Carlo's Bakery Sweetens the Customer Experience

Customer Experience
Customer Experience
By listening to customer feedback, the "Cake Boss" bakery has cooked up a recipe for customer service success that bridges the gap between TV and reality.

Dogs bark and cats meow, but when customers crave attention they often take to social media to express their wants and needs. Those businesses that neglect to listen to these voices risk leaving their customers hungry for more. For Carlo's Bakery, the company and its customers walk hand-in-hand, each feeding off the other to improve the overall experience, boost customer satisfaction, and strengthen loyal customer relationships.

Located in Hoboken, N.J., the "Cake Boss" bakery juggles reality TV fame and fans by putting its commitment to the customer above everything else. While the TLC show shines a spotlight on the bakery and master baker and cake decorator, Buddy Valastro, Carlo's Bakery carefully focuses on what its customers are saying via social media. Leo Minervini, CIO at Carlo's Bakery uses the Salesforce Marketing Cloud platform to track and collect all the chatter about the business across Facebook, Twitter, and Yelp! through a single dashboard. He then leverages these tools to assist the bakery in its effort to constantly improve the customer experience.

"At the end of the day, it's not about the technology from my perspective," Minervini says. "It's about the customer and figuring out how we can service the customer better. How can we have the customer do business with us and be happy?"

Through social media, Carlo's Bakery discovered the pressing need to expand its brand's scope nationwide to include consumers outside of New Jersey who also wish to purchase baked goods. In response, Carlo's Bakery recently launched its national shipping promotion after months of testing the process and implementing technology to be sure the initiative worked effectively from the start. "You've got to crawl before you walk, and walk before you run," Minervini says. "Our goal was to make sure customers would be getting products as if entering our store in Hoboken."

Now, through Carlo's Bakeshop, consumers across the nation have the ability to purchase crumb cake-an undeniable fan favorite-as well as the bakery's 2-pound butter cookie tray, 2-pound biscotti tray, and 2-pound rugelach tray. The bakeshop also hopes to increase its edible selection based on customer preferences, with plans to make cannoli and lobster tail deliveries available in the near future.

Yet, while this shipping promotion provides hard evidence in favor of social's impact on the bottom line, for Minervini and Valastro, selling comes second. Using social media helps Carlo's Bakery strengthen loyal relationships by allowing employees to listen to positive and negative feedback so the bakery may learn how to improve and evolve its customer strategy.

"The minute the customer has a sense that you're listening, that you're going to do something, you probably have a customer for life," Minervini says. "It's about creating communities. It's not always about selling. In fact, the minute you start using social media to sell, you're missing the point. It's about creating conversation and building a loyal following. If customers talk straight to the company, they know you're working for them, not just in your own interest. That really cultivates trust and keeps them coming back again and again."

Before implementing the dashboard technology, employees would go into Facebook and Twitter, read the posts, and extract the comments into an Excel spreadsheet. This time-consuming, manually intensive process often came with an unavoidable delay, highlighting the harm that slow response times can have on the bottom line. According to Minervini, embracing technology allowed the company to get in front of the customer and prevent attrition. Being proactive and timely preserves customer relationships, turning a potentially negative experience into a loyalty building opportunity that ultimately reflects the brand culture.

However, social media also acts as the gateway for interaction, as Minervini often takes to the phone to call the customers who've had a negative experience to see how the bakery can rectify the situation. If something goes wrong, Minervini makes sure the company does everything it can to make things better by handling the issue one-on-one.

"We live in reality," Minervini says. "People make mistakes. Businesses make mistakes. We try to minimize the risks and mistakes, but the reality is that nobody is perfect. We are human beings-human beings are running these businesses. Tell me what your experience was like. It's about making customers feel that they're being listened to and making them feel like they're important to us." By responding directly and personally to customer feedback, Carlo's Bakery has received even more responses, developing a continuous loop of positive interactions that heighten satisfaction, boost advocacy, and cultivate the types of relationships that extend well into the future.