Everyday I read a post on Facebook by someone complaining about having to answer stupid questions from their customers. There is always a complaint about the customer not giving them all the information. Pretty much, all I hear is complaints about customers.
Many of today’s bakery owners want customers to call up, place the order precisely in the manner they should, give them free reign on the design and have a huge budget. Oh my. Well, I want a cure for cancer, but complaining and wishing doesn’t make it so.
There is an award that is given out each year for the person or act that most exemplifies the “that’s not my job” mentality. I’m probably about to anger many of you, but I have to tell you that many of you are guilty of the “it’s not my job” mindset. And you know what? It IS your job.
I wrote a blog early on about how you have to educate your customers on your procedures. I wrote another about how people don’t read instructions anymore. Taken together, those blogs tell you that you can write pages and pages of rules on your web site or Facebook page, but, in the end, you will have to actually TEACH the customer how to order. Customers use the wrong words for things. They order a full sheet cake when they mean a quarter sheet. They call layers tiers. They have absolutely no idea how many people a three tier cake serves.
I always told my brides that my questions were designed to help them know what they really needed. “You don’t order cake for a living”, I would say. “I do this everyday.” I was there to guide and educate them. The time I spent with them brought them back to me for birthdays and other celebrations.
I know that it is a pain to repeat yourself over and over. I did it for seventeen years of a very busy commercial bakery experience. Did I get tired of telling people what they could have read if they would have taken the time? Of course. I’m human. I got frustrated, irritated and sometimes angry, but I still did it. As time went by, I developed a huge group of regular customers who were very well trained in the Art of Ordering a Cake. I acted professionally and my business ran that way.
The more you run through the checklist for an order with your customers, the better you will be at eliciting the necessary information. You will get catch phrases that help. You will find a routine you can live with. You will get better and better at educating your customers and life will get a bit easier. New folks will always show up and you will have to start from scratch with them, but having a tried and true routine will make it easier.
People complain about doctors’ bedside manner. They say the doctor assumes they know what they are talking about. That the doctors are brusk. That the doctors don’t explain. I know a lot of doctors. I don’t think it is intentional. They forget that we don’t know everything they know. Bakers and decorators get brusk too. I had to catch myself many times from getting curt with people. I really had to watch my employees. They would get busy on a cake and answering a bunch of questions was just going to slow them down. I understood the frustration, but had to get them to take the time with the customers.
You have to become skilled in the Art of Order Taking. The better you are, the better your customers will be. Once you get a good routine, your stress level will go down and you can get back to the part of caking you enjoy. So, the next time the customer calls, remember that you CHOSE to do this for a living. You cannot run a business without customers. It is YOUR JOB to teach the Art of Placing a Cake Order. And you can do this!