YAY! You did it! You started your very own cake business! Starting a business takes a lot of guts and hard work, and you deserve to clap for yourself. However, running a business also comes with its own unique challenges, particularly when it comes to dealing with customers. As a bakery owner, you’re most likely dealing with customers who have specific orders, and it’s easy to blur the lines between being helpful and accommodating and allowing people to take advantage of you. In this blog post, I’ll offer some tips on how to set clear boundaries with your customers to ensure your business runs smoothly and remains profitable!
Let’s dive in!
Tip #1- Be Clear from the Start
One of the most important things you can do is to set expectations from the start. Make sure that customers understand your policies, such as your payment terms, delivery and pick-up times, and any other rules that you have around cancellations or refunds. This can be done through your website, email communication or a contract they sign(this one I LOVE). The more you BLAST your policies everywhere, the more likely your clients will see them. Make it clear that these policies are in place to ensure that both you and your customers have a good experience. This makes it much easier to enforce your policies if and WHEN the situation arises.
Tip #2- Stay in Control
It’s easy to get carried away with wanting to please your customers, but sometimes it’s necessary to say NO. This means that you should have an assertive tone when communicating with customers. You can be friendly and casual with them but at the end of the day, you have to remain professional and unbiased. It’s nothing personal, it’s just business. Don’t be afraid to say “no” to unreasonable requests. Remember, customers who want your services will be willing to accept your terms to get them. And if they “threaten” to go elsewhere, then you probably don’t want their business anyway.
Tip #3- Payments
Payment policies can be uncomfortable to discuss because money is a taboo subject for a lot of people. But in this case you are exchanging a service for compensation; so discussing policies around payments, deposits, and balances are necessary. Make it clear that orders won't be processed until you receive full payment. Don’t extend payment deadlines or accept partial payments unless there is a valid reason or if it is apart of your unique policy. These rules are in place to protect both you and your customers. My payment policy in my cake business was 50% of the total balance due up front and the remainder of the balance needed to be paid off a week before the event. This allowed me to ensure that I received full payment for my time, effort, and talent and was able to purchase the necessary inventory in advance.
Tip #4-No Refunds & Cancellations Policy
Make it clear that there are no refunds or cancellations allowed after a certain time frame, especially if the order is a CUSTOM design or product. WHY? As a baker or custom maker, you only have so much capacity per week to fulfill orders. Once you hit that capacity, you turn away business. If a customer tries to cancel and expects a refund a week or days before the order is due, you’ve in turn lost out on potential business and money you could have made from another client. It’s your job as the business owner to explain that you have invested time and resources in making that specific product. There's a cost to making each product change for planning, supplies, and time, so you have to enforce your policy.
Tip #5-Communicate Effectively
Communication is essential in any business, and a cake business is no exception. Make sure that your phone and email lines are always available to answer customer questions and concerns. But NEVER give out your personal information. You don’t want customers texting you and blowing up your personal phone while you’re trying to work, relax, run errands, spend time with your family, etc. If you have to be unavailable in your business at certain times, make it clear how customers can get in touch with you and when they can expect a response. It’s essential that you respond to customer inquiries as soon as possible to avoid misunderstandings or feelings of ill-will. Customers expect prompt responses, especially when they're placing orders. Customers want to give you their money. Don’t make it harder than it has to be.
Setting boundaries with customers is essential to running a successful cake business. Remember that you're running a business, not a charity. Make it clear from the start of any communication or meetings what your policies for starting, finishing, and payment expectations are. Discuss in detail your refunds and cancellations policy. Commend yourself for wanting to create beautiful, pieces of art for your customers, but also know that enforcing boundaries will ensure that everyone has a positive experience. It's vital to communicate with customers when they have concerns or requirements, to ensure that every customer is satisfied customer and has a positive experience. The greater the experience the more likely you’ll have repeat customers and they’ll recommend you to their friends and family.