The simple things, done well: Why baristas are customer experience champions

Good customer service can make your day. It can make a business. So why is something so simple so hard to obtain and sustain?

by Tyler Nix on Unsplash

In life we sometimes over-complicate things and this has definitely happened with customer service. In search of overblown KPIs and vanity metrics, we overlook simple day-to-day interactions and how they give us exactly what we need and show us exactly how to do it.

It all starts with coffee

Who here drinks coffee? And who here goes to the same coffee place day in and day out? Have you ever stopped to think why? For me, it goes beyond convenience and the quality of the beans. It’s because they know me, they deliver, and make me happy. I get good service. Looking at this interaction can help make customer service a simple thing to achieve.

Make it personal

My barista at my local coffee shop knows my name. He never greets me blankly. He never gets my name wrong or takes a moment (or looks like he takes a moment) to recall who I am. It’s there in his amazing coffee-making brain, ready to be retrieved when needed.

How many emails are businesses sending that say “Hi” and then cut straight to the sales pitch? No first name. Nothing that says “I’m speaking to you”. Or worse yet, how many businesses send emails that say “hi <firstname>”?

Eye roll.

At some point I trusted this place with my details and they’ve literally thrown them away. Or maybe they never asked me my name but are now trying to ask me to do something for them? No sir, not today.

After my barista greets me by name, he recalls something I’ve mentioned previously or asks me how my weekend was. And he listens to my answer. He has even recalled my answers and followed up at a later date. It’s genuine. It’s real. When was the last time a business asked you something and when you answered, they listened, and responded appropriately? When was the last time a business sent you an email that didn’t stem from a self-serving benefit?

Fostering loyalty beats a skeezy upsell

Here’s when things get juicy (and when I say juicy, I mean so straight forward it’s actually a bit dull). Once I get there, my barista rings up my regular order and delivers it. It’s exactly how I want it. No sales pitch, no “we are having a sale on toasties” chat. Just the coffee. They know what I want and they do it.

It’s a simple thing that is regularly overlooked. If you have a customer who orders the same thing everyday, you have the job of bringing that order to them well, everyday. Really, there’s nothing more to it. They aren’t asking anything more of you so what makes businesses think they can bring the upsell? Having a good experience day in day out brings customer loyalty, which will deliver on-going revenue.

The flip side is being hit with the upsell every time you order. Have you ever stopped for petrol and being given the “if you buy 4 bottles of water, you get the 5th half price” speech? It’s ridiculous. I’m at the petrol station for … wait for it… petrol, what makes you think I need water? My barista and my coffee shop are nailing this. They are a coffee shop and I want coffee. Done deal. (Now this doesn’t mean I don’t occasionally buy a croissant but this should be a bonus. My loyalty and regular service is the prize here. Everything else is extra on top.)

Customers are real people, not just transactions

Now a good barista knows your order to a tee. But they are human so sometimes they need to ask for clarification. But the language they use to do this takes them to hitting-it-out-of-the-ball-park-customer-service levels. For example, I order my coffee extra hot. The other day I was asked “do we do that extra hot for you?” and I immediately felt special. They could have said “extra hot?” but there’s something about the phrase “extra hot for you” that melts my coffee-loving heart.

I think this genuine feeling of goodwill comes down to two things:

  1. They recognise they should remember this detail. 
    I’ve been there before and I always order the same thing but as I said, they are human, so that brings me to…
  2. They asked in a way that made me feel important.
    They are delivering my coffee just the way I want it for me personally. They speak to me one-on-one and it makes me feel good.

I get lots of emails from businesses where it’s obvious they are mass emailing. They haven’t taken the time to look at what I’ve given them before or worst yet, they haven’t bothered to keep track of what I’ve told them before. It’s frustrating. If I am giving a company my money I should be treated like I count. I shouldn’t be an ID number or an email address. I should be a person who’s getting what they want. And it’s even nicer when it makes me feel special.

The final point we can take away from our friendly coffee place is that no matter who serves you, you get the same level of service. Have you ever rung a big company and been passed around and around telling your story or answering security questions again and again? It’s awful. My local coffee shop has this sorted. I walk through the doors and I am seen, heard and served. No matter who takes my order.

Exceptional delivery of the simple things

All these things keep me coming back. Keep my loyalty. And will lead to more purchases (and I might even tell my friends, or post it on Medium 😉). They know what I want from them and they give it to me. They meet my expectations and are a constant in my day. What would the consumer world look like if all businesses understood their role, heard their customers, and delivered? I would like to think we’d spend less time complaining on social media and more time creating those cute cat videos that make us laugh. Now that’s a world I want to be a part of.


A big thanks to Black Velvet Coffee for keeping me caffeinated and happy.