How To Avoid Unnecessary Errors Made By Miscommunication

Business By sweetcravings Updated 13 Apr 2015 , 3:53pm by Snowflakebunny23

sweetcravings Posted 14 Mar 2015 , 5:45pm
post #1 of 27

Just curious how other businesses handle cake orders so that it is clearly written what the customer is asking for on their cake?  We use a form at our shop but still errors are happening on a regular basis and mostly due to miscommunication on the order form and how it's executed. Multiple people are handling the cake or elements of the cake in some form or another from start to finish. It is rare that you will complete the cake solely from building it to finishing it. One person could take the order..another could build it..another could do a few fondant decorations for it..and then another person could put it all together. This is the norm...any advise on how to reduce the chance of error would be appreciated.  I might add we do a large volume of cakes a week so work needs to be done quickly too.

26 replies
-K8memphis Posted 14 Mar 2015 , 6:18pm
post #2 of 27

it's tough when orders flow from one person/department to the next --

what questions are already placed on your order form beyond the usual:

  • cake flavor
  • filling
  • icing flavor
  • icing color
  • date /time due
  • inscription
  • decor

and right there with that little list i would place the filling on top because fillings are most easy to miss --

your baker gets a different/compiled list to bake off of yes? so he/she doesn't need cake flavor on top --

 then for out of the way things you could have things highlighted -- or have "ask sean" highlighted for particulary out of the ordinary decorating/baking/assembly/whatever -- plus 'sean' needs to give a heads up to the team when the ticket comes up -- "by the way on this order they want blabla"

insist that every field get an answer or na 'na'

but the person who took the order has a greater burden to be sure the chinese telephone thing doesn't happen

great question -- tough answer

-K8memphis Posted 14 Mar 2015 , 6:20pm
post #3 of 27

give a bonus to the person clearly responsible for the least booboos for a certain period of time -- 

sweetcravings Posted 14 Mar 2015 , 6:43pm
post #4 of 27

yes it's been tough to say the least. Our forms, cake flavour, cake filling, outside icing, writing, colours.. then a large area for cake description.  I just find everyone describes things differently and while we try to track down the person to ask questions somehow errors are still happening.  For example..a cake this past weekend was an xbox cake that i 'finished'..someone else printed out and made the 'game box' for the top of the cake. While finishing it I didn't notice that the person who made the box printed out a 'playstation' box image instead of the 'xbox' that was requested.  Customer noticed and it needed to be corrected. Not a huge deal but still something that could have been avoided. Admittedly if i was REALLY observant i would have caught that error (I'm not a 'gamer' and honestly at a quick glance all those boxes kinda look the same.) ..but there comes a point where you want to trust that whoever is doing things for the cake did them right.  I didn't even think twice when i placed it on the cake because I just figured it was done right. I would have had to stare at the image to have even caught the error.  Another cake order error that i was not involved in was.. On an order the colour written down in the 'colour' area was red, black and white..then in the description area they write "pretty in pink" the cake was finished with all these colours. Customer complained and said they wanted 'everything' red..and it had to be redone.  Do you see what I'm getting at?  Its starting to get very frustrating and we need to come up with a solution.  And who is truly to 'blame' for the error if so many people are touching the cakes. I like the idea of rewarding the person with the least amount of errors but who would be accountable for the error eg..the person making the game box image or the person who placed it on the cake?? Seems tricky.  

-K8memphis Posted 14 Mar 2015 , 7:12pm
post #5 of 27

the decorator who included the pink decor could be dinged because they read the ticket wrong -- in the xbox/playstation snafoo the person who made the wrong item could easily get dinged (toward the bonus thing) but only do it where there is a clear pathway to someone responsible --

plus for the bonus thing -- if someone catches a booboo they get one of their previous booboos removed  --

i worked for years in bakeries like yours and you just cannot avoid stuff like this -- i once worked for this guy who lectured at length if there was one mistake -- dude, save your breath -- there's just no way to perfect creative work that passes from one station to the next to the next --

you just have to be right ready to suck it up and resolve the issues -- just understand it is inevitable -- i have story after story after story of cake 'mistakes''s just part of the process it's not ever going away -- you seem to have things well under control though --

also on saturday one of us would be 'on call' to pop out and repair wedding cakes if necessary --

and clients just lie to you sometimes -- there's that too -- just be ready to pop up and get 'er done -- if you can determine what they want in the first place -- can get confusing sometimes

-K8memphis Posted 14 Mar 2015 , 7:20pm
post #6 of 27

the bonus incentive just makes everybody read the ticket more carefully -- 

or do like the fire houses do and display (just for employees) a sign that says "x days without a booboo" then if you all get to 25 days pop for pizza for lunch on saturday

