Customer Satisfactions Depends on Consistency

I’m sitting in my “virtual office” while waiting for my son who is at math summer school.  It is a small local coffee shop in my small town.  The place is cozy, trendy and hip, good customer service, and the barista is starting to recognize me and is always friendly.  Best of all, there is free wifi.

Typically, I get a “to go” cup so that I can enjoy the coffee in my car on the way home.  The other day, I met a colleague here for a short meeting and I asked for a mug.  The barista did something that was a moment of “Wow,” – she filled the mug with hot water for a minute, then poured out the hot water and handed me the mug.  “This will help keep the coffee warmer longer.” she said with a smile.  I was impressed.

So, as I walked in this morning, she smiled and greeted me warmly.  Remembering the last visit where she warmed up the mug (plus, it was a really cool mug), I asked for a mug.  She handed me the mug and rang up my charge.  My internal reaction was very odd to me.  I felt such a disappointment that my mug wasn’t warmed up. I had thought it was such a special little extra, I truly felt “let down.” Telling myself that I was being petty, I let it go and didn’t say anything.

Now as I’ve been sitting here working away for the past 20 minutes, my coffee has gotten cooler before I’ve had a chance to really enjoy it.  So, in my typical style of needing to make a point in a soft way, I decided to mention it to the barista as she was refilling the carafes of coffee.  I said that I should have had her warm the mug up like she did last time so my coffee would stay warmer longer.  She said that she tries to do that when the mugs feel cold to try to keep the coffee warmer.

So, she did have a method to her plan – when the mugs feel cold, she warms them up.  Evidently, she didn’t think that it was an issue today.  Her intentions were honorable, but it made me wonder about the concept of consistency.  The simple act of warming the mug with hot water made such an impression on me that I was very surprised how disappointed I was when it didn’t happen today.  Same coffee shop, same barista, same environment, but just one little – but notable- difference completely transformed the experience.  I thought that all mugs would be warmed and just expected it.

As a customer, I’ve now learned to ask to have her warm the mug.  But, as a customer, how should I let this truly impact my feelings about this coffee shop.  I am curious to see what will happen next week when I come back again – maybe she’ll remember me and warm it up?

In your business, what are the little extras that you do when you remember to do them?  This small experience leads me to suggest that you find a way to design those extras into the customer experience.  Find ways to make those extras part of the routine in order to avoid that temporary feeling of disconnect with your customers.

What are your thoughts?

One Reply to “Customer Satisfactions Depends on Consistency”

  1. I love the “wow” service of the hot water! But I think you rightly conclude that in the end, great service depends on consistently meeting expectations.

    Love it or hate it, you KNOW what you’re going to get when you go to McDonald’s. They spend a lot of time creating a REPEATABLE customer experience. You’re rarely “wowed”, but you’re rarely disappointed.

    In your post, the barista raised the bar when she heated the mug the first time. Now your EXPECTATIONS changed and your (wow) experience was not repeated on your next visit, which caused disappointment – maybe even dissatisfaction.

    Going forward, you may be *satisfied* if the hot water thing is inconsistent or you have to ask for it, but you won’t be *loyal* until it’s done consistently.

    By the way, the self-serve version of the hot mug is a trick my dad taught me for early morning diner visits (especially in the winter): *Get your first cup only HALF FULL.* The mugs are usually cold from sitting overnight, but it works so well to keep coffee hot, I usually keep my cup half full all the time at home or out.

    Ken Trupke says:

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