Bakers Journal

Concepts for success: November 2012

October 25, 2012
By Diane Chiasson

The best way to develop a good relationship with your customers is through communication.

The best way to develop a good relationship with your customers is through communication. However, communication is not just about you telling your customers what is happening with your bakery. It’s also very important to hear what your customers have to say about your business. But many of your customers will not volunteer this information if it isn’t solicited. Most dissatisfied customers will just walk out your door without saying a word and never come back. Some may even tell their friends or use social media to relay their poor experience.

Place a locked box near the exit for customers to drop comment cards into before they leave your


A successful operation needs to be proactive in constantly improving its business to satisfy its customers’ needs, and the best way to find out those needs is to get feedback. Getting feedback should be ongoing, and not just a one-time project. Once you have received the feedback, it’s also important to take action, and then tell your customers that you have listened and taken action. This will make them feel that you care.
Here are some ideas on how to get valuable feedback from your customers.


Talk with them
The best way to build a relationship with your customers is to talk with them. Ask them what they think of your bakery and your products, what else they think you should offer, and how you can improve their shopping experience. Listen to what they have to say, and if they have a good idea, implement it. This will also show your customers that you are truly interested in what they have to say, and willing to take action to please them.

Ask them to fill out comment cards
Get your customers to fill out a comment card. Provide incentives for them to take the time to write down their thoughts, for example, the opportunity to enter a draw for a free pastry or dessert. Today, it is much more common to ask customers to fill out their comments online. If you provide a physical card, make sure that you provide plenty of pens or pencils. Either include either a prepaid self-addressed envelope for customers to mail the comment card back to you or place a locked box near the exit for customers to drop the cards into before they leave. This last measure is important to ensure all feedback is submitted; your employees may not submit cards that contain negative comments about their own service.

Invite them to a focus group
If you are planning to launch new product items or run a new promotion, consider holding a focus group. Offer free beverages, sandwiches and snacks as compensation. Have the focus group try out your new items and ask them for their feedback. Remember that these are the folks who will be ordering the items, so their opinion counts!

Send them an e-mail
Ask your customers for their e-mail addresses at the point of purchase. Send them an e-mail to thank them for their patronage, and ask them for feedback. Again, a small incentive may need to be given to obtain the e-mail address, but it is worthwhile.

Read their reviews online
Always check online to see what others are saying about your bakery. If you receive negative reviews, make contact with the reviewer to try to remedy the situation. Offer an apology and an explanation of how you plan to fix the problem, and invite them back for some free products. Most customers are willing to forgive if you are sincere.

Read body language
Learn to read the body language of your customers, and react immediately if you sense that a customer is unhappy or dissatisfied with something. Train yourself and your staff on how to deal with a disgruntled guest. Never allow an angry customer to walk out your door.

Communication is at the heart of a great relationship with your customers. Pay attention to what they have to say and you’ll have the chance to truly improve your bakery.

Diane Chiasson, FCSI, president of Chiasson Consultants Inc., has been helping restaurant, foodservice, hospitality and retail operators increase sales for over 30 years. Her company provides innovative and revenue-increasing foodservice and retail merchandising programs, interior design, branding, menu engineering, marketing and promotional campaigns, and much more. Contact her at 416-926-1338, toll-free at 1-888-926-6655 or by e-mail via, or visit

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