Coffee shop saga

Customer Service is becoming increasingly paramount in retail business. My previous life as a career professional was about managing corporations and sales. As much as I was focusing on the sales side, I was fortunate to have learnt early enough that retail is where the magic happens. Over the last 10 years or so, I am a big fan of retail and retail shops. I have managed over 1000 staff in my career and we have had a world class training program for the retail staff. To add more flavour to it, we had localised it and I lead soft-skills training for a while now. We even did role plays to push the boundaries of customer demands and anger management.

I am very choosy and particular about customer service when I visit any retail shop. I think I shouldn’t be so particular about things but some things just enter your blood to stay.

In the leafy suburbs of Nairobi, we were meeting to discuss a potential future collaboration at this coffee shop. My friend and business associate Gibson decided to order a Ginger lemon honey drink while I stuck to my all-time-favorite cappuccino. In the winter it is very common for people to order the Ginger Lemon honey drink.

In 15 minutes or so, we were busy discussing. We didn’t notice that the waitress was at our table to pick up the cups. She picked up the cup from Gibson’s side and waled away. Gibson looked a bit perplexed and confused but dumbfound. I decided to intervene and spoke to the waitress immediately. “Excuse me, he is not finished yet, he is sill drinking”. She gave a blank look and replied, “Well, I need this cup anyway, there is a shortage of this cup”.

What you make of this treatment in a Coffee Shop?

Would you say the restaurant and coffee shop staff are trained in basic customer service skills?

Let us revisit the scenario. What was the best way to handle the situation.

What is the core customer service issue here? I think the waitress could have politely asked if her customer had finished drinking and whether or not she could remove the cup.

But let us dive deeply into the human side of the problem. What is the root cause of the waitress acting in such a way?

It really looked like the waitress was under stress. Was it work pressure? a personal stress? was it because of not being mindful? did another customer treat her badly?

The coffee shop does have a supervisor. Is he trained to manage his staff on such issues?

Could she have apologized to the customer?

Are your staff trained to say “Thank you” and “Sorry”?

I am not sure. I strongly suggest giving a good customer service training touching all aspects of soft skills, attitude and behaviour pattern to your retail staff.

The customer did not bother to escalate it to the supervisor. My friend and business associate did not think much of it but he is just too nice a guy. It all ended well.

I can tell you that we did go back to the same coffee shop again on another day. We  saw the same waitress in the coffee shop too.