Do you guys who do this smaller scale have a certain way to answer your phones?
Meaning...ok yesterday got a call from a nice mom who wanted a birthday cake for her twins. However I guess she didn't realize I'm more of a "custom order" small scale thing (although it is on my website) and she wanted the cake for this Friday. She just sort of launched right into what she wanted without really asking first about availability.
Its hard to decide when to cut the customer off without sounding rude! Do I let them waste their breath explaining their entire cake before telling them "Sorry, I'm booked for that date" or do you cut them off immediately? (Also sounding rude)
In this case she asked me if I was familiar with a certain character and I took the pause to say "Hmm no I'm sorry I'm not, but I hate to say I am completely booked this week and then due to surgery can take no more orders until January."
I often have calls where I have to say "I'm sorry, cakes are usually booked two weeks or more in advance."
Is there any way I can say something up front? I usually try to say "What date are you asking about?" first, but sometimes the customer doesn't give me a chance to say much.
I always feel bad cutting someone off but hey, if I can't take their order.....
On my website I have a required lead time for wedding cakes, usually 2 months at least and party cakes 3 weeks.
During a phone call, which rarely happens since I work primarily through email and only take calls after they have hired me (I would be on the phone all day with just inquiries if I didn't do that), I'll just sort of butt in and say "thank you so much for considering me, but unfortunately I am not available." Then I let them know there's a 3-week lead time for a cake since we do specialty items and such.
I don't tell them why or anything...but last minute orders just don't work for me. I want to hang out with my friends/go out and socialize/ date, if I take last minute orders...I can't do that.
An actual phone call, from not too long ago:
Caller: Do you do birthday cakes?
Debi: Sure do!
Caller: Good. I need one today and it needs to say......
Debi: Whoa whoa whoa! It doesnt' work that way. I do custom ordered cakes only. I dont' have any sitting around in the hopes that someone will come by and buy them.
Caller: So you couldn't get one done by 4:30?
(note: this call was at noon)
Debi: Even if I didn't have 2 wedding cakes, 300 cookies and 150 chocolate shells that needed hand painted on the schedule today, no I couldn't do it today. You'll probably just need to go to walmart or kroger.
Caller: Is there anyplace else besides those two you might recommend?
Debi: No ... if you're looking for a last minute cake, that's pretty much where you need to go. Thanks for checking with us, though!
My business is much like yours. I work at home on a bake-to-order basis. I clearly state all of this in my website and also indicate that I need 48 hours notice for a standard one-tier cake. I do frequently get calls for a cake for the next day, which I must turn down. I try early on in the conversation to determine when a cake is needed. Unfortunately, it does sometimes mean politely directing the conversation in the direction that I need it to go (that's a nice way of saying I butt in).
Not everyone finds me through my website, and even those who do often fail to read the information on placing an order. So you are probably doing everything right. As long as you use a polite tone on the phone to get the information you need upfront, I don't think anyone thinks you are being rude.
Indy, you crack me up. LOL. I hope I'm always on your good side! haha.
and why people think its ok to call at 9pm - 10pm at night is beyond me. i dont answer these calls, i let voicemail get it. but dont they know they wouldn;t even get an answer at the walmart bakery at that time.
Dont worry about sounding rude, your not. Just stop them and ask what date its for then tell them sorry im fully booked, next time order earlier.
Unfortunately we live in an instant gratification world. But if someone calls me last minute for a cake I politely let them know that I do custom orders only, and also let them know that their best bet for a last minute cake is a grocery store. I have tried the cakes available on walk-in basis and ended up (just like the grocers) throwing away product. I personally wouldn't sell a cake older than one day, so needless to say I no longer offer that service, the amount of calls for these cakes versus the actual amount of customers who purchased last minute didn't add up. I was loosing money trying to cater to the walk-in customer. So I went back to open by appointment only.
Politely let the customer know that you are a busy cake shop and accept orders on a first come first served basis and most orders are placed 2 to 3 weeks in advance for a birthday or special occasion cake, 3 months to 1 year for wedding cakes, and that you would love to service their cake needs in the future. Try to get their contact/mailing information and send them a postcard with a coupon for future use. You would be surprised at how many of these folks will plan a little better next time just to find out why you are so busy
I let most of my business calls go straight to voicemail where there is a long detailed message letting them know my website address (where they can check pricing and availability), as well as my e-mail address. I state at the beginning that I do not take phone calls while fulfilling orders.
It's easier for me to respond to emails than phone calls - so I try to avoid the phone. I also tend to be a touch anti-social.
I prefer email too but realize some prefer to hear my voice and make sure everything is fine so I take either. I just feel bad having to interrupt them with "what date?"
I got a couple calls today and managed to ask that upfront....with my surgery coming up I have to decline any orders until January so I have to find that out immediately.