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Train Your Bakery Staff to Provide Excellent Customer Service

By Business of Baking Blog posted 07-20-2023 12:01:22 AM


Exceptional customer service can make a ton of difference between success and stagnation in any business. As we discussed in the previous post, it’s super important to create a memorable brand experience if you want to attract new customers and keep old ones coming back. However, maintaining a consistent level of customer service excellence can feel close to impossible when you have a diverse staff filled with an array of personalities. Can you even train a staff to provide top-notch customer service? Sure you can! In fact, that’s exactly what this post is all about. Below we discuss the keys to unlocking the potential of your bakery team and empowering them to deliver a customer service experience that perfectly aligns with your brand identity.

In this article, we will explore seven steps to training your staff to deliver on-brand customer service. From defining your bakery's brand identity to encouraging continuous improvement, I will share practical strategies that will help you understand how to get your team on the same customer service page and leave a lasting, positive impression on your customers.

Want more tips focused on bakery employees and staffing? Check out these articles

7 Steps to Training Your Bakery Staff for Customer Service Excellence:

  1. Define Your Brand Identity
  2. Set Customer Service Expectations
  3. Review Communication Techniques
  4. Provide Product Training
  5. Discuss Strategies for Handling Challenging Situations
  6. Personalize the Customer Experience
  7. Embrace Feedback and Continuous Improvement

1. Define Your Brand Identity:

Your bakery's brand identity should serve as a guiding light for all aspects of your business, including customer service. Clearly defining your core values and mission will give your staff a solid foundation to understand what sets your bakery apart. 

For example, if your business places an emphasis on using locally-sourced and organic ingredients, ensure that your staff is well-versed in the sourcing process and the benefits of organic products. When team members understand the essence of your brand, they can better align their interactions with customers to reflect those values. This will help create a seamless and genuine experience for every customer.

2. Set Customer Service Expectations:

Outline specific customer service standards that your bakery aims to uphold. Regardless of whether the business interacts with a customer in-person, over the phone, or online, they should have a consistent experience with the brand. For instance, if your bakery prides itself on providing a warm and welcoming atmosphere, train your staff to greet each customer with a genuine smile and friendly demeanor. 

You can even go so far as to provide a few acceptable greeting options to create even more consistency. By communicating these expectations and providing detailed examples to your staff, you empower them to deliver a unified and exceptional service that leaves customers feeling valued and appreciated.

3. Review Communication Techniques:

Effective communication is the core of outstanding customer service. Encourage your staff to actively listen to customers' needs/concerns and to respond with genuine empathy. A friendly demeanor can go a long way in creating a welcoming atmosphere within your bakery. Provide your team with practical communication tips and techniques to ensure that most interactions are pleasant and memorable. 

During new member training, conduct role-playing exercises where your staff can practice responding to various customer scenarios with empathy and understanding. We’ll go over this a bit more later, but don’t forget to offer strategies for managing difficult customers and complaints. 

4. Provide Product Training:

Never underestimate the power of a well-trained staff equipped with in-depth knowledge of your products and offerings. When your team can confidently guide customers through the menu, offer personalized recommendations, and answer questions about ingredients, it enhances the overall customer experience. 

Consider conducting regular training sessions to keep your staff updated on new products and processes. This will foster a sense of pride and expertise within the ranks. Additionally, encourage your staff to regularly sample different products so that they can genuinely speak from their own experience when recommending items to customers.

5. Discuss Strategies for Handling Challenging Situations:

As mentioned earlier, no matter how exceptional your customer service is, challenges and complaints will inevitably come up. Train your staff to handle such situations with grace and professionalism. Emphasize the importance of remaining composed under pressure and finding amicable solutions to resolve issues. 

Turning a challenging situation into a positive experience can leave a lasting impression on customers and earn their loyalty. Provide real-life examples of challenging situations and how your staff can effectively resolve them while leaving the customer satisfied. Also, consider empowering your staff to make certain decisions without having to escalate matters to management. Nominal discounts or a free cup of coffee can go a long way in providing goodwill with an upset customer. Empowering certain team members (who have proven themselves to be responsible) to make quick decisions without having to get approval from management can help resolve issues in a timely manner which can also improve the customer experience.

6. Personalize the Customer Experience:

Customers appreciate feeling valued and recognized. Encourage your staff to take the time to learn and use customers' names, preferences, and past interactions to create a personalized experience. Small gestures, like remembering a favorite pastry or beverage, can make customers feel connected to your bakery and increase the likelihood of repeat visits. 

Keep in mind that there are CRM tools and systems that can help make this part of the business run even smoother. For example, you can create customer accounts within your POS to keep track of names, birthdays and other important information that can help with customizing your customers’ experience. What customer doesn’t want to receive a happy birthday greeting on or around their birthday? Use these systems to your advantage and add that extra special touch to make your customers feel appreciated.

7. Embrace Feedback and Continuous Improvement:

Creating a culture of open communication and feedback is vital for the growth of your bakery's customer service standards. Establish channels for customers to provide feedback and encourage your staff to share their own suggestions and experiences. Regularly review feedback and use it constructively to identify areas for improvement and implement necessary changes.

Also, emphasize the value of ongoing training and provide additional learning opportunities beyond new hire training. Consider motivating your team to continuously strive for excellence by sponsoring outside skills training at a local college or with a specialized instructor. This will show employees that you care about their professional growth and that you’re invested in their future.

Customer service is the cornerstone of success for any business. By focusing on these seven steps, you can build a strong bakery team that not only understands your brand but also embodies it through their customer interactions. Defining your brand identity, setting clear expectations, refining communication skills, and investing in product knowledge will set the stage for a solid customer experience. Additionally, empowering your staff to handle challenges gracefully, personalizing the customer journey, and embracing feedback for continuous improvement will take your bakery's customer service to new heights.

As you implement these strategies, remember that exceptional customer service is an ever-evolving journey. With the right training and guidance, your team will eventually become memorable ambassadors for your brand. Embrace the process, celebrate the progress, and watch your retail bakery flourish with satisfied and loyal customers who return for both the delicious treats and delightful service.

Cyd N. Mitchell
Business Blogger, Retail Bakers of America

Cydni N. Mitchell (aka Cyd) is a Bakery Consultant and the Sweet Business Coach behind Sweet Fest®. Based in Atlanta, GA, Sweet Fest® is an online company that supports the business needs of the Sweet Community in the areas of professional development, marketing, branding and web design.

By trade, Cyd is an accountant & financial analyst with a Masters from the Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is the Founder of the Sugar Coin Academy, an online business academy for business owners in the baking and sweets industry, and she is also the organizer of The Ultimate Sugar Show, Georgia’s Largest Annual Baking and Sweets Expo in Atlanta. She is also the Business Blogger for the Retail Bakers of America.