Most of us in the wedding industry are soloprenuers or have only a few staff, which makes how we personally handle customer service for our business so very important. And, when it comes to customer service, my opinion is it should be a combination of both personal and business… meaning that you need to have policies that are communicated and that apply most of the time, yet you understand that policies do not cover every situation. For example, in my contract it says I require a retainer fee at the time of booking and the retainer fee is non-refundable should the couple decide to cancel for any reason. Does that mean I will never refund a retainer fee? Of course not.
I had a couple recently who met with me and later that same day signed the contract and paid the retainer fee. I was definitely excited to work with them, so loved that they booked me so quickly after our meeting! The next day, they contacted me and wanted to cancel because they had thought more about it and realized that while they were excited to work with me for all sorts of reasons, in the end she was worried that I wouldn’t be the right fit for them (she wanted a more religious ceremony). They even said that they understood they would lose their retainer fee but wanted to cancel anyway. However, I felt that it was the right thing to give it back, especially as it had only been a day and therefore hadn’t yet turned away any other business for their wedding day, nor had I don’t too much additional work on their wedding yet (other than sent them their first homework assignment and my normal booking admin tasks). I also have had a few cases where a couple canceled months after they signed the contract and they wanted their retainer fee back, even after I explained to them why I charge a retainer (lost opportunity, time I already spent working for them, etc.), and reminded them of the section in the contract that they signed which explains that. In some of these cases, I stuck with keeping the retainer fee, while in others I did refund it. Although in these cases, I did not have to, or even want to, refund the retainer fee, I did so because the potential outcomes of not returning the retainer fee in those circumstances were not worth it for my business reputation, or were not what my heart was saying was right.
Although most customer service scenarios don’t truly have a right or wrong response, so you need to evaluate each one for yourself and your own business, here are some tips I can give you –
1) When evaluating a customer service scenario, ask yourself some questions:
a) Is it possible that I am misinterpreting what I am hearing or being asked? For example, just because someone asks for a discount doesn’t mean they don’t value your services. (I promise you, this is a hard one for me, as I take that question/request so personally, I admit.)
b) Is what is being asked against the law and/or your core principles? You need to be genuine in your business and, you are in your own business at least partially so you can control what you do. Oh, and as I always say, I wouldn’t do well in prison. 😉
c) Is this one of those times that you are going to take a stand? It is absolutely fine to take a stand if you believe you are right… just understand and be prepared for all the potential consequences.
2) I sometimes use the, “don’t say no immediately” approach. This is where if a couple asks for something that is not possible (or likely not possible), you say something like, “I don’t think that is possible, but let me check and get back to you.” It is a partial no but gives the impression that you are not just dismissing it without thinking/checking further.
3) Don’t overreact. Think about what was said or is being asked, then ask any questions needed to clarify, then think about your response, then take into consideration all possible outcomes, and then respond politely.
4) Apologize. Of course, if you did do something wrong, admit it and correct it in whatever way possible.
Just remember, the experiences a couple has with you throughout the process, not just on their wedding day, shapes their opinion of your business and thus their reviews and referrals. And this goes double for any other vendor they are working with who might hear about how you handled it, affecting their view about you related to future events.