I asked once, “What’s the worst thing a customer can say to you as a cake maker?” and the responses I got were overwhelming – over 600 comments on just that one post!
The thing is, all those comments were repetitive pain points. It was a great, fun exercise in realising that we’re not alone in constantly feeling frustrated when we deal with our clients. I actually didn’t expect so many of you to end up saying the same things. And it’s happening all over the world.
What I want you all to remember though is that at the end of the day, we are business owners. It’s great to vent your frustrations but, you have to look at things from a business point of view. If you’re like me, you started out as a hobby baker and as such, it’s easy to take things personally. However, when we allow our emotions to get in the way, we’re really only making things harder for ourselves and in turn, not helping the customer out in the end.
Here are my top four bits of advice as a hobby baker turned business owner in addressing customer pain points:
1. Don’t Take It Personally
As most of you know, I started out baking from home. It was something that I really enjoyed, and my business came from that hobby. The problem with turning your hobby into a business is that sometimes, you can pour too much emotion into everything that you do.
I know for myself, I poured my heart and soul, blood, sweat, and tears into making every cake. And that’s great. It’s what keeps you passionate about what you’re doing. But, because of that level of emotion, a question or comment from a client can quickly become ‘frustrating’.
Your gut reaction might be something like, how dare they?! How dare they ask me to make a cake for tomorrow – don’t they know how long it takes? Or how dare they ask me for a discount! Don’t they know I’m barely making minimum wage?
The truth is, they don’t know. That’s why they asked in the first place, isn’t it? So, try not to take it personally.
Try to realise that no one out there is trying to offend you on purpose. They ask these questions because they don’t know the answer. Therefore, it’s our job to let them know. When a customer asks me questions that may come across as ignorant, I take a deep breath, and seize the opportunity to educate them.
As soon as I stopped taking things personally, the frustration also stopped. Well, most of the frustration. Sometimes, I still need a quick venting session before moving on. But, I realised that it’s not a personal attack on my value and my work. It’s just a lack of information somewhere.
Which brings me to my next tip…
2. Inform the Uninformed
If the problem is because they don’t know, then the solution is to let them know. Inform the uninformed.
As modern bakers, we are still new to the field. Traditionally, there are bakeries and there are wedding cake makers. Bakeries can do all sorts of things and they turn out a huge amount of cakes and pastries every day. You can absolutely walk into a bakery and ask for a cake for the next day because they have a catalogue of cakes that they make in bulk. When you need a wedding cake, typically there’s a studio space where you can do tastings and consultations. But us modern bakers are quite the hybrid breed, and people just don’t know enough about what we are and how we do things just yet.
So, look at every question as an opportunity to educate people. Don’t condescend or dismiss questions because they annoy you. Make all of your information available upfront.
3. Create an Info Pack
If you’re serious about your cake business, then I highly recommend that you have a website where you can house all of your information. That’s number one, for sure. But you can’t just wave a magic wand and make a website happen. If it’s not on the cards for you right now, I suggest at least having an info pack in a PDF format which you can send when someone enquires about a cake.
A website or info pack should have all the information about you and how you run your business. This should answer all the preliminary questions that potential clients might have. It should include both what your business is about and what your business is NOT about, your design process, your ordering process, your offerings, your starting prices, required timeframe for ordering, deposit and payment terms, serving options, and more. Literally anything you can think of that customers would ask frequently should be answered on your website and or in your info pack. You don’t want to be wasting so much time writing repetitive emails and working for free.
I’m working on creating a template to help make the process easier for you, so stay tuned. If you don’t want to miss out when we launch this, join our mailing list by entering your email in the below form. We’ll notify you as soon as we have news about this.
4. Have a Cake Care Card
A website and an Info Pack is great to help inform your customers at the beginning. But what about all the crucial information they need to know at the end, when the cake leaves your hands? Things like cake storage, transportation and serving? I strongly recommend that you hand out a Cake Care card with every cake. A cake care card should include information on:
- How to store the cake correctly
- How to transport the cake
- How to cut and serve the cake
No time to create one? We’ve got editable templates ready to go for you!
Help your clients understand how to care for their cake with our downloadable and editable Cake Care & Cutting Guide templates. We’ve done all the hard work for you! All you need is 10 minutes to fill in your business details, pick the colour you want, insert a couple of images and save the file!
But what about other questions and comments that can’t be resolved through a website?
Obviously, things will come up when you’re dealing with clients that can’t be easily resolved through a website or info pack. Sometimes, things happen regardless of how much information you make available aka people don’t read. Here are some other common concerns that modern bakers frequently deal with:
Customers asking for progress photos
Honestly, just say no. There’s nothing wrong with saying no when you don’t have the ability to manage extra things outside of your normal process. And even if you can manage, I don’t recommend sending clients progress photos. Don’t be afraid to set your boundaries, and inform clients of such. A simple ‘unfortunately, we do not provide progress photos however, would be more than happy to send you the professional photos of the finished cake’ would suffice.
Asking for the rest of the money after the initial deposit
Talking about money and asking for money is always so awkward. Which is crazy because we’re running a business but it’s the truth. The deadline for final payment should be something in your info pack. If a customer asks or tries to negotiate the final payment, you can just refer them back to the info pack that they received before the whole cake design process started. You should also have this as a term in your contract which the customer has to sign prior to any work being done.
I have found that it’s easiest when the 50% deposit is non-refundable and made at the contract signing and the final payment is made at least two weeks before the delivery date. This way, their spot is held in your calendar with the initial deposit and then two weeks before the pickup date, you have the funds secured prior to starting work on the order.
Customers that send texts, DMs, or WhatsApp messages
Always remember that this is YOUR business. You dictate the process in which you handle customer enquiries including which communication channel you use. My suggestion – and I highly recommend this – is to communicate via email and email only. It’s fine to receive enquiries through other means but always direct them back to your email. This way you’re not chasing down enquiries from all over the place; they’ll all be focused mainly in one area.
Do not allow customers to text you on your personal phone. That’s how it can become personal, especially if the texts are coming through outside of your normal business hours. You have to create and maintain boundaries with your clients. If you receive a text outside of your business hours, a simple “Thank you for your enquiry. If you have further questions, please direct them to my email and I will respond within 24 hours.” would suffice. Hold your boundaries.
Customers that don’t handle the cake correctly after pick up then blame you when disaster strikes
Honestly, the best thing you can do is to put everything in writing. Build a wall of written words to protect you. We all know nobody listens, like really listens. And at the end of the day, if you don’t have things in writing, you don’t have proof that the customer has been advised. So make sure you hand out a Cake Care Card with every cake, so that your care instructions are clear. Between this, a website, an Info Pack and a contract, you should be pretty well-covered.
To sum it up, if there is only one piece of advice I want you to take away from today, it is to not take anything personally. Look at things objectively, and take every ‘frustrating’ question or comment as an opportunity to educate.
Did I cover the majority of your common pain points from uniformed clients? Let me know in the comments if there’s anything else that you need help dealing with.
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