Friday, 6 January 2012

New Year's Resolutions

They're a funny beast, New Year's Resolutions aren't they?

Generic, half-baked promises to yourself that you'll be lucky to honour past the first weekend of January. I'm hoping to buck that trend. But please don't hold it against me if I don't! One of mine this year was to start a decent blog, and update it regularly and see if anyone reads it. I've chosen a subject that I am massively passionate about. Coffee.

 I probably ought to say at this stage that I work in the coffee industry, so I will be working hard not to name-drop the company I work for too heavily, nor promote the competition! The coffee industry is a rich tapestry of people; an iceberg which I have just touched the tip of. I haven't decided exactly what I will blog about yet - maybe I'll post my advice on how to texture milk, or reviews of coffee shops I visit or maybe just great customer service stories from outside the coffee industry.

 I've got loads of things I want to write about but I'm going to start simple by briefly describing a great experience I just had at a coffee shop. It's one of my great guilty pleasures. Like a Big Mac before the pub or a pint of Stella when you get there. It's not sophisticated, it's not the pinnacle of the genre, it's just there. Convenient, quick, obvious, and once in a while it satisfies a low-level basic part of you. Reviled by the specialist coffee glitterati but loved my millions worldwide. Starbucks.

There. I said it. Starbucks.

Silo-sized paper vats of hot sugary milk, smothered in whipped cream to mask what is hidden away somewhere, a double shot of poorly extracted, over-roasted, burnt espresso. Still, it beats Maxwell House doesn't it?

Like thousands of other coffee drinkers, I got an email yesterday telling me I was a gold card holder and I could now pay on my iPhone. Well, that's pretty exciting, and like anyone who carries one of Steve Jobs' horcruxes around I can't resist whipping it out at the drop of a hat, like some kind of ADHD flasher.

I was waiting at Leeds railway station for a connection, had 20 minutes and thought "I'll grab a cheeky Starbucks" I wandered up to the kiosk, waited in line for a couple of minutes and ordered my coffee (a double-tall caramel latte today.) I was then engaged in a very animated and positive conversation with the guy at the till talking about how exciting the iPhone app was and how he had set his up yesterday. I scanned my barcode, paid, and was really impressed to see my balance change instantly. I wandered over to the hand off to collect my drink and again manage to get in to a nice conversation with the girl making my drink. I had a sip, and you know what? It was OK! I love to drink Talisker or Laphroaig, but sometimes I'll settle for Bell's and quite like it!

 It made me think about customer service. What made my trip to Starbucks a good experience today was not the coffee (which matched the above description perfectly by the way!) it was the contact. A fellow geek recognising my techy dorky interest. The person serving me taking an interest and saying hello. So simple but so hard to see regularly. How often have you been sneered at by a supercilious bartender who knows better for ordering a scotch on the rocks? YOU'RE the customer - why shouldn't you choose how you drink your latte? This business is all about people. If you can't get that right, then your coffee could hold a Royal Warrant from the Duchess of Cambridge and you'll still not see true success.

By all means help encourage your customers to the right destination, (the same way that your travel agent will advise you that finding yourself in Goa is better for the soul (and his commission) than finding Chlamydia in Kavos) but never forget what a privilege it is to be in that position where someone offers you the opportunity to show what you know.

Thanks for reading, assuming you did, I'll try to find something exciting to write about next week.

 JE - Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

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