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A Double shot of Poor Service

Yet again I have been left to pose the question, how much do your staff actually cost you. As will you no doubt find out in the articles to come, poor customer service is a topic that arouses my emotions as it is something that cost business owner's world wide billions of dollars each year.

I was recently at a coffee shop meeting up with a group of people who I meet with every Tuesday night to discuss various business and development issues. We had decided to try a new café this particular Tuesday as, believe it or not, the customer service in the one we were meeting at was particularly poor.

Prior to leaving for the meeting I made sure that I had enough cash to buy my cup of coffee. This particular meeting I knew I was leaving early to go to my next appointment, I wanted to make sure that I could cover the cost of my cup of coffee smoothly and with as little fuss as possible, as not to disturb the flow of the meeting.

My initial impression of the café was a good one. It was set out in an authentic alfresco décor, the ambiance was good and the service from the waitress was prompt and friendly. I had $4.00 cash, which in my opinion generally buys me a flat white or a cappuccino. As I scrolled down the menu I noticed that the coffees were reasonably priced. The most expensive coffee on the menu, an affagatto, $3.95. Bingo sounds great! Being a virgin affagatto drinker combined with my desire to try new things, I ordered the affagatto. The waitress asked the question, "With your coffee, would you like a short black or a long black?" A long black I replied, not knowing exactly what I was in for.

The rest of the group order their coffees, and most ordered food. As it was planned for my wife and I to have dinner after I picked her up from her meeting I was content with my new and exciting affagatto.

It had arrived, a clean white cup with a scoop of ice cream in the centre and a small (and I mean small) shot of coffee in a separate dispenser. A different waiter to the one that took the order, placed the two items in front of me, made a passing remark which could only be described as a very poor attempt to build rapport. I thanked him for brining out the coffee. As I looked at the coffee and in particularly the lack of espresso in the supposed "long black" dispenser, the waiter asked me a question which at the time seemed professional. "That's a bit low, would you like some more espresso?" "That would be lovely, thank you" I replied.

A couple of minutes later he returned with another dispenser, full to the top, all signs pointing me in the direction of an above average coffee experience... until. "This one even has the white shit on the top" was the comment the waiter made as he sat down my extra espresso. This comment may have been the upsetting experience for some however; I passed it off as just another very poor attempt to build some form of customer relationship.

Despite the impropriety I was still excited about my first affagatto experience.
The meeting was still in full swing when it was time for me to leave. I enjoyed my affagatto, I enjoyed my meeting and the food that was served to those that ordered meals, looked and smelled sensational. In fact the, apart from the slip of the tongue from the teenage waiter, the experience was of a standard where by I would be happy to return for dinner that evening. And I intended to do so.

I approached the counter to pay for my coffee. "That comes to $4.45" says the disinterested, again teenage waitress behind the counter. I questioned the price as I pulled out the $4.00 in gold coins out of my pocket. "You ordered a double shot of coffee" she said. A feeling of embarrassment was rushing through my body. "The waiter asked if I would like a bit more coffee, implying that the amount in the dispenser was low" I said to the waitress politely. Not wanting to make a scene and not at all concerned about the 45 cents. I reached for my credit card, at which point I was stoped by the waitress who said, "We actually have a $10 limit on eftpos."

Now before I continue I need make clear the situation that has now taken place. When asked if I would like some more coffee, the impression was made that the waiter was doing this a good gesture. At no point did he ask if would like another shot of coffee, or even slightly imply that the extra espresso he was bringing out would be charged for. So before you say sarcastically "it was only 45 cents" be clear on the point I am trying to make. It was not the forty-five cents for the extra shot of coffee, it wasn't really even the passing expletive that was made on delivery of the extra espresso, it was the lack of clarity and procedure in the staff member's customer service that has now left me in a more than embarrassing situation. A situation that is now going to force me to ask the question that every young business professional dreads asking to any of his or her peers. "Can I borrow 45 cents?"

It gets better. One of my colleagues gave me a dollar coin, after the expected ribbing I received from the whole table. I returned to the cash registered at which time the male waiter with the potty mouth passed another comment that would have every business owner shudder, "now you have enough for a tip" which was delivered in a way that left me with a strong desire to place that change strategically somewhere other than my pocket.

The lesson that needs to be learnt from this situation is that for 45 cents, my overall experience of that café went from one of above average to, no longer wanting to bring my wife back to have dinner, that night. And what is a meal for two worth at a café these days, $60 or $70 with some drinks. $0.45 or $60, ahh?

Simple customer service processes would avoid a situation such as this. When a waiter/waitress asks, "long black or short black", make sure that the order is correct before delivering it to the customer. When asking customers questions that involve an extra charge, be clear on what it is you are asking them and furthermore be clear that they understand what you're asking. This principle applies to all retail operations, not just coffee shops. Sales processes are not limited to large operations, they are not expensive to establish and they will return you much more than your initial outlay.

Considering your staff are for most part the front line of your business, invest in their training or they will cost you more than their weekly wages.

By Simon Bell

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