How well are you servicing your customers?

I’m in a bit of a tizzy, or perhaps out-of-sorts is more apropos. I’d like to say “distraught” but that might be a tad dramatic. Why? Because my favourite barista has left my coffeehouse. Why was he my favourite? I could say it was because he was always friendly, asked me how I was and always got my order correct. Or I could say not only did he get my order correct, he knew it before I ordered it. In fact, if he saw me on line or lurking outside the shop talking on the phone, he’d have my coffee ready to go when I walked inside. I could also say that he was my favourite barista because he even knew my seasonal preferences, switching me from my normal hot to iced coffee in warmer weather.

Yes, for all these reasons he was my favourite barista, but there was more. He knew the offerings well and would make suggestions for me to try, which I willingly did, and he was usually right—there wasn’t one coffee I disliked (sadly for my hips, his suggestions often extended to tempting pastries…). I’d like to say I was special, that he did these things for just me, but he treated everyone who walked into the coffeehouse well and he never appeared frazzled or curt, even during hectic rush hours.

But the reason why he was mine, and many other customers’ preferred barista, was simple: he offered great customer service. And that is the key to running any foodservice or retail establishment—there must be strong customer service. Consumers today have too many choices, they do not have to accept poor customer service (in my neighborhood alone in a two-block radius I have the option of three coffeehouses and four other outlets that serve coffee and tea). One bad experience and the consumer may not go back—because they do not have to.

Good customer service is an instrument to consumer retention, heavy foot traffic and higher sales. Remembering frequent customers is a bonus. However, a barista who offers a friendly smile and a few pleasantries, and who knows the menu—“Have you tried our limited edition…it goes really well with that cup of…?—goes a long way with a customer, and he/she can also casually upsell the customer. Once a barista builds a rapport with a customer, he/she will trust them, and their suggestions, and they will become a repeat customer (who may tell others…). It’s a win/win all around.

It’s up to the coffeehouse to find not just suitable, but equally strong replacements. So, while I lament the loss of my barista, I will give the “newbies” a shot because this coffeehouse has great coffee, food items, an inviting atmosphere and it is convenient. I’m giving the new baristas a learning curve—but not for too long as there are too many other options to settle for mediocre customer service.

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