06 August 2008

Make it easy for people to buy from you



I talk about coffee shops a lot. There are two reasons – the first is that I spend a lot of time scribbling notes furiously in coffee shops and the second is that they often produce the best customer service anecdotes that can be applied to virtually every other kind of business.

I visited a coffee shop recently that just couldn’t seem to get it right. The shop itself was fabulous, the location was great and even the coffee was good but when you talk customer service, they had absolutely no idea. To order you coffee you had to stand in a line that moved at a snails pace. The staff working the till had to punch so many buttons that I thought they must have been writing a novel. Then after they have taken your order you have to wait by the counter with the rest of the crowd, for your coffee. The saddest part is that there is no way to know whose order is whose. They will put a cappuccino on the counter and yell out – “one cappuccino”. Of course, everyone there ordered one cappuccino so who owns this one?

The whole process is a mess. People are arguing, the staff have no idea whose order is whose and the owner sits at a table and watches to whole dilemma  unfold, all day, every day. Who is ever going to go back to the counter and order a second coffee in the midst of this mess? How simple would it be to give people a number? I still don’t understand the reasoning behind this coffee shop’s service philosophy but it is a great way to learn what not to do.

This business made it really hard to make a purchase. Many businesses follow the inadvertent process of putting as many obstacles in front of their customers as they can to eliminate them from buying products. Sometimes it is a cluttered counter, sometimes it is making it a prerequisite that you purchase a minimum amount of a product (a ten year supply). Perhaps you have to sit on the end of telephone for half an hour for the privilege of handing over your money or is it simply too complicated for a customer to simply get served.

Whatever the reason, a key to customer service is to remove all obstacles that make it harder for your customers to make a purchase with your business.  Every step of the buying process should be as smooth as silk and this is the way to start the overall process of improvement – break your entire customer interaction into pieces and look for ways to speed up, fix, change, make better and seriously improve each piece. 

The results of doing this are amazing. I have no doubt that coffee shop I mentioned could have easily increased its turnover by 30-40% simply be introducing better systems and doing what was easier for the customers not what was easier for the business owner. 

In this modern world there are no shortages when it comes to choice. We will persevere for a couple of times with a business, perhaps, but then we will quietly slip away never to return. 

4 thoughts on “Make it easy for people to buy from you”

  1. Roz Howland says:

    Wow! I think I’ve been to that Coffee shop, Andrew – or definitely one that is similar. It’s certainly a shame because in these situations both customer and business lose out. Guess it gets back to the old adage of ‘working on your business as opposed to working in your business’. I love your idea about breaking up the entire customer interaction process & seeking ways to improve each separate component. Great tip – thanks.

  2. Thanks Roz – appreciate your comments. I think it is important that if someone like myself is going to make a statement about customer service related issues, I need to always offer solutions that will help business owners overcome these issues. Of course the problem is that many business owners don’t actually care – but that is a great opportunity for the rest of us. To be extraordinary is not that hard when the majority aim to be ordinary.

    By the way I like your business (the website was great).


  3. Angela says:

    Excellent wewblog right here! Also yur wweb site ratherr a lot up very fast!
    Whaat hhost are youu using? Can I gget your affilliate hypeerlink to
    youjr host? I wqnt mmy website loaded up as quickly as yiurs lol

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