Customer Experience Article originally published in Forbes, March 2020.
What does customer experience (CX) have to do with coffee? The answer is a lot! I have witnessed and experienced the most fascinating stories in coffee shops with great examples of CX that could be replicated by any company or industry. If you think about it, there’s not much to coffee. It’s a drink that you can order hot or cold, and the price differs a lot depending on where you buy it. But, in my opinion, what makes coffee stand out above anything else is the people who work at the coffee shops and the experiences they deliver to customers.
CX Lessons Learned From Great Coffee Shop Examples
Personalized ‘Wow’ Moments Matter
I decided to try a new place for coffee instead of my usual store. From the moment I walked into this locally-owned shop (The Twisted Tulip), it had a warm and inviting feeling. For those who watched Friends on TV, it reminded me of Central Perk. I felt happy to be there, and that was before I even talked to the staff members. The employee at the register, who happened to be the store manager, greeted me and asked what I was in the mood for. I noticed the eclectic options on the menu. She must have noticed my confusion as she proceeded to explain some popular items. What I loved most about our conversation was that she asked questions to get to know me before providing a recommendation. I explained that I was experimenting with a new plant-based diet and that it was my first time ordering something without regular milk. She educated me on the different alternatives, and I ended up with an oat milk latte. While I was glad she steered me right for my taste buds, it was her authentic desire to make me happy that stood out most. She told me that if I didn’t like my coffee, she would replace it with something else, knowing that I was not used to nondairy products. I appreciated her kindness, and that was enough to make me a satisfied customer, but then there was more. She and another employee amplified my experience as they brought me another drink to try, at no cost, while I waited. It was the compilation of “wow” moments that made me feel cared for and valued as a customer. It’s the people who make a difference, and why I recommend the place to others despite the higher cost for a delicious drink with a beautiful foam heart on the top.
1. Onboarding is an important part of a customer journey. First impressions, such as the physical environment (e.g., store design), influence customer satisfaction.
2. Employees create “wow” moments by listening to customers, which often makes CX more important than price factors.
3. Personalizing the experience makes customers feel valued. CX is a brand differentiator.
Appreciation And Recognition Go A Long Way
I was recently in New York City for a customer meeting, and like every other morning, I craved coffee to start my workday. During my travels, I’d noticed several Starbucks stores in close proximity. There was one shop in Park Avenue Plaza that caught my attention, and not for reasons you might think. I noticed an employee hanging up signs on the store’s walls. As I looked closer, I was pleasantly surprised to see the words “Customers of the Week” with photographs and thank-you notes. I’ve seen signs in other places I’ve shopped that recognize employees, but not customers. What a brilliant approach to show how the store is customer-centric! Of course, it’s a smart business practice to thank employees for their dedication to delivering customer excellence, and this store does that too. After introducing myself to this employee and learning her name was Charisse, we talked about her focus on customer happiness. She exemplified what best-in-class employee engagement looks like, and demonstrated what’s so important to me as a customer and CX professional: humanizing business.
1. Hire and retain people like Charisse. Attitude is contagious. Customers feel it.
2. Encourage employees to be creative and design solutions. Customers see it.
3. Empower employees to enable customers to “leave with a smile,” as Charisse say
Happy Employees fuel Happy Customers!
Watch my short video interview at NYC Starbucks to understand what I mean.
While these CX best practices may be common knowledge to some leaders, the most important takeaway occurred when I was leaving the store. The employees who were serving me happiness ended up improving their day just as much. This was because I, as a customer, stopped to talk to them and show my appreciation by listening to their stories. They felt valued. Appreciation is a two-way street and customers can be kinder and more empathetic to workers—it makes their day, too.
Small acts of kindness can go miles in a person’s day. Say hello and goodbye. Get the basics right. Good customer experience starts with you!