Just as your talents (cake decorating for me) are a skill, effective communication and customer service in the business with customers is a skill. Talking to customers is what helps you get or lose business. Right? It's what helps keep your customers coming back even when they do not order a cake from you.
Of course, I am a professional cake decorator, so I am using my cake business as an example to make my point. But, of course, this would be true for almost any business that involves interaction with customers.
Customer service is not a department it's an attitude.
Often it's our attitude that helps us when we encounter a problem and have to deal with complaints later. Am I right?
Remember that time when you were so upset with a product you purchased; yet when you got there how your complaint is mostly dependent on the way they treated you?
If they were really nice; you tend to be more patient and give them the benefit of setting things right; if not, you get more upset. Yeah? So basically it depends on effective communication and customer service; right?
It's just cake!
Use the sentence "It's just cake" to a cake decorator and she will get very sensitive, be emotionally worked up and exercise all her energy to explain in detail how it's not just cake.
I am a cake decorator, so believe me I know the feeling too. I too get upset! I too feel like I want to let the customer know that there is a lot more than just INGREDIENTS to baking the cake.
Where do you think this sensitivity comes from? Often - the most important word 'pricing'
Recently, I've been reading a lot of comments and posts on Facebook groups where cake decorators are finding ways to get back at the customer in an attempt to show the customer 'It's not just cake'. Honestly, some handle it very unprofessionally too.
Before I became a professional cake decorator; I worked for Singapore Airlines. Now those of you that know Singapore Airlines know that they are one of the tops if not the Best Airline in the world.
As an employee, when I just started off - the policy " the customer is always right" would always upset me. I've been a victim of that myself so It would bother me that they would NEVER ever make the customer lose face. We tried to accommodate as much as we could even when we knew the customer was taking advantage of our kindness, generosity, and sometimes even our patience. Because that was what our company policy was - the customer is the most important, no matter what.
During the time I was also studying, I did my second degree and MBA. And often the instructors would discuss the outstanding qualities of customer service at Singapore Airlines!! That's how I began to understand what the company did and how it achieved it. Often you have to put yourself next, the customer first.
So; my high standards of customer service having worked for over 10 years with Singapore Airlines have been ingrained. And often I will get my customer compliments me about it.
Effective communication and customer service
Here's my take on this matter when it comes to effective communication and customer service with customers
Just like any business; cake decorating also has to be conducted professionally. Once you decide to do this as a business; you are not a mom baking cake anymore, you are a professional person and you have to conduct yourself professionally.
No matter how rude you think the customer is, you must remember that the customer speaks for himself as an individual, not for all customers, you, on the other hand, speak for your business. What you say is perceived as you speaking on behalf of your business.
Your customer does't care how much you know until they know how much you careDaman Richards
There are different types of customers that will come to order a cake
- Some have no clue what they want,
- Some will want everything but can't afford anything,
- Some will want everything but are unaware of the efforts that go into making it. (because they have never decorated a cake)
- Some will know exactly what they want and are willing to pay for it.
Here are three scenarios that contribute to most of the cake inquiries I usually get. Read them and think of what you would say or should have said to the customer.
- What would your answer be?
- You may have a very different take on this topic and that's ok?
- I'd love to hear about it in the comments below.
Scenario 1 (low-budget scenario)
- Customer - Hi Veena, I want a Basketball cake for my son on the 13th. Chocolate cake with Chocolate Buttercream. Can you make it on the board that looks like a basketball court?
Me - yes, of course, would be happy to. The price is XXX and it serves 24.
Customer - No reply!
Me - Hi do you still need the cake?
Customer - No, I think the price is too high, Thanks
Me - I understand, perhaps another time. Thank you so much for your inquiry.
A very Happy Birthday to your son.
Scenario II (wants everything but is unaware of the efforts that go into making it)
- Customer - Hi - I'm looking to order a cake for my daughter's birthday. She's four and wants a Princess Castle. Can you tell me how much it will cost?
- Me - Yes, of course, would be happy to make a Princess Castle for your daughter. Let me get more details from you and we can discuss the pricing.
- Customer - Cake for 50 persons, Vanilla cake with Oreo cookie filling, and Vanilla Buttercream. Fondant decorated with a Sugar Princess, a little garden, a flower garland suspended over the door, blah blah blah,.....
- Me - Absolutely - it's all possible and my dates are available. The price for the castle is XXXX
- Customer - wow.. so much? don't you think it's a bit too much for just a cake?
Me - Oh no, that's not for the cake.
Baking the cake is fairly simple, easy, and inexpensive.
What happens with the baked cake after that - adds to the cost and workmanship.
Buttercream, fondant, stacking, carving that simply baked cake into a castle shape, towers turrets, the sugar princess itself will take a few hours, not to mention sugar garland and gardens. I have to add my skills and time which will be around 15 to 20 hours over a couple of days.
Scenario III (want everything but can't afford anything)
- Customer - Hi Veena, I was referred to you by your friend xxx. My son wants a cake. He wants two tiers - the bottom cake inspired by his Ninja Lego. With the Ninja Sword and a Nina flying in the air.
A top cake inspired by his Superman theme. He wants Spiderman sugar figure on the cake and in action perhaps with a leg kicking or so. I need the cake this weekend (4 days) serving 38. How much will it cost? Do I get a discount because your friend referred me?
