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Customer complaints in the Wedding Industry – a challenging time for us all
When a wedding client or customer complains, it's usually because they believe they have a good reason or genuine concern. Their purchase or customer experience may not for whatever reason have met their expectation.
Of course, no one likes to deal with complaints or with difficult customers but complaints are a factor of being in business. It’s best to be prepared and ready to deal with them in the most appropriate and professional way.
To help you, we have some great tips thanks to Heather Stanford of Stanford Gould, the legal “fairy godmother” of the UK Wedding Industry.
Over the last 6 months of peak season, I’ve had a number of customers who have asked me to help in replying to some challenges they have received from customers in their wedding businesses. Requests for my help have come from venues, planners, cake bakers and florists, to name a few – a real cross section. But there have been themes emerging in these complaints. If you have been on the end of a customer complaint recently – listen up for some top tips.
I’m sad to say that customer complaint is on the rise, and I’m even sadder to say that some of that is fuelled by the easy access to a few ‘consumer’ style Facebook groups. We know there are some poor service deliverers and scammers in the industry, but hopefully they are few and far between. And sometimes stuff just goes wrong, no matter how hard you try. But just as wedding suppliers have all sorts of FB groups to join and share stories, recommendations and best practice, so do brides and grooms. And ONE of the things such groups can discuss is how you challenge a wedding supplier’s T and C’s and (… put brutally) how you can recover some of the money you spent on your wedding, post event.
This can range from anecdotal evidence of what worked for one couple, with a recommendation to give the same a go – to actual template letters or emails that you can use to raise questions about fees, your insured risks and your delivery.
Common challenges include:
Deposits – Are they too large? Are they justifiable or excessive? Are they refundable – even if your Terms are very clear about them not being so? Are they in line with consumer regulations and include a cooling off period – even though your delivery may not be covered by the requirement for this (Please note NOT every service to a consumer needs this….)?
General advice is to set out in your client contract or T and C’s why you a take a deposit – to save the date, to get the work underway. Get proper legal advice about whether the service you give, or the goods you sell, need a contractual cooling off period – and by this I do NOT mean ask your FB group membership. There’s a lot of misinformation out there!
Alleged poor service and therefore refunds demanded – When you know that your couple had the best of days, and that you provided exactly what they requested and wanted – why do they complain after the fact? Some suppliers will want to avoid any sort of dispute, maybe they know there’s some cause for complaint, but more probably and more importantly a bad social media review may follow. So, do you offer some money back to avoid this. Is your client contract clear about the limits of your liability? Are you insured? Do you have evidence of the quality of what you sold or provided to them?
A bad Facebook review may be a big stick to wave, but unfortunately, they do happen and sometimes from customers who had no cause to complain. My advice? Don’t sweat the bad review too much if there’s no substance to it – and don’t let them hold you to ransom for one. Just be clear, be firm, trust in your contract (assuming its robust and has been recently reviewed?) and concentrate on getting more good reviews to cancel out the odd one that’s nothing but a bullying tactic.
If you have genuinely messed up – be brave and face the music. Check your insurance, and don’t bury your head in the sand.
Otherwise, answer it, if you must, direct, or on social media, in a calm and measured way, being factual and minimal. Get someone close to you, a trusted industry person, to review it for some objectivity. Don’t get dragged into an online slanging match. Don’t expect the social media platforms to be terribly helpful in taking it down. So do the thing you can control: Move on, and get some new better reviews on your page, and hence shove it down the list, where it belongs.
If you need any help in dealing with a dispute – you can always contact me for an initial steer or advice on how to manage it. Commercial Dispute Resolution (that’s fall outs for businesses) was my day job for nearly 20 years before I became the Legal Fairy Godmother – so I’m pretty good with a pointer or two.
Make sure however you are on solid ground with a good set of T and Cs – have a nosey here to see if we can help you with that and remember we have all been there with an unhappy customer. There’s plenty of help and advice around you, if you ask.
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