It IS Your Job

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!



12 thoughts on “It IS Your Job

  1. Yes, I agree sometimes it is a pain to explain that tiers are not layers or a three tier cake can serve as many as you want it to serve depending on the size of each cake. I start every order how many do you need to serve? The biggest problem I have is what’s this cost and send she sent me a picture. No other details, and you have many questions going back to them. After two emails and finding out she needs to serve 50. They write back what does it cost? She is sending me a picture of a fondant covered cake with a extra large gumpaste flower arrangement as topper that will serve 200, when she only needs to serve 50. How do you answer that one.

    • I was able to bypass a lot of that because I had my brochures and pricing online. It told them how many people various sizes served. If they still called clueless, I patiently explained that they only needed a ten inch cake, for example, for their party. My tiered cakes started at a minimum of $250, so people automatically had to decide if they wanted to go for that or for what they really needed.

  2. After I read several FB complaints in the last month about this subject, you wrote the exact words I was thinking…”It is your job” as a professional cake decorator. One example of educating the customer is when they order pink and purple flowers, when they really want hot pink and lavendar.

  3. Another well written article. I am not a professional hair stylist and I have to explain what I want when I get my hair cut. Luckily my hair stylist leads me and guides me by asking the right questions that help her get her job done correctly so that we are both satisfied. I too, must take my customers and ask them the guiding questions and help them so that I can get my job done in a manner that satisfies us both and keeps them coming back.

  4. I’ve learned to quiz customers – just like you stated, because it is my job. I don’t read minds and I want to make sure they get the cake they expect. Ocassionally, people have told me “you’re the professional” or “you do this all the time, I trust you”. I appreciate those comments.
    I find one of the most frustrating aspects to deal with is colors. I’ve had brides bring in bridesmaids shoes or dresses and expected me to commit the color to memory, so that I can reproduce it on the cake in 2 or 3 weeks. I patiently tell them to get a piece of ribbon, a fabric swatch or go to the paint store for a color card. Some people say the color is “coral”, I ask them to please bring in a color sample because what I consider “coral” may be more pink or orange than their coral.
    Dealing with customers is the most challenging aspect of this job!!

  5. Thank you for telling it like it is and not how someone thinks it should be. I appreciate your opinion on so many subjects, I unfortunately don’t always know how say things without sounding like the “Wicked Witch of the West ” or I will simply blurt out that “Its only common sense”. Thank you for taking the time to help others to see things in a helpful manner.

  6. I think, too, that it’s people being afraid to take the wheel away from the customer who may be driving crazily in the “I want a cake like I see on TV for the price that I see in the grocery store” lane. No need to jerk it away or jump out immediately. Gently assume control and educate them. It’s a very satisfying experience, really. I recently had a request for a stacked cake to serve several hundred. I’m a home baker [under OH cottage laws] and like it or not, that creates certain limitations in size & personal comfort zone for baking, storage, & transportation. I explained this–actually one line of an e-mail was, “Because of equipment limitations, I really can’t work with cakes larger than 14″ round. Could we do a smaller tiered cake and then supplement with kitchen cakes or cupcakes?” The client loved the idea. Had she said no, I’d have turned down the order because I can’t enlarge my oven or freezer just for one cake. The baker has the right to be comfortable with the order, too, but that should come about only when the baker feels that the client has been fully informed– and informing the client is part of the baker’s job.

  7. I too love the timing of this blog. It is spot on, as usual. I can’t begin to count the number of people that come into the bakery and show you a picture and say….. how much for this cake? I get frustrated trying to answer the same things over and over, but the bottom line is…. It’s My JOB!! I’ll try to remember that when the next person comes in! 🙂

  8. Instead of slamming customers for being cheap, try to find ways to make their order affordable without undercutting your competition. Frankly, I could not afford to buy my own cakes! So, looking down my pointy nose at customers who need to work within a budget is shameful. They don’t make cakes for a living and their only points of reference are, box mix, Kroger sheet cakes, and “Cake Boss”. No wonder their perspective is off. Our job is to show them what can be done for the money they are able to spend. It is up to them if they wish to buy from us. This does not mean giving away a $2000 cake for $50 bucks. Educate your customer. Do good work and show them that you care about them. Chances are you will get a good order. Focus your marketing efforts on those who CAN afford to buy what you do best. (Stepping away from the soapbox now…)

  9. My greatest fear is becoming one of those jaded cake ladies who have seen it all and are constantly irritated by those who are their bread and butter. Treat your customers as you would like to be treated!

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