My Biggest Piece of Advice to Home Bakers
Updated: Feb 10
There’s nothing more rewarding than handing your customer an order for their special occasion and seeing the look of joy and excitement on their face. For me at least, this is the main reason I started a home bakery. It was so rewarding to make someone’s day with a dessert that I painstakingly crafted. Seeing these reactions made it all worth it.
That is, until I received disappointing feedback from a customer. I was devastated. I knew I had made exactly what they asked for, but what they received didn’t match their expectations. And that, right there, is the key.
Of course, you must communicate clearly with a customer for any order, but it is especially crucial for orders that involve the customer providing you with any sort of inspiration photos. When this is the case, they already likely already have an expectation in their head of what it will look like. If you are willing or able to make an exact replica of the photo they’ve provided you, by all means communicate that to them. However, most bakers have no desire to copy someone else’s work. Photos can be great for getting a sense of what the customer is looking for and giving the baker a good direction to head in, but if you know that what you create will in one or many ways be different than that photo, it’s imperative to let the customer know that.
A great example of an inspo pic versus the final product. Elements of the picture provided were incorporated, among other design requests from the customer, to create something completely unique.
Some bakers may assume, well, of course they know that what I create won’t be exactly like what they’ve provided. I’m an artist and creator and my work is uniquely my own. And some customers do understand this! But it’s never safe to assume. Setting expectations up front goes a really long way in setting you and the customer up for success.
Where I Went Wrong
In my case, I made a relatively simple drip cake in the desired color for the customer, as indicated by the photo provided. There was one key difference, however, that I made the mistake of assuming they would understand. The photo showed what appeared to be a four-layer cake, while the customer ordered a three-layer cake.
To me, it was obvious that this would result in a shorter cake. But even though I made the order as requested, I failed to recognize that the customer's expectation was for a cake that would look as tall as the four-layer cake in the photo provided. More importantly, I failed to communicate that and set the expectation ahead of time.
The customer was disappointed and felt I hadn’t met their expectations, even though I was sure I had. They were unhappy and I felt terrible. It’s a situation I don’t wish on any baker. And while communicating expectations can’t ward off every unhappy customer, it can go a looong way in preventing many of these situations.
In an effort to make sure this situation didn't happen again, I created a visual illustration for customers to provide perspective on the difference between the three most commonly ordered cake sizes.
Whatever your preferred work method is, just make sure you’re clear about it from the beginning. Some customers will put their trust in you entirely to create something unique and surprising for them. Others will have the expectation that their final product will look exactly as the photo they’ve provided to you. And if you are not able or willing to make what they’re requesting, that’s ok! You can’t always meet everyone’s needs, but communicating that up front will help avoid a lot of frustration down the road.
Has this ever happened to you? How did you handle it? Comment below and share your best tips to ensure a happy customer!