Bee bee dee dee dee bee - human ahead

Last week I related a few bad service experiences in recent times. I suggested that even ‘robotic’ courtesy would be better than what goes for service in most stores. This week, an opposite example, and how ‘robotic’ chains are willing to break the system for a customer.

I like my coffee on the stronger, more flavourful side and I take no sugar. Very often a small coffee (single shot) is too weak, but the double shot (in that size) is too strong and bitter.

I have experimented extensively. Most places, and that even includes McDonalds Australia and Starbuck in New York have been cooperative in trying to ‘customise’ the drink. I have asked for ‘slightly’ stronger, slightly less milk, and even nominated the temperature of the milk.

This week, working in Canberra, Moonyeen and I stopped for coffee at Gloria Jeans in Belconnen. To be perfectly frank, GJs is not my favourite brew, but it is all there was on the way out. I understand that their blends are stronger (tending to bitter) in order to get greater consistency and also to be able to ‘withstand’ the syrups than some customers add to the coffee.

At the GJs counter I asked for a flat white, a bit stronger – maybe half a shot extra. The barista, Chris (picture) heard my dilemma placing the order and engaged in a conversation. (He gave permission for the picture.)

I won’t relate the whole thing, but in the end he made my order AND offered me a complimentary coffee made according his recommendations as to what would suit me. It turns out a double ristretto in the small size is perfect for my taste.

I have since then tried a triple-shot in the medium-sized cup as well, and whilst not exactly the same flavour, it is the closest thing to what I prefer. Where I have previously shunned my local GJs most of the time, this is likely to change even though it turns out to be an expensive exercise.

This was not a once off either. The next customer was engaged with a joke about St Patrick’s Day.

The lesson in all of this is of course that great service is possible, and it does pay.

If you run a coffee shop in Canberra, go and find Chris and offer him a job. If you own the Gloria Jeans, pay him more so that he stays. Whether you are chain or an independent, you can break your own rules if your employees are empowered to do so – even if they are young kids.

Retail is a people business. It is not about margins, merchandise or managers. Train them. Trust them. Treat them. You will be surprised.