Just as cake decorating is a skill, effective communication and customer service in cake 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.
Often it's our attitude that helps us when we encounter a problem and have to deal with complains later. Am I right?
Remember that time when you were so upset with a product you purchased; yet when you go there how you complain 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. It's really very upsetting sometimes; isn't it? I know!!
Where do you think this sensitivity comes from? Often - the most important word 'PRICING'
Recently, I've been reading a lot of comments and post 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 handling it very unprofessionally too.
In my previous life
When I mean previous life I mean 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, our generosity and sometimes even our patience. We'd give!! Because that was what out 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 in Singapore Airlines!! That's how I began to understand what the company did and how they achieved it. Often you have to put yourself next, customer first.
So; my high standards of customer service having worked for over 10 years with Singapore Airlines has been ingrained. And often I will get a customer compliment me about it.
Effective communication and customer service in the cake business
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 cakes 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.
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 which 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 are unaware of the efforts that go into making it)
- Customer - Hi - I'm looking to order a cake for my daughters 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 simple 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 by your friend xxx. My son wants a cake. He wants a 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 friend referral.
- Customer - OK, Wow that is way beyond my budget. Can I just do the cake without 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 the figures.
Me - Yes, sure the price will be XXX
Customer - OK - how about we do only the bottom cake. 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 minutes 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 to the above scenarios.
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 like I did in scenario II but most other times; it's best to just let go.
Effective Communication and customer service (good customer service)
is 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.
But 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 the 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 more easy to get upset but we are also professional and just as we do everything in our power to make our cake professionally; 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 the least -I'd love to hear any experience you had with a customer that was beyond the ordinary. Was it a complain 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.