The customer is king!
The customer is always right!
The customer is yeah, yeah, we get it!

It’s no secret how important customers are to a growing business.

But have you ever thought about how you could better connect with your customers?

How you could turn those visitors into regulars?

How could it improve customer satisfaction?

And how it could take your business to the next level?

The customer experience can always be improved. Whether it’s addressing the quality of your product, the friendliness of your staff or space you operate in.

In the coffee industry, there are many things you can do to attract the loyal customers you need to grow your business.

Read on as we explore the world of customer service and discover the simple things you could be doing to keep your customers happy.

1. Hire passionate people and customers will fall in love with your business.

Perhaps the most important factor in the success of any coffee business is the strength of its staff. For small independent companies, enthusiastic staff can be a point of difference and are often key to unlocking a better customer experience.

In the coffee world, an engaging barista can really set you apart and definitely makes selling specialty coffee much, much easier. When choosing your baristas, remember that extracting espresso and steaming milk can be learned – but passion and a desire to connect with customers can’t! Which is why we always recommend prioritising enthusiasm over skills.

With this in mind, you should always view staff as an investment rather than a cost. Pay them well, train them continuously and they’ll become your biggest asset. Plus they’re more likely to stay with you in the long-term.

2. Embrace change

The challenges facing retail are clear for all to see and in an unstable marketplace you need to be ready to adapt. Because who wants to get left behind?

Founder of The London Coffee Festival Jeffrey Young recently commented that ‘yesterday’s great is tomorrow’s ordinary’, words that certainly hold true for the average consumer.

Maxwell Colonna-Dashwood, coffee entrepreneur and owner of Colonna Coffee noted that the big chains are great at changing customer experience to keep coffee drinkers interested and engaged. For example, simply moving things around the menu or taking away the most obvious choices can nudge people to try something different – an experience which can be very rewarding when it’s a beverage that they enjoy.

It’s an approach that Maxwell implemented in one of his own businesses, losing the standard house coffees, taking sugar off the tables and ditching the menus at Colonna and Small in Bath to change the conversation and help turn his establishment into a destination coffee shop.

3. What does the research say?

A study by one of the UK’s leading hospitality research consultancies suggests that today’s super savvy millennials are demanding a more authentic coffee experience.

Allegra Strategies’ studies indicate that we will see high quality boutique chains who deliver a well-crafted artisan concept having way more influence.

The challenge to a smaller independent coffee business is scaling your own boutique concept while standardising your processes without becoming uniform and boring.

Research and data in the coffee industry are becoming an important tool to improve customer service and it’s worth taking the time to read up on the findings that’s being produced by the big players in the market – e.g. Nestle, Jacob Douwe and JAB Holdings. Their internal research often filters out into the mainstream and is a good source of information.

4. Set an example to your customers and more will follow

As an independent business you are the beating heart of your community and this gives you the opportunity to lead the way and promote good values to anyone who comes to visit your shop.

A sustainable business is something that interests many consumers and sharing these beliefs can help your grow your customer base.

However, it’s just as important that you don’t over play your ethical credentials as you may come across as worthy or insincere.

5. Did someone say food?

It’s hardly a revelation that thirsty customers are often going to be hungry customers too. This is your chance to make them happy customers.

Food is a great way to increase your average customer spend but we would certainly recommend thinking long and hard about what you offer and how you are going to maintain your high standards.

As Andrew Tolley of Taylor Street Baristas points out, customers are looking for a real flair in food/cooking and you’ll have a lot of competition on the high street from places like your Prets, bistros, gastropubs, delis and cafes.

Customers also increasingly want original and freshly made dishes which means developing a strong menu, and investing in a good chef, experienced kitchen staff, additional equipment and a regular supply of high-quality ingredients.

6. Reward loyalty

We humans are creatures of habit, and it doesn’t take much to keep us coming back for more of the same. Particularly when we know there’s a tasty coffee waiting for us.

In the crowded coffee market, loyalty schemes are becoming increasingly important for customer retention. In fact, in an Allegra survey of 50,000 consumers, the three factors that influenced retention most were 1) location 2) quality of coffee and 3) a loyalty app!

7. The power of people and technology

When introducing new technology to your business, it simply has to be a seamless experience for the customer.

What’s more, many believe we’re on our way to a completely cashless society and it’s important you have the tools available to compete with the bigger chains and cafes.

iZettle has built a service-centric point-of-sale system that meets the needs of the modern business, allowing you to take faster payments, stay mobile and keep your costs down – everything that’s massively important for any independent food and drink retailers worth their salt.