Would you like some room for cream?

Call me hopelessly naive about customer service, but there is something about “would you like some room for cream?” question that makes me feel good in a kind of subconscious “they care” way.  Here is why I think it strikes a cord:

  1. It’s not an upsell. They already sold you the coffee, so (at least in my mind) the question is not tied to the commercial transaction. They are not trying to get you to buy something else.
  2. It’s the thought that counts. What if you did decide to add cream and the cup was already full? Ever tried squeezing a plastic lid on a full cup of steaming coffee? Good luck.
  3. It’s engaging. With business transactions getting aggressively depersonalized, a personal touch (albeit a semi-automated one) is appreciated. Yes, the line between overbearing and engaging is a fine one, but here I feel this is well-balanced. I know it’s not a real conversation but it could be a beginning of one.
  4. It’s unexpected. I know I’ve been asked this so many times, but it still feels unexpected and out of ordinary routine. In my mind this is distinctly different from “How are you?”, which we all know is a formulaic greeting and is in no way an indication that the party gives a hoot about how you are actually doing.

Commercially speaking I don’t think this is of any direct value to the coffee shop. Perhaps, there is some product waste reduction and fewer lawsuits from scalded customers, but I bet that’s not why the question is asked. I think it’s asked for the warm and fuzzies, and is a subtle way to let the customer know you value their business and look out for their well-being.

At this point you might be wondering if there is some greater insight here about the evolution of customer service. Not really, but do think about what defines a good customer experience for you personally. This combination of moves works for me:

Find a way to let me know that you care about what happens after the sale is done. Make sure it’s as personal as possible and untainted by the sales pitch. Make it unobtrusive and slightly unexpected.

Then at last I am really sold!
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