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“Black Americano, please” is my stock phrase for the early morning pick-me-up as I enter my coffee shop of choice to being the day’s writing, planning or meetings.

Now a black Americano, if you didn’t know, is a simple beast. It’s just a single or double espresso shot of coffee, topped up with some hot water to turn the Italian favourite into a slightly longer drink that lasts whilst you work by it’s side.

“Do you want milk with that?” comes back the automated reply from the barista or server. “Uh, no thank you… black Americano, please”. It’s a black coffee. This isn’t complicated. Please don’t ask me a question that I have already answered for you. If you are listening you would know I’m already into my customer journey with you. Rather than take me back a few steps how about moving on in the same direction as I am.

The black Americano duly arrives and sometimes it’s OK and sometimes it’s truly great and I know the day is going to be special.

But what’s this, a spoon in the saucer? Really? Did I ask for a spoon? I don’t think so. Now you have served me for months and whilst we don’t know each other by name I think you might know my order well enough by now to know that on the odd occasion when you ‘forgot’ the spoon I didn’t come back to you asking for one.

If you want to check whether I want a spoon rattling around next to my lovely coffee then you only have to ask, “Do you take sugar?”. Then you will know if you have to go and find a spoon that takes you time and gets in my way anyway.

So Mr Pedantic will slow down now and we can review what’s actually going on.

Firstly customer service is all about listening. Not just to the voice and the order but the visual and subtle cues.

From listening comes knowledge and if this is stored either in the memory, or if it’s a more complex transaction process, in a customer relationship management system (CRM), then it can be recalled and used to personalise the service given next time.

Thirdly it’s vital you don’t just give a bland, ‘same as the customer before’, type of service. If the customer thinks you aren’t listening to them or paying attention to them, it’s disrespectful and you are not going to see them again. If you are on autopilot then the customer will try the same service next door because they may want their custom more.

And finally, the worst of all sins in the customer journey at a retail outlet… talking to a colleague about something else when you are serving a customer. Attention in the customer journey should be absolute. This is a one-strike-and-you-are-out situation so make sure you are devoted to the experience or risk losing your customers in droves.

Now, where’s my caffeine.


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