When a Coffee is More than Just a Coffee

I started going to a new salon this year and keep going back because I like my stylist and, most importantly, I like how she cuts my hair. When I started going to this salon, the receptionist would consistently offer me a coffee upon my arrival. A simple, easy offer and one that has zero impact on the quality of my haircut. But damn! The coffee is so good at this salon that I actually started looking forward to having a relaxing cup of java while getting my hair cut. I didn’t even care if the cost of that coffee was built into the cost of my hair cut. It’s that good!

So imagine my disappointment when I wasn’t offered a coffee during my last appointment. I waited, hoping that maybe my hair stylist would offer, since the receptionist hadn’t. And then I realized how important that seemingly insignificant gesture had become to me – how I had equated going to the salon with also being treated to a delicious cup of coffee.

Now, to be fair, it was a different receptionist at the front desk. But is it unfair to expect that the new receptionist should also offer customers a cup of coffee?

Or perhaps the better question is, “Is it fair to paying customers that the introduction of a new staff person should mean an interruption in customer service?”

My guess is that something got missed in the onboarding of this new team member, and she wasn’t trained on the importance of offering customers a cup of coffee.

And therein lies the challenge in customer service. When you set minimum service standards with customers, those customers will expect you to deliver the same level of service on subsequent visits to your business. If you offer coffee on the first three visits, then the customer will expect a coffee on the fourth visit also.

For Darren Mason, President of luxury women’s retailer Andrews, customer service is about exceeding expectations. “It’s important to be consistent, but also unexpected,” Mason says. He believes that “onboarding and training of staff, and empowering the team to go above and beyond, are essential for excellence in customer service”.

It’s important to remember that shopping is based on deep psychological drivers. So while not being offered that cup of coffee won’t immediately affect my decision to keep going back to the salon for hair cuts, the lack of coffee alerts me to a sudden decline in service. It makes me more sensitive to other moments where I might feel that I’m being taken for granted as a customer. Where it’s assumed that I’ll just keeping coming back because that’s what I’ve been doing for months. Eventually, I may start looking for a new salon to try.

And that’s how inconsistent service delivery causes businesses to lose customers.

It’s imperative that your company’s service standards are communicated effectively and regularly to all staff. Service standards should be a topic of discussion at all staff meetings. There’s always something to discuss and improve upon when it comes to customer service.

Here are some other tips to ensure consistency in service delivery:

  1. Communicate to your team that ALL team members are customer service ambassadors for your business. If someone sees the ball being dropped on service delivery, that staff person should step up and catch the ball, before the customer bounces right out of your business altogether … (sorry, I couldn’t help carrying on with the metaphor).

  2. I love this tip from Eric Dornan, Co-Founder & Co-Owner of All or Nothing Brewhouse. Once you’ve established minimum customer service standards, Dornan suggests finding locations that are not customer facing, and adding “tips and pointers” for staff members to reference when they are providing customer service to your guests.

    For example, All or Nothing Brewhouse puts tasting notes on the reverse side of all of their taps so that team members can effectively provide tasting notes on each of their beers. This prevents staff members from having to remember every last detail, and gives Dornan peace of mind that tasting notes are being accurately communicated to customers.

  3. Incorporate training on customer service standards into your onboarding of new staff.

  4. Hire mystery shoppers to make sure that your customer service standards are being adhered to (or exceeded).

  5. Another great tip from Eric Dornan: “Take the time to have your staff members run through mock scenarios where team members treat their managers as if they were customers. Continue to polish the delivery of your core sales and customer service messages. Consistently reviewing the core messaging you want presented to your customers is of the utmost importance.”

  6. Set standards that are sustainable. (e.g. If you don’t want to give customers a coffee at every visit, don’t offer it on the first visit.)

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