Customer service - ‘nothing’ and ‘everything’
One of my biggest focusses throughout my career - whether that be in retail, leisure or media - has always been on customer service.
Why? Because it means ‘nothing’ and ‘everything’ all at the same time, and because for me it means being in business doesn’t simply have to be about spreadsheets and revenue or how much stock you can shift.
Here’s the situation which prompted me to write this op-ed piece: I frequently spend my time in coffee shops, and in one coffee shop in particular (Caffe Nero in Alderley Edge - feel free to come and say hello sometime!)
I quite often order a coffee and a pastry - but I quite often get so tied up in answering emails or writing new content for this website that I neglect to eat the pastry. Sad times.
So, this quite often leads to me asking for a paper bag so that I can take it home (where it receives the attention it deserves, naturally!)
Now, imagine my reaction when I visited aforementioned cafe to order my ‘usual’ which, first off, the barista thoughtfully remembered and had began preparing.
When it came to putting my chosen pastry on a plate, she quipped: “Oh, Richard, here’s a paper bag… just incase!”
I’m familiar enough with the staff here that this cheeky banter was well-received. I wouldn’t recommend pushing your luck with all customers like this, although a little genuine warmth always goes a long way.
Anyway, the fact that: (i) my name was known, (ii) my usual order was remembered, and, (iii) the barista remembered something fairly individual to me all added up to excellent customer service and it made me feel positive about parting with the £5.20 my chosen coffee and a pastry costs.
Now, you may think I’m prattling on about nothing here. But, I don’t think I am.
Too often chain stores scan our goods and take our money then emotionally push us out the door.
Think about the last time you were in a supermanket queue. It probably went something like this…
“NEEEEXT!” followed by “do you need a bag?” and then “do you have loyalty card?” - does this robotic approach to customer service feel like you’re being treated like an individual?
Compare this to my experience at Caffe Nero.
I felt like an individual, a person. I felt like more than just a statistic, more than just another oder which will help this branch add up to a ‘good week’ of trade.
Sure, it’s clear that all businesses need to make money and to be as efficient as possible at doing so - but Caffe Nero makes more money out of me than the Costa Coffee branch just a few doors along, and it’s the level of customer service that swung it.