-K8memphis Posted 14 Mar 2015 , 7:20pm
post #7 of 27

and invite me hahahaha

sweetcravings Posted 14 Mar 2015 , 7:23pm
post #8 of 27

Thanks so offer some helpful tips.  I like the idea of getting a 'tick' removed if you catch the error..very clever!  It will encourage those to really pay attention to details.  We generally do have someone in shop on Saturdays to fix the errors but I find the boss very irritated with any errors at all. This is something I wish we could fix because no one wants to deal with an unhappy customer and last minute fixes.  This week I believe our shop put out 35+ cakes (which is half of what we have been known to do in our busy season) and I believe there were 4 'errors/complaints.  In addition to our boss being there during the week..we have three staff working on cakes during the week and local students helping with fondant pieces through the week. It still amazes me what we put out with such a lean workforce.  We also sell pastries, cookies etc... Thanks again for your help ;)

johnson6ofus Posted 14 Mar 2015 , 10:57pm
post #9 of 27

Another solution maybe posting "definitions" , in your order book and decorating areas that you ALL use when writing up an order. Like people use filling, icing, frosting and use these terms interchangeably. 

Maybe...We all agree that :

"BASE color"  refers to the clean, iced, coat that covers the entire cake, before trims.

" Trim color- top" refers to the icing color used to trim around the top of the cake.

"trim color- bottom" refers to the icing color used to trim around the bottom of the cake.

"sprinkles' refers to edible sprinkles in mutli- colors or _________________ specifically.

You get the idea..................

And so on.... that way, maybe the clear order write up helps. YOU know the mistakes that are being made multiple times, so you know what words need to be defined to be clear. Also, maybe having the decorator initial the areas that baker did. So if I did the base color and the trims, I would initial there as having completed it. 

Of course, the positive rewards are all good too! It's all in the details.

-K8memphis Posted 14 Mar 2015 , 11:08pm
post #10 of 27

well that's over 10% now that you mention the ratio and while mistakes can't be avoided i didn't realize it was that many -- 

the mean boss guy i mentioned upthread that would lecture endlessly -- we suppplied cake for i think it was 7 major grocery stores, case cakes and special orders and a couple wedding cakes -- the stores in some areas wanted fancy case cakes -- the cakes were trucked out fresh -- sometimes we worked 13-15 hour shifts -- i didn't last long there --

but we might have ONE mistake to be lectured on -- usually no mistakes because these cakes went through many hands and each station checked to be sure all was well -- plus one girl checked everything before it went out  because nobody wanted anybody to have to listen to john --

in another busy (single store) shop where i worked we might have a couple booboos a month -- that would be normal to me and in the slow season we did twice as much business as you plus 3-5 nice wedding cakes weekly and as many as 20 weddings a week in june

sweetcravings Posted 15 Mar 2015 , 1:39am
post #11 of 27 offer some great suggestions! Thank you very much

k8..exactly..way too many errors. We really need to figure this one out.  I feel horrible for the customers and also for those who work the weekends when most of the cakes go out. They are the front lines and hear it all.  While I totally understand no one is perfect I really feel there must be a solution to some of our problems. I really think what we need is a staff meeting so we can discuss our problems as a whole instead of hearing bits and pieces here and there.  Thanks so much for all your help. :)

melmar02 Posted 15 Mar 2015 , 1:50am
post #12 of 27

I would also start tracking the types of errors and what station at which they occurred, if you haven't already.  It may narrow down where you have a  "training opportunity".

johnson6ofus Posted 15 Mar 2015 , 2:51am
post #13 of 27

Quote by @melmar02 on 1 hour ago

  "training opportunity".

awesome!  Better than my "deal with them dumba**es"

Apti Posted 15 Mar 2015 , 4:33am
post #14 of 27

Great thread!  I'd last minutes in a production bakery.  My hat is off to ALL of you that do this type of work.  You are some very tough hombres!

sweetcravings Posted 15 Mar 2015 , 2:54pm
post #15 of 27

Thanks have given me some helpful advise.  Thanks certainly has it's challenges but at the end of the week you can't help but step back and say,"wow, we finished all those cakes".  You definitely have to work as a team and there is always room for improvement.  Now if I can persuade the boss to have a staff meeting I can offer some of these ideas as suggestions.  Overall, I just want to see a happy customer and reduce the errors. 

MKC Posted 16 Mar 2015 , 12:20pm
post #16 of 27

Well I didn't read all posts but I would recommend that the person taking the order is responsible for the finish product. Also I would limit the number of staff responsible for taking order (to 1 or 2).

This way the bakers will start to recognize how the person taking the order is working and what he/she means by the notes on the form.

the person taking the order should be following up with the team on a regular basis and approving every cake before it leaves the bakery.

It sounds like you have a big bakery. At this point, you need a quality control system and it starts with one or two responsible staff members. Then, they can tell you what is missing on the form.

jenmat Posted 18 Mar 2015 , 12:06am
post #17 of 27

I agree with MKC. The order takers need to step it up. They need to be more specific in some areas.

Another suggestion would be to have one "head decorator" go through all the orders and clarify before production begins. The pretty in pink thing would have been caught. 

The Xbox mistake was kind of random. The decorator who made that mistake just had a brain fart. You can't cure that entirely. 

