A coffee shop atmosphere should be relaxed and fun, but if your employees don’t feel relaxed or aren’t having fun, your customers will pick up on it. And the service your customers receive comes down to your employees.
There are many factors that go into excellent customer service skills, and it starts with ownership, trickles down to management, and ends with the employees who get the most facetime with your customers. Below are the top six ways to make sure your employees are giving your customers the best service possible.
1. Take care of your employees
Good customer service starts from the top. If your employees feel taken care of at the management and ownership level, they’re way more inclined to represent themselves and your business in the best possible light.
Working at a coffee shop can get really overwhelming, especially if you offer more than just coffee or are located in a high-traffic area. The coffee shop I worked at sold specialty coffee drinks, doughnuts, and ice cream treats of all kinds.
At times there were only two of us working and multiple people ordering ice cream and special lattes. We would get backed up and become unable, try as we might, to put a big smile on our faces and greet every customer like a friend.
That situation could have been prevented by simply having a manager helping to guide us through the rush, or an owner who recognized that two people were just not sufficient at certain times to handle all the items we offered while maintaining amazing customer service.
2. Hire the right people
A thorough interview process for a coffee shop job can tell you a lot about someone. Since the job is so focused on customer service, do an on-the-job interview as well as a regular one. Have a prospective employee come in at a slower time and see how they are around customers. This is also a good chance to see how they handle downtime.
Someone who really isn’t suited for this type of work can only fake the customer service face and voice for so long. If you’ve ever worked in customer service, you know what I’m talking about. Having a prospective employee on for a full shift will give you a good idea of their natural customer service abilities — or the lack thereof.
3. Properly train your staff
Coffee shop customer service training can be tricky to pin down, but it should be present in almost every area of your basic training regimen. If there’s a special way you like employees to greet customers, or a standard for giving discounts and refunds, the remaking of drinks, etc., it’s crucial your employees understand all of it before being put in front of a customer.
Aside from customer service training, your regular training is also crucial to customer service. It’s not necessary for every employee to know how to do everything, such as inventory, ordering, and scheduling, because those things should be handled by the manager or the owner.
For other employees, they should know how to make every coffee drink on the menu, details about every type of baked good or food item offered, where things are stored, who the other staff members are, and what is the chain of command.
When I was first being trained, the manager would have me make every coffee drink, each type of ice cream offering (such as the ice cream doughnut sandwich, a milkshake, or an affogato), and have me run through the different types of doughnuts, including the price differences and how to package them. This led to employees catching on very quickly and being able to accurately help customers faster and with confidence.
4. Appropriately staff your coffee shop
Small coffee shops don’t have the luxury of a huge list of staff members to choose from when it comes to scheduling. There are a number of reasons for this. It can be hard to make sure the right amount of staff is scheduled at any given time, yet, as the owner of the business, it’s your job to know when the busy times are so you can staff up and when it’s OK to scale back.
For example, if the coffee shop is in an area with a lot of other retail stores, it might not be a good idea to only schedule two people on Black Friday when hundreds of shoppers will be out and about and they’re likely to stop at the coffee shop to refuel.
Having enough staff will guarantee that each person isn’t completely in the weeds every second of their shift. That makes it so much harder to be able to meet customer needs and provide the ultimate coffee shop experience for customers.
5. Encourage getting to know the customers
As a local coffee shop becomes a go-to place, it will attract a lot of regulars. One type of regular comes in, chats with the employee for a little bit, gets their regular order, tips, says thank you, and goes on their merry way.
There’s also the regular who comes in while talking on the phone, expects whoever is working to not only know their order but have it ready by the time they get to the register, pays, and leaves without saying a word.
I’ve experienced both types, and it’s hard to give the same customer service to both types of customers. How do you give “good” customer service to someone who doesn’t require it?
But knowing those customers when they come in allows employees to tailor the type of service they give. The cheerful regular requires different customer service than the one who comes in on the phone. But, at the end of the day, all that matters is that the customer is happy, and this is one of the best customer retention strategies.
6. Know that mistakes happen
This may be the best piece of advice I can give, and it goes back to the idea that good customer service comes from the top. If employees know that one mistake, or even three, won’t get them fired, they will have more confidence in themselves and make fewer mistakes in the long run.
In the event that a mistake does occur, encourage employees to be upfront about it. I can’t tell you how many times I, or other employees, had to say to a customer, “I’m so sorry I made this wrong, so I’m going to remake it.” Nine times out of 10, the customer was gracious and understanding.
Admitting mistakes really helps, as does letting a customer know what’s going and why they’re waiting a little longer than usual. It shows that the employees care and want the customers to get the best possible product and service.
The bottom line
A coffee shop business can’t exist without customers, so good customer service is essential to the success of your business. But the business also can’t exist without employees, so making sure employees feel supported and encouraged goes a long way in terms of customer service.
If you’re still struggling, there are plenty of resources out there with examples of good customer service. Add in the six tips above, and your coffee shop business will be sure to retain both employees and customers.