Kitagrl Posted 16 Jun 2012 , 12:00am

Is there a way to streamline the cake ordering process? I'm starting to get really frustrated with the back and forth and back and forth email thing. And then sometimes after putting in that time, the customer decides its above their budget, and all that time is wasted.

Does anyone have a good system for taking orders with a minimal amount of time spent playing virtual ping pong?

35 replies
BakingIrene Posted 16 Jun 2012 , 3:14am

You have posted the prices clearly enough on the new website.

When you get the first email from a new inquiry, add the link to your FAQ and prices page at the top of your response. That might increase the number of customers who do their own due diligence.

But I have to warn you that you will need to budget some of your work time (like 2 man-hours a day) for this kind of email. It's not a waste--you sometimes get really good orders by answering the first email as well as possible. And there are always people who WANT to play email ping pong...

Kitagrl Posted 16 Jun 2012 , 3:19am
Quote:
Originally Posted by BakingIrene

You have posted the prices clearly enough on the new website.

When you get the first email from a new inquiry, add the link to your FAQ and prices page at the top of your response. That might increase the number of customers who do their own due diligence.

But I have to warn you that you will need to budget some of your work time (like 2 man-hours a day) for this kind of email. It's not a waste--you sometimes get really good orders by answering the first email as well as possible. And there are always people who WANT to play email ping pong...




Well everything is custom...we have starting prices but everybody's cake is going to cost something different depending on what all they want on it.

How do you handle those who like playing ping pong?

BakingIrene Posted 16 Jun 2012 , 3:38am

I spend the time. In the long run it pays.

It helps to ask people to email you a picture right off the bat.

I work for somebody who has provided professional software--CorelDraw and Adobe Acrobat. OK he got them as old versions on bootlegged disks, don't ask me where...

Sometimes I have to change a design so I send a picture for approval created with CorelDraw. I send it as a pdf file so that the customer can't mess with it any further...and I keep cdr templates and add to them for my convenience.
Without this, you need to invest in a scanner and scan your sketches in pdf format to email. The picture with notes really helps to make some orders.

The other thing you can do is post concrete examples of what the fancy work will cost. Make a table with pictures of actual cakes, cost of servings, and cost of decorations.

Kitagrl Posted 16 Jun 2012 , 3:44am
Quote:
Originally Posted by BakingIrene



The other thing you can do is post concrete examples of what the fancy work will cost. Make a table with pictures of actual cakes, cost of servings, and cost of decorations.




This actually seems like it might be a really good idea.

mcaulir Posted 16 Jun 2012 , 4:04am

Can you ask them for a contact phone number and just have a conversation? Possibly after they've emailed you a picture, so you both have an idea what sort of thing you're talking about.

sweetcakes Posted 16 Jun 2012 , 4:25am

great question Kitagrl.. another suggestion my hubby had for me was to add at the bottom of the email, 'our quote and availability is good for 24hrs'

as i have found alot of time after giving a quote over email after the back and forth messaging, that you dont hear from them for a week or two then they come back and say they want to order. They have obviously been price checking else where. and then its like a week away for the order they want.

Kitagrl Posted 16 Jun 2012 , 4:40am
Quote:
Originally Posted by mcaulir

Can you ask them for a contact phone number and just have a conversation? Possibly after they've emailed you a picture, so you both have an idea what sort of thing you're talking about.




The thing I don't like about phone conversations is:

#1: They expect an immediate quote...and sometimes that's not possible until you have time to look it over and research the ideas. Also ideas cannot be pictured over the phone.

#2: Nothing is in writing, thus it cannot be referred to by either myself or the client

scp1127 Posted 16 Jun 2012 , 9:39am

Kita, my cakes are not as nice as yours. Decorating has been more forced on me by clients rather than being a passion. But I do have the size, number of servings, price per serving, and total cost on each picture. It just gives an overall price that can be a starting point.

People are going to shop anyway. Even if your prices jolt them in the beginning, after a few calls and emails, they will see that you have a proper place in the market on pricing.

I just get to the price right away in all of my products. My buffets are as high as a wedding cake. I still make sure the budget and my pricing for the guest count are in line before I get too deep. Sometimes they feel they are above budget with the buffets, and then a month later, after shopping and adjusting the budget, they come back to book.

Kitagrl Posted 16 Jun 2012 , 12:57pm
Quote:
Originally Posted by scp1127

Kita, my cakes are not as nice as yours. Decorating has been more forced on me by clients rather than being a passion. But I do have the size, number of servings, price per serving, and total cost on each picture. It just gives an overall price that can be a starting point.

People are going to shop anyway. Even if your prices jolt them in the beginning, after a few calls and emails, they will see that you have a proper place in the market on pricing.

I just get to the price right away in all of my products. My buffets are as high as a wedding cake. I still make sure the budget and my pricing for the guest count are in line before I get too deep. Sometimes they feel they are above budget with the buffets, and then a month later, after shopping and adjusting the budget, they come back to book.




