The Case of the Unaligned Coffee

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The Case of the Unaligned Coffee

I was at a café today for coffee. When you order this particular shop hands you a cup and you self-serve coffee from the coffee urns lined up on a counter. As I drained the last of the decaf (Yes, I drink decaf. Don’t judge me! LOL) I let one of the workers know that it was empty. After an audible sigh (and without any audible sounds like “Thanks for letting me know. I’ll go get some.”) she disappeared into the back. I wasn’t sure if she was getting the coffee refilled or maybe just escaping me. A minute or two later she shows up with the coffee. Almost without looking she shoves it on the counter at an angle, almost sideways, nearly impossible for a customer to reach and walks away. What’s a customer to think? How’s would a customer feel? Well, I’ll tell you how this customer felt. Like I was a bother. Like she didn’t really care a bit about my needs. And then I looked around. Not one. Not ONE, employee had a smile on their face. Even when someone made eye contact a blank stare or a frown was what you got in return.

I know you may be thinking that this all seems like small potatoes doesn’t it? And in some ways it might be. However, it got me to thinking about whether this was how this café operated. Are customers a bother – or a valued guest? Does this business pay attention to the small details or not? If they don’t care about details, how likely are they to get my order correct if I order food? Do I feel welcomed by this employee’s grunt and then silence? Is this really the atmosphere they were trying to create? And, perhaps, most importantly, will I return or will I stop at one of the four very nearby coffee shops (yes, I counted them) the next time I want a coffee? Will I tell others about my experience – and maybe guide them to another place?

I am a believer that small things are often indicative of larger ones. And if I were the café’s owner or manager, I would be on the lookout for these behaviors. Often it’s the small things that make that critical difference. Especially as a small business. Our pleasant, personal, attentive service is one critical way that a small business can win out over the big ones.

So, you Mr. or Ms. Small Biz Leader, I highly suggest that you take a few simple actions that can help you win:

  1. Hire the Right People – ones that will show your customers some love. Focusing on bringing in the people that will treat your customers the way you want them to will pay off in spades. Find people who actually like what it is your business does and like the customers it attracts.
  2. Train Your Team – and drill customer delight into their heads. Every day. Every day you need to model the behaviors and attitudes you want your employees to have. Let them know how to act in different situations. Help them understand (and appreciate) what those small, seemingly unimportant things are. Recognize those employees who live up to these standards.
  3. Closely watch what they do and how they do it. Consider including having someone else come in a “mystery shop”. There’s no feedback quite like honest, first-hand observation.
  4. Nip problems in the bud. Catch them. Coach them. Release them if you have to. Go with your gut. If you see or hear something that looks little wrong it probably is. Don’t let it fester. Really. Give them the chance to improve, but then cut them loose quickly if they don’t. You’ll be happy you did. Your small business doesn’t have the luxury of driving away good customers.

So there you go. A few thoughts on how your small business can conquer the marketplace. The goal is to make your place of business attractive and welcoming. And sometimes the seemingly small things can make all the difference. All along the way you’ll be building a positive customer-centered culture. A winning strategy.

 


I LOVE to help leaders improve and businesses grow!

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