Here’s a cafe I’m not rushing back to!

June 11th, 2011

While I don’t consider myself a coffee snob I do spend a fair bit of time in cafes (business of course) and at times get to see the good, bad and ugly of service. Here’s a café experience that I don’t really want to repeat and sure as heck won’t be rushing back!

On this occasion we were going out with the whanau and we arrived in dribs and drabs sitting outside in a pleasant setting (so far so good). We headed inside to order a bit of lunch and to get the first long black of the day into my system (it started to go down hill from here!)

We stood and waited at the counter and were ignored by the barista who was side on to us. Now she knew we were there because she kept throwing us a sideways glance while at the same time issuing orders to the table staff who were quite busy.

Customer tip number 1 – give an acknowledgement

To be fair she was busy making other coffees, but here is customer tip number 1 – acknowledge your customers as soon as possible. All she had to do was say ‘hi – we’re a bit stretched but I’ll be with you as soon as I can’. We waited about 2 minutes (felt like 20) until someone came over to us to take an order. Now while that doesn’t sound a long time, when you’re standing there waiting (and in need of the 1st coffee for the day) it seems to go on forever.

Customer tip number 2 – keep the work area clean

As I was waiting for the 20 minutes to pass (ok 2 minutes) until I was served I got to have a look around the general work area. It had the look of a busy café and no problem with that but the coffee machine itself was a mess and just seemed dirty (and I see a few coffee machines over a week!). It didn’t inspire me that my long black was going to be the pick me up I was looking for.

So customer tip number 2 is keep the work area that the public can see clean and tidy.

Customer tip number 3 – give the customer what they want when they want

As we were sitting at the table waiting for our meal to arrive I wondered where my coffee was – surely they hadn’t forgotten me? It was close to 1pm and I was still caffeine free for the day – I needed my fix! A quick check with one of the table servers informed me that they normally serve the coffee after the meal – WHAT!! I’m not sure what the reason for this is, but if they had served my coffee earlier (like every other café I go to) not only would I have been happy, but I would have bought another one from them, helping increase their average sale and do my bit for the local economy.

Tip number 3 is find out what the customer wants and give it to them.

How does your customer service rate?

Now I own other retail businesses myself and I know that we don’t always get it right and it takes an effort to be on your game 100% of the time. But here is an example of a business that I won’t be rushing back to, simply because I didn’t enjoy the experience.

So how does your customer service rate? You don’t have to be in retail for this to apply to you – it might be how you answer the phone, how quickly do you respond to customer queries, how clients are greeted when they arrive at reception – any contact that you have with the client.

We use mystery customer shoppers that give us an independent snap shot of our businesses and the crew. Too often if you are involved in your business on a day to day basis you become blinded and can’t see the obvious, so an outside perspective is always helpful.

Will I go back go back to that café?

The short answer is no – it’s not a regular one that I visit but I’ve been there about 3 times in the last year and each time its failed to meet expectations. Others however love it (so maybe I am a coffee snob after all) which just goes to show there’s no pleasing everyone!

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