Yeah...I'm not sure I like prices on my cakes just because it loses that "boutique" feel, plus, then it also loses the feel of "custom". I don't want them ordering cakes off the website, I want them to order something new.... *Shrug* Guess there's no great answer.

mommachris Posted 16 Jun 2012 , 1:52pm

Maybe posting just three examples of base, medium and high cost cakes to give people an idea of you prices attached to real cakes. You wouldn't have to do it for all of them.

It's been said before that "a simple' cake in the eyes of a customer isn't simple at all.
I think a visual might clear things up or at least give them an idea of real costs meaning they need to break out the check book or re-evaluate their idea of what they can afford.

mommachris

BakingIrene Posted 16 Jun 2012 , 1:54pm
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kitagrl


Yeah...I'm not sure I like prices on my cakes just because it loses that "boutique" feel, plus, then it also loses the feel of "custom". I don't want them ordering cakes off the website, I want them to order something new.... *Shrug* Guess there's no great answer.




For "custom only" you need to plan to those two hours a day that I mentioned. That kind of interaction is part of the custom-only market.

In the long run your diligence will pay off in repeat orders and referrals. But there isn't any polite or effective way I know to streamline "custom only" business.

Bluehue Posted 16 Jun 2012 , 3:59pm

Hi Kit...

Like you, some people would like me to sit at my laptop all day - just so as i can answer them straight away..... sigh
I mean how hard is it to whisk eggs - line cake tins - type an email and answer questions over the phone ...........piece of cake

I book them in asap for a consultation....
Either my next available Wednesday evening or sunday afternoon.

That way - it eliminates alot of the ping pong as they are happy to know that they have a booking were they can discuss all the things that they are awfully excited about - i ask them to bring colour swatches - photos etc with them.... that way - i am not answering 3 different emails a day regarding the same cake...

says she sitting here typing a quote at 11.58pm - lolllllllllllllllllll

Bluehue

Kitagrl Posted 16 Jun 2012 , 4:04pm
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bluehue

Hi Kit...

Like you, some people would like me to sit at my laptop all day - just so as i can answer them straight away..... sigh
I mean how hard is it to whisk eggs - line cake tins - type an email and answer questions over the phone ...........piece of cake

I book them in asap for a consultation....
Either my next available Wednesday evening or sunday afternoon.

That way - it eliminates alot of the ping pong as they are happy to know that they have a booking were they can discuss all the things that they are awfully excited about - i ask them to bring colour swatches - photos etc with them.... that way - i am not answering 3 different emails a day regarding the same cake...

says she sitting here typing a quote at 11.58pm - lolllllllllllllllllll

Bluehue




Yeah, but how do you have time for all those personal consults? Especially if they may not even buy?

Bluehue Posted 16 Jun 2012 , 4:23pm

Oh - that bit i left out - sorry

If the initial contact is by phone i spend the time asking as many questions as is relevant.... that way i can determine if its worth booking them in...

If the intial contact is by email - then i sit (at night) and answer all that they have asked EXCEPT for a written quote.
I inform them that until they have had a taste test of my cakes its impossible to give a fully informed written quote because style - size - flavour - fillings can't be discussed until they have tasted my wares.

Most Wednesday evenings are set aside for Tastings - if that is impossible then i make it a Sunday Afternoons.
Thats the way i have had to structure my business..... as then i know that i have Mon Tues Thurs Fri and Sat nights free for other things.

If we have private plans for a certain sunday - then i make the tasting for either am or pm... which ever suits me.


I guess its like buying shoes - until i have tried them on - i don't know if i really want to wear them - let alone pay for them.

FromScratchSF Posted 16 Jun 2012 , 4:36pm

I try to minimize ping pong in email because it makes pre-screening take a lot more time then it needs to. If someone starts getting very complicated in the request, if I sense they have no idea what they are asking for, if they have no concept of pricing or pricing will be complicated, or if I start typing a response that is more then a few sentences I just email them back asking for a phone number to have a phone consult. You can wrap up in a 5 minute conversation what could take you an hour in trying to choose your words in email that the client may or may not even read and if they do read it they may or may not understand what you are saying. Or even worse they inflect tone in your email that they may not like and you never hear from them again.

I live in a pretty educated, affluent, tech savvy area, I have pricing and all kinds of info on my website, and daily it astounds me how many people don't read it. Heck, I can't believe how many people don't even look at my photo gallery when they call.

Anyway, my advice is to try and do phone consults, then follow up with an email containing what you talked about. And if you start getting overwhelmed with stopping your workday doing phone consults, set aside some time between X-X every day and let people know that's when you will call them.

Glad to hear your business is taking off!

Kitagrl Posted 16 Jun 2012 , 4:39pm

I hate phone consults but I can see how they would be valuable, even though I'd probably prefer to send the final quote via email for documentation, and also to be able to have time to reasonably price out the quote.

And yep....people don't read...that is for SURE. It drives me NUTS.

