Customer service is the backbone of any coffee shop experience. People go for good service and specialty drinks they can’t get at home. As a coffee shop owner, you have to provide the tastes and experience your customers want. But the coffee shop market is highly competitive. I’ll give you some tips on how you can improve your customer service to thrive in this competitive market.
Five customer service ideas for your coffee shop are:
• Proper Training
• Responsiveness to Customers
• Properly Staffing your Shop
• Foster a Culture of Accountability
The first thing you need to understand about good customer service is that it starts at the top. Training your staff to provide good customer service is good and necessary. However, training only goes so far. You and your upper management team must be models for your employees. If you’re telling your employees to follow all the rules of good customer service or make specialty drinks but you and your management team don’t know how to do those things, your team won’t respect you and the quality of your service will service.
Knowing how to do the things that you want your team to do will build a solid relationship with you and your employees and it will be handy in a pinch. Plus, it will endear you to your customers. Customers like an active owner and since you are the face of your business, it’s in your interest for you to be seen among your customers rather than hanging out in a back office.
One of the things you need to do to get good service out of your employees is to train them on how to provide it. While the bare minimum of customer service is basic common sense, a coffee shop must go above and beyond (within reason) to stand out in today’s coffee shop market.
But customer service is only one part of the training your employees need. In order to stand out, your coffee shop will need to be able to cater to a variety of different tastes in coffee and other things on your menu. Coffee shops often have specialty or seasonal flavors to draw in customers. But simply having them on the menu is not enough. You have to train your employees to be able to prepare the drinks and other menu items. This means setting some time aside prior to launch or, if your business has already launched, setting some time before or after work hours. Having a new employee shadow a more experienced employee will also help since making a drink in a training session and making it on a busy shift are two different things.
The key to the training is consistency. Your customer will want their order prepared the same way every time, regardless of which employee is preparing it. If they feel like they have to guess whether or not they’ll get a good drink in a timely fashion, chances are they will patronize the competition instead. For more information on training your staff, check out our article here.
Responsiveness to Customers
Customers will give you feedback, some negative some positive. It is imperative that you respond to what your customers have to say when it’s reasonable (ignore the people who are being hostile for no reason). Sometimes, their criticisms will be valid. If you and your employees refuse to acknowledge any criticism, your business will suffer. Refusing to change what is not working or adapt to changing customer tastes will damage your business.
Acknowledge your regular customers
The backbone of any small coffee shop is your community. Many small coffee shops will develop a core base of regular customers. Train your employees to acknowledge those regular people. Tell them to say hello, learn their names, preferences and develop a friendly (although professional) relationship with these regulars.
A small coffee shop often builds its initial reputation by word of mouth. Regulars will often spread the word to their friends both in person and on social media. Being responsive to this base (within reason) will help you build your business. Find more ideas on building your customer base here.
Properly Staffing Your Shop
One thing you need to get good customer service is a properly-sized staff. I’ve seen understaffed coffee shops before and it was a nightmare for everyone involved. The customers were waiting for an inordinately long time. The few employees that were there were frazzled. Customers were walking out. Customer service collapsed because there wasn’t enough staff and it was demoralizing for the staff.
While life can throw curveballs and these situations can happen despite your best efforts, you should do your best to avoid these scenarios whenever possible. Even if that means you and your upper management team getting on the floor themselves to back up the rest of your team.
One way to properly staff your shop is to take note of your peak times. Data is always helpful. Note what days your shop is busiest. Analyze what times of year have the most customers. You may not be able to have a large staff year-round but if you notice you’re getting an uptick in customers at certain times of year (holidays for example), consider getting seasonal staff. And if you need more help deciding how many employees to hire, we have some advice for you here.
Foster a Culture of Accountability
Fostering a culture of accountability doesn’t mean coming down hard on every minor thing. Your employees are humans just like you. Mistakes will be made. Sometimes things will happen that are outside your employee’s control and they may run late for example.
Acknowledging your employees’ humanity will motivate them to give their best. If you don’t, your employees will become demoralized and only give the bare minimum.
That said, you do have to come down on frequent bad performance. Some people are not cut out for customer service and some will try to take advantage of you. If an employee is incorrigible, you must deal with them. Being a leader, much like everything else in life, is about balance.
Being a leader also means acknowledging your own errors and taking responsibility for them. If your employees see that you’re willing to take responsibility when you mess up, they will be more likely to give their best.
Creating a culture of accountability doesn’t just mean holding yourself/your employees accountable for failures, It also means acknowledging successes.
Maybe it means giving bonuses. Or maybe an employee of the month picture is what you can afford. Either way, celebrating accomplishments is key to a good culture in your business. Don’t just limit yourself to acknowledging the absolute best employee either. Look at everything your employees did and positively reinforce it.
Frequently Asked Questions
Pay them well! Working in a coffee shop is harder than many people think it is. If your employees are compensated well, they will give their best.
In my opinion, yes. Nobody likes unpaid training. If employees aren’t paid for training, they may think you don’t think the training is important. As a consequence, they won’t focus on the training the way they should.
Please note: This blog post is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Please consult a legal expert to address your specific needs.
Hi! I’m Shawn Chun
My adventure in coffee began when I first launched my first coffee shop back in the early 2000s. I had to figure out so many things on my own and to make it worse within 2 years of opening two large corporate coffee chains moved in just blocks away from me!
As I saw smaller and even some larger coffee shops in the neighborhood slowly lose customers to these giant coffee chains and slowly close up shop, I knew that I had to start getting creative…or go out of business.
I (like you may be) knew the coffee industry well. I could make the best latte art around and the foam on my caps was the fluffiest you have ever seen. I even had the best state-of-the-art 2 group digital Nuova Simonelli machine money could buy. But I knew that these things alone would not be enough to lure customers away from the name brand established coffee shops.
Eventually, through lots of trial and error as well as perseverance and creativity I did find a way to not only survive but also thrive in the coffee/espresso industry even while those corporate coffee chains stayed put. During those years I learned to adapt and always faced new challenges. It was not always easy, however, in the end, I was the sole survivor independent coffee shop within a 10-mile radius of my location. Just two corporate coffee chains and I were left after that year. All told the corporate coffee chains took down over 15 small independent coffee shops and kiosks and I was the last one standing and thriving.
Along the years I meet others with the same passion for coffee and I quickly learned that it is not only “how good a barista is” that makes a coffee shop successful, but the business side of coffee as well.
Hence why I started this website you are on now. To provide the tools and resources for up and coming coffee shop owners to gain that vital insight and knowledge on how to start a coffee shop successfully.
Stick around, browse through my helpful blog and resources and enjoy your stay! With lots of LATTE LOVE!