Monday, April 25, 2011

Learning Humility with Customers

Some customers are more coffee fuelers than lovers. They may stop in for a quick latte, but they're likely to demand a 16 oz one in a paper cup. While excellent shops can begin to convert these caffeine addicts into connoisseurs over time, it's a tough sell!

You'd think coffee lovers, by contrast, would be the ones we'd love to serve. Not so, at least in my experience. Quite honestly I think they may be harder for us to appreciate and serve well. While a very few home baristas may measure up against competition-level pros in technique and knowledge, the vast majority fall far short. How do you relate to someone who comes in and obviously savors your drinks, buys your beans, takes them home and then slaughters them in the filthy guts of a treasured Mr. Coffee maker?!

Boldy, I'd suggest we start those conversations (and I think we should look for them) around our commonalities -- our common appreciation for coffee as a drink that's more than God's natural alternative to Red Bull, our common stories of important moments shared over coffee. I think we would do well to start by listening to their unique coffee story, even when much of what we hear appears to be completely wrong. And I think listening first will open the door to those coffee recommendations we long to give.

Thankfully, many coffee lovers already ask us for advice, but even there, I think inviting them across that knowledge gap slowly and respectfully will pay off in the long-term, both in terms of increased customer value and terms of valuing and respecting a fellow traveler's love for a beverage that we enjoy so much.

What's in their cup? 

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