- Me - Yes, certainly would be happy to make your cake. However, it is short notice so we will need to expedite the order process so I can work on the figures.
My basic pricing starts at XXX plus all the above to be included. All cakes are charged depending on the amount of workmanship required. So the Price of your cake will be XXX including a 5% discount for a friend referral.
- Customer - OK, Wow that is way beyond my budget. Can I just do the cake without a Spiderman figure and only one figure - will that make it cheaper?
Me - Yes, sure - the price is XXX
Customer - OK How about if we remove both figures?
Me - Yes, sure the price will be XXX
Customer - OK - how about we do only the bottom cake? What can you do to reduce the price of my cake?
Me - The basic price of my cake starts at xxx - the rest is all added or subtracted after that...
Customer - I see, I think I will pass on the cake this time, we will think about it perhaps on another occasion.
Me - Definitely, thank you so much for your inquiry.
The conclusion -
What do you think of the above three scenarios?
- What would you have said and how would you have reacted? These are just to give you an idea of how frustrating customer inquiries can be. It is very easy to go off course and explain to people why you charge so much for your cake.
- But ask yourself - is it worth it? Will it get you the order? Sometimes you do need to educate a customer as I did in scenario II but most other times; it's best to just let go.
Effective Communication and customer service (good customer service) are key to any business and it is important to understand that even if you do not get the order; that person will go out and talk about you should your business come up in a conversation.
People will forget what you said;
People will forget what you did;
People will never forget how you made them feel.
Hopefully, that person will say something similar to
Yes, I was supposed to order a cake for my son's birthday which did not work out but she sounded really nice and professional. Her work is gorgeous. Someday hope to order from her.
Oh, I called her for a cake and things got ugly by the end of the discussion. She's really expensive and when I asked her to lower the price she gave me all this crap about how much time she puts into her cake!
(let's not forget - when people complain they usually exaggerate, don't they?)
Professional mom vs. emotional mom
Last, be not least, most cake decorators are moms. We are women of the heart, juggling between home, kids, and business.
It's easy to get emotional and even easier to get upset but we are also professional and just as we do everything in our power to make our cake professional; let's strive to be professional when it comes to effective communication and customer service too!
Let's make cake decorating a business run by professional moms while still maintaining that softness where it matters most.
Last but not least -I'd love to hear about any experience you had with a customer that was beyond the ordinary. Was it a complaint that really got to you? Was it a cake order that took its toll? I love stories and, oh boy you could spend an evening with me just laughing at my cake stories.
Thank you for your brilliant and informative article.
I'm wondering how do you advise customer's to store their cakes? I'm concerned about buttercream finished cakes with intricate fondant decorations. I'm worried that if the customer stores it in a damp fridge the fondant decorations will break.
Every cake is different Eva. Cakes with perishable fillings and frosting need the fridge so you have to ensure you use decorations that can handle the fridge. If not, advise the customer accordingly. Cakes with flowers and other items that need to be kept outside should not be made with perishable frosting.
So your job as a cake decorator is starts - first with making sure you know what works and does not work together.
Plan well, advise the customer, and give options.
People will listen to you if you give them options that are justified.
Hope this helps.
It would be nice to have effective communication. That is something I would want if I were ordering a wedding cake. Then I would know they are doing exactly what I want.
Thank you, Dave. Yes, communication is very very important
Thank you for this wonderful article. This morning I have been in some Facebook groups talking about communication and It really was sad to see how people have no clue what and how to speak. Thanks for setting me on the right track again.
Thank you, Ravi. So happy you found this article useful. I know what you mean. Have a great day.
Thank you for sharing your idea. great information.
Thank you !! Happy you found it useful.
We have a small home bakery, my daughter is the cake artist and i deal with the customers. We recently had a Bride cake was a very simple 2 tier nautical cake with Gumpaste anchor and flowers. Our policy is 100.00 to book the spot and cake must be paid for in full 14 working days before the due date. The 100 was paid and i kept reminding the bride as time went by that the balance needed to be paid but to no avail. The afternoon before the wedding i called the bride to alert her that we had not received the payment in spite of weekly reminders and that we would have no choice other than to cancel. Upon hearing this she sent the money over in half hour. We delivered the cake the next day by lunch time, it looked lovely although we really had to rush and the Anchor needed more time to dry. The following week the bride left a totally nasty note on our FB page saying that we hounded her for the money and that because her cake was on a simply 2 tier cake and not a 5 tier cake we did not treat them as we would had it been big money. We deleted the comment and never replied, but i would like too so she understands that there is a lot of work that goes into making a wedding cake and in fact had she pulled that stunt on any other company they would have cancelled and left her high and dry. We did not do that. My daughter says to leave it alone as the bride is totally clueless and nothing i say will change her mind. What do you suggest?
Hi Jan.. sorry to hear this. It’s true that brides do not understand the amount of time and effort that goes into the cake. And they are so busy with organizing and payments and time management is an understatement.
Perhaps try and add a more strick procedure in place that says - no later than two weeks before for final payment - and then a notice of cancellation.. A Day is too last minute reminder for both you and the bride which is why she presumed the cake was made in haste and did not receive the attention it deserved.