Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Great Customer Service in Action at Blue Bean Coffee

I think as software testers (and IT professionals in general) we need to pay a lot of attention to how we serve our customers. Many companies make the outsourcing decision because IT is no longer delivering the level of service the company needs. Frankly, I have been in some IT departments that deserve to be outsourced due to complacency and lack of business focus.

However, people know great service when they see it.

This morning I was having coffee with my pastor at Blue Bean coffee here in south Oklahoma City (SW 134 and Western). All of a sudden, the lady behind the counter ran out the door with a can of whipped cream in her hand. Turned out she had forgotten to top off the customer's drink. She said, "That would have bothered me all day."

Wow. That made an impression. Really, it's not that big a deal, but in today's "lack of service" culture it stands out.

Compare that to my experience a couple of weeks ago at Starbucks, not too far away. I go in with my own mug and ask for the free cup of coffee they were promoting for Earth Day. (This happened on Earth Day!) The barista looked confused and went in the back office to ask the manager. He came back out and said, "Sorry, that was last week." "OK," I said. "I guess I'll have a tall bold." To which he replied, "We only have a little left." "Is is fresh," I asked. "We change it every 30 minutes," he said. Now, you coffee drinkers out there know that a little coffee left on the heat for even a short time gets bitter, but I took my chances. Turned out, it was bad but I has already left. I complained to Starbucks online and got a good response back and two free drink coupons.

I was left wondering, though, how hard would it have been for the barista to simply say, "That promotion was last week, but here, have a cup anyway."? Perhaps he was not empowered to do that, or maybe he just wasn't thinking about the lifetime value of a customer.

Remember how Starbucks has tried all the other "ambiance" stuff - music, etc. I applaud the efforts at creating an experience, but to me the customer, I don't go to Starbucks for music. I go there for coffee and hope for decent service. Sometime they are friendly and sometimes they aren't. For the longest time all they served was Pike Place. Then, finally, someone in corporate woke up and decided to start offering different blends again.

All I can say is that I'll use those Starbucks coupons on the road and get my local coffee at Blue Bean. It's more personal, more friendly and they have better coffee. And that's what it's all about - the coffee and the service.

Keep that in mind as you serve people in IT. If you give great service and have a great product, people will find you irreplaceable and keep coming back for more. You will be more personal and more valuable.


Carol Dekkers said...


Love your writing! And how nice to discover a barista who excels in customer service. Too bad the Blue Bean Coffee is too far for a morning commute from Tampa.

Keep up the great blogging!

Randy Rice said...

Hi Carol,

Thanks! This little coffee shop has been right under my nose all this time. You and I can both relate to doing business with other small businesses.

Take care,