In past bakeries for me, the order takers were both involved in the beginning and the end of the production process. They checked each order prior to boxing to make sure the decorations were accurate. 

I assume the forms has who took the order? I wouldn't have written in pink on a black, red and white cake unless I spoke with the order takers. 

Make sure your forms have the order of production- first the cake flavor, then filling, then icing, then decorations, then message. That type of thing so skipping a step is more difficult. 

If someone is messing up the cake flavors and fillings, there should be some type of penalty for that. It happens, but shouldn't happen often. 

If on the other hand it is strictly decorating error, then it needs to start going through a quality control person. 4 orders in 35 is pretty high. Or the people touching a cake needs to be reduced. 

sweetcravings Posted 18 Mar 2015 , 12:34am
post #18 of 27

Thanks so offer some helpful things to consider.

-K8memphis Posted 18 Mar 2015 , 1:24pm
post #19 of 27

something else that crossed my mind was when watching ace of cakes, duff goldman, charm city cakes, i learned they had a meeting probably every week to discuss the cakes coming up -- doesn't have to take long and could be when cakes get assigned to the decorator and explained -- another thought for you

MKC Posted 18 Mar 2015 , 3:18pm
post #20 of 27

I learned in my Marketing classes that only 1 out of 10 customer will complain. So you may hear about 4 mistakes, but you could have more.

-K8memphis Posted 18 Mar 2015 , 4:15pm
post #21 of 27

mkc-- so true -- when someone says 'it's my first complaint' it means exactly what you said that it's the first one they've heard -- so when you get a complaint it's very valuable -- pinpoints exactly where you need to improve -- bam!

sweetcravings Posted 18 Mar 2015 , 6:03pm
post #22 of 27

I would LOVE brief weekly staff meetings! My boss mentioned she was going to start having them when i first started there and we still have never had even one (that was around 10months ago). I think it would help greatly if everyone is hearing the same information good and bad that way there is no miscommunication on expectations etc.. I know for a fact not all customers are complaining because I had a customer come in last week for a cake and she mentioned a cake she ordered from our shop 4years prior fell over during her event.  She never complained at the time. I did mention this to my boss.  I was kinda surprised she came back actually.  Its a small town and just after starting there I would hear random stories from people once i told them where i work. They were not good stories..many were unsatisfied customers and said they wouldn't return.  The whole thing worries me because I sincerely want happy customers and a happy workplace. I want to be proud of the product we put out.

-K8memphis Posted 18 Mar 2015 , 6:13pm
post #23 of 27

that's great --

i've worked for some great and for some awful, truly awful places so i'm just saying-- don't forget you are an employee and this is someone else's baby -- i know you know that -- just saying -- it's really hard to watch train wreck but c'est la vie

sweetcravings Posted 18 Mar 2015 , 11:28pm
post #24 of 27

k8...I try to remind myself that every day. Ultimately it's not my place nor do I have any interest in owning my own bakery. It's just really hard to look away when these issues stare me in the face each and every week i work. C'est la vie is right! ;)

CakeCulture101 Posted 13 Apr 2015 , 3:14pm
post #25 of 27

I'm new to the cakery world myself but I used to work in a custom invitation place too and we had a picture area on the consultation sheet where we drew exactly what the customer wanted. Perhaps when u do your consultations you can draw AND color a sketch of the cakes and have an inspiration board put together with swatches and make copies for each station and each cake which are color coded so there is virtually no uncertain terms. Have the staff call you and consult you on any uncertain terms. That's what worked for the greeting cards and I intend to implement this method for my business.

Hope that helps!

CakeCulture101 Posted 13 Apr 2015 , 3:15pm
post #26 of 27

I'm new to the cakery world myself but I used to work in a custom invitation place too and we had a picture area on the consultation sheet where we drew exactly what the customer wanted. Perhaps when u do your consultations you can draw AND color a sketch of the cakes and have an inspiration board put together with swatches and make copies for each station and each cake which are color coded so there is virtually no uncertain terms. Have the staff call you and consult you on any uncertain terms. That's what worked for the greeting cards and I intend to implement this method for my business.

Hope that helps!

Snowflakebunny23 Posted 13 Apr 2015 , 3:53pm
post #27 of 27

This might sound simplistic but on the back of every order form, I have a sketch of the cake with hand-written notes, drawings, arrows, 'this bit is green, this bit is blue etcetc' about everything.  Every order form also has it's own folder which contains all of the correspondence with the customer and any samples/references they have sent.  It may not look pretty, but it's legible and leaves no room for confusion.  I include it as part of the order form so the brides have to approve it as well.  Touch wood, no problems so far (says she, finding every piece of wood in the room!).  There's only me so communication isn't as much of a problem but when I'm bouncing from order to order, it helps massively.  You can never have too much detail if you ask me!  I tried to do everything digitally and neatly for a while but I never managed to get the same level of detail on there as I get when I not it myself.  HTH xx

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