Mocopan discusses building an exceptional customer experience

Mocopan

Mocopan Coffee’s Elouise del Rosario on how to boost customer service and turn one-time customers into regulars.

Customer service is the cornerstone to the hospitality industry and in particular the café environment. As the world comes out of the pandemic and our options for coffee and food expand, the choice of where the customer wants to spend their hard earned dollars starts to come down to a few simple things: quality, speed and most importantly, customer service. If these key attributes are executed well, it can make your café ‘the spot to be’.

I’ve been lucky enough in my career to work in a range of café environments from high volume lobby-style cafés with majority of the clientele being regulars, to roastery café environment that has expectations on knowledge and delivering experiences, as well as destination-style cafés in which people wait over an hour to be seated. The style your café will have an impact on the type of customer service you deliver and what type of customers you should expect to walk through the door.

To create the environment to deliver a great experience, here are some key points to consider:

Customer relationships/interactions: This can be as simple as remembering the customer’s name or at a minimum, their coffee to match their face. Adding that layer of personalisation to your greeting goes a long way. It makes them feel special and valued. Building a quick rapport with new customers can also open the door to further conversations. What began with a name, can soon turn to greetings like, “The usual Tony?” or “How’s the family Cindy?” Creating these positive experiences and showing you care about the time spent in your venue goes such a long way.

Coffee: Let’s be honest, the reason cafés have customers at all, is because of that little brown bean that’s so carefully treated. Quality will always play a large role in the number of customers you can attract and retaining them will come down to consistency.

To help deliver “an experience” to your customers each day, reach out to your coffee supplier and ask for training, which can be information on blends, single origin, filter, batch and even coffee recipes. This can help take the pressure off your team’s daily requirements and let them give more of that energy to the customer. Having an experienced and knowledgeable barista can then engage with customers who are interested in the nerdy/geeky side of coffee talk.

Offerings: Now that your customers are happy, engaged and looking forward to their daily chats, how else can you keep them on their toes and remain excited to be coming back regularly?

One option is an extended coffee offering usually in the form of single origins. Most coffee companies that offer single origins rotate their offerings over a period, changing from country to country, which is almost always a change in unique flavour profiles. You will always find specific customers drawn to this style of coffee, usually, espresso, black coffee, or filter coffee drinkers. This almost always results in a very strong relationship between your baristas and customers. If executed well, it can lead to new customers as word spreads quick when the black coffee tastes good.

Let’s not forget about food offerings. We eat with our eyes so consider the aesthetic and presentation of your dishes. But at the end of the day, it all comes down to taste. You may decide to keep your menu simple and classic or perhaps trendy and seasonal. The main thing to keep in mind is the flexibility to be able to cater to dietary needs. For example, having vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options.

Training: Effective training programs often provide strong foundations for customer service. Shadowing and mentoring are more customary methods of training and is often the most effective way for new employees to learn about your processes. These methods will provide new employees with a way to experience more senior staff’s customer interactions and your café’s approach to service.

Staff: As a previous café manager, one of the biggest challenges I faced was finding and retaining the right staff. While highly experienced candidates are ideal, sometimes an unexperienced applicant may surprise you. With a positive attitude, strong work ethic, the right skills and training, these inexperienced staff may become your top employees in no time. Having strong guidelines set in place and aligning the team on expectations when it comes to customer service ensures consistency on the delivery of service. This could include at a bare minimum – greeting customers with a smile, being prompt and attentive, checking on customers often, and thanking them at the end of their time spent in the café. It is also important to consider setting a happy environment in the workplace. When your staff are happy to be at work, your customers can see and feel this. Once these are instilled in your team, you will see the rewards in your customers returning regularly as there is a sense of feeling “home”.

Operations: If your café is firing on all cylinders, one of the final questions you need to ask yourself is: “Is being flexible good or bad?” This will always come down to the experience in your team. If you have a super experienced team that are calm under pressure, and have great rapport with customers, being flexible will benefit you. But, if you have new people or inexperienced staff, flexibility can be the killer – mistakes on orders, bad timing and complaints that damage your reputation probably isn’t worth it. Sticking strong to the café processes can ultimately let staff handle situations quickly and appropriately and keep things happy, energetic, and fast.

Feedback: As the industry continues to evolve, customer feedback is a great way to learn about areas in your café that may need improvement. Talk to your customers and ask them for their feedback. This shows that you value their opinion – the good and bad. To be able to provide exceptional customer service, you need to be able to evolve based on the feedback you receive from your customers. This in turn can help strengthen customer relationships and enhance the overall experience.

Customer service doesn’t cost a thing and what it can contribute to a business is extraordinary. When people feel welcomed and important in your venue, that’s when they turn from a one-time customer to a regular. By providing and considering the above points, you can enhance your customer’s experience in a way that creates an unforgettable memory.

As competition continues to grow and rise in the industry, ways in which you can attract new customers and retain them is getting smaller. But one factor that remains personalised and unique to each café is customer engagement. The experience you create everyday through interactions and relationships will be the key to building an establishment that has a great rapport/reputation and streams of regulars every day.

In my experience, it starts with a name and can end with a friendship.

This article appears in the April 2022 edition of BeanScene. Subscribe HERE.

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