose the client, maybe it's not the way to go. LOL

BeesKnees578 Posted 9 Apr 2014 , 1:05am
post #24 of 29

Quote:

Originally Posted by howsweet 

I had a customer calling literally in tears about her cake situation and how her daughter is on drugs and never ordered a cake for the grand kids this weekend. She seemed so nice and I felt so bad for her, so I agreed to do it. Then she didn't follow through. I have a feeling I'll hear back from her tomorrow and I will not take the order. What should I say? I just know she's going to be sobbing and very understanding that it's just too late which is going to be really tough.

It might be easier to just plan for the order, haha. I have never had anything like this happen. I have strict deadlines.

For last minute orders, I am going to start including in bold lettering a "need-to-know-by-xx" or I will not be able to take the order clause.  Followed by a "payment is required in full.  Immediately.  Cash by the end of the day, please."  Period.

Natka81 Posted 9 Apr 2014 , 1:48am
post #25 of 29

I am sorry, what is a filler cake?

ugcjill Posted 9 Apr 2014 , 2:08am
post #26 of 29

A

Original message sent by Natka81

I am sorry, what is a filler cake?

Ha! Don't be sorry, I tried to google it and came up with nothing. I think it's a regional term? She wants a very cheap cake on the side that would make a couple extra servings in case they run out. I've said "filler cake" so many times in the last few days, I think I accidentally adopted the phrase.

Natka81 Posted 9 Apr 2014 , 2:25am
post #27 of 29

Thanks, ugcjill, I am new here, and I am not American, but I have learned a lot of terms and definition about cakes sence registered here for couple of month.

howsweet Posted 9 Apr 2014 , 3:57pm
post #28 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by jenmat 
 

Her emergency is not your problem. So will she be emailing you? Phone call? Text? 

"I am so sorry, but at this point it is simply too late to complete any order. I know it probably puts you in a bind, and I'm sorry to have to do that to you and the grandkids, but I hope that maybe next time we can make it happen!"

Thanks!

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by BeesKnees578 
 

For last minute orders, I am going to start including in bold lettering a "need-to-know-by-xx" or I will not be able to take the order clause.  Followed by a "payment is required in full.  Immediately.  Cash by the end of the day, please."  Period.

Yes, and I had given them a vague deadline instead of a specific one. They finally called back yesterday afternoon and I gave them a deadline of 9 this morning to get the order in and they called and got it in. (I take a credit card payment over the phone) I picked up supplies yesterday making sure I got enough in case they ordered. I limited her to simple flavors.

 

This is just so atypical for me, but these people seemed so nice. I was put off that her mother went into all that personal stuff, but I don't think she as making it up and it feels good to do something nice for some folks in a bad situation. They all seemed like really sweet people.

 

I'm sorry, this is not setting a good example for newbies. Newbies, this is the first time I've done anything like this in at least 2 years - it's the exception and not the rule!

morganchampagne Posted 9 Apr 2014 , 4:07pm
post #29 of 29

ALike someone said, you develop a 6th sense. I can really see trouble coming, and every time I take it anyway I regretted it. I used to do this a lot in the beginning because I wanted the money so bad. After my third time of ignoring my sense that was it. Now if I spot trouble I'm "booked".

I have to say I haven't had as much trouble as some of you had. I typically just have friends bothering me asking if they can help or watch. I've said no enough times now I think they get it lol

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