FromScratchSF Posted 16 Jun 2012 , 4:42pm

Oh, and I never quote over the phone either. I won't even quote at consultations. I try and do numbers via email so I can be as specific as possible and have all the "subject to change" disclaimers.

Kitagrl Posted 16 Jun 2012 , 4:45pm
Quote:
Originally Posted by FromScratchSF

Oh, and I never quote over the phone either. I won't even quote at consultations. I try and do numbers via email so I can be as specific as possible and have all the "subject to change" disclaimers.




Oh okay. You do give ballpark figures, though, right? So they know when they leave that they can "probably" afford the cake?

step0nmi Posted 16 Jun 2012 , 4:57pm

all of the above, what you are talking about, is why i stopped taking orders! it is way too stressfull now days and everyone is trying to "low ball" baker's quotes because they see so much of it on tv and that's what media tells them to do (weddings mostly) I just wanted to say that i feel your pain icon_sad.gif it makes me sad that I had to stop creating for this very reason. just for fun, family and friends now when i can icon_smile.gif

jason_kraft Posted 16 Jun 2012 , 5:01pm

For simpler orders email alone is usually sufficient, but if a cake is more complicated we also typically use a combination of email and phone consults. Depending on what the customer is asking for we may give ballpark prices on the phone but we usually say we will get back to them (also by email so it's in writing) with a final quote. In-person consults are a huge time drain so we try to avoid them whenever possible.

I've found that adding information directly to the online contact form (right next to the fields they need to fill out) and not listing your email address will force customers to use the contact form and has helped them include the necessary order info in their first communication.

Bluehue Posted 16 Jun 2012 , 5:08pm
Quote:
Originally Posted by FromScratchSF

Oh, and I never quote over the phone either. I won't even quote at consultations. I try and do numbers via email so I can be as specific as possible and have all the "subject to change" disclaimers.




Like FS...I never quote at consults...
I do that via email - then there is no disputing what i have said - its in black and white.
After a tasting - i i let them know when thier quote will be sent -
Its just gone 1.04am and i am doing my third quote for the evening....
Yes, its late - but i have a tasting at 1.30 this afternoon - at least by sitting here getting the quotes done now i am ahead for the coming week....

FromScratchSF Posted 16 Jun 2012 , 5:12pm
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kitagrl

Quote:
Originally Posted by FromScratchSF

Oh, and I never quote over the phone either. I won't even quote at consultations. I try and do numbers via email so I can be as specific as possible and have all the "subject to change" disclaimers.



Oh okay. You do give ballpark figures, though, right? So they know when they leave that they can "probably" afford the cake?




As best as I can while still being vague with lots of "subject to change" stuff. But no concrete numbers unless they are ordering one of my pre-designed cakes or cupcakes (which I offer - I'm not 100% custom).

Every once in a while if I have the time I'll put someone on hold and run the request thru Quickbooks if it's something simple I've done a ton of times (like X servings chocolate cake, purple fondant ribbon with Swiss dots) or if they want a cake from my portfolio that I can easily quote. I create an actual estimate for each and every request and save it so I can refer back to it later. Only then will I give a price over the phone.

But that doesn't happen very often.

Bluehue Posted 16 Jun 2012 , 5:13pm

Kit - if they have a cake tasting with you - do you get everything finalized then - ie: flavours - filling - colours - decorations - # of tiers - cost
Or do you do one email explaining that after they have left... that they can sign off on?

Or is this thread about people you haven't even met yet - let alone sat with them?

Blue

Kitagrl Posted 16 Jun 2012 , 8:02pm
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bluehue

Kit - if they have a cake tasting with you - do you get everything finalized then - ie: flavours - filling - colours - decorations - # of tiers - cost
Or do you do one email explaining that after they have left... that they can sign off on?

Or is this thread about people you haven't even met yet - let alone sat with them?

Blue




This thread is basically about how to save time from the very first email until the writing up of the contract..... some people are easy..."I want this cake in this many servings and I'll pay your price". Most are not, however....the other extreme being, "I want a cake from you and I have no clue what I want."

SugaredSaffron Posted 16 Jun 2012 , 9:36pm

What about using a template email as soon as a potential customer makes an enquiry? You could have a list of standard questions they need to answer and maybe that would help filter out people who aren't serious and also get information more quickly instead of 3,4,5,6 back and forth emails? I've found people email me and leave out even the date, which is obviously problematic lol


Thank you very much for your email enquiry. We are available to fufill your order on [date]. We'd really appreciate if you could answer this short list of questions before we go any further in the design and tasing process. This is to ensure sure we are fully aware of all your requirements, so that we can give you the best possible service and information. Don't be afraid of writing too much, the more we have to chew on the better!


What is the occasion you'll be celebrating our cakes with? (optional)
Date and confirmed venue address?
Number of guests/servings required?
Budget?
Flavour requests?
Design/theme/colour specifications?

If you do have any specific images you'd like us to look at, feel free to attach them to this email and we'll get back to you as soon as we can.

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