Monday, April 6, 2009

Unexpected Acts of Service

A new coffee shop opened up around the corner from me a couple weeks ago. It's a little like what people are calling a "Coffee 2.0" shop. These are the post-Starbucks coffee houses usually staffed by very intense, lean, bearded dudes and tattooed women who park their fixed gear bikes behind the counter and work their shift with their pant legs still pegged. The menus are sparse. Five drinks maybe, often no food, certainly no CD's or insulated mugs. The foam is poured seriously into exacting patterns: hearts, Christmas trees, apples, friendly lions.

While I like the monastic attention to that's given to the coffee drinks, the experience is often marked by a total lack of humor and, more often than I wish, poor service. Want a smile? Not today. Want a custom drink? Good luck. I've seen a sign at one place that basically said "We don't customize in order to respect the integrity of the drink." Huh?

This new place has been getting its bearings for the past couple weeks. Service has been up and down. But today I stopped in, grabbed a pound of beans and was walloped with a couple surprises.

"Hey, thanks for coming in. How are you going to brew those?"
I make espresso.
"Good -- they're great for that. What kind of machine?"
I told her.
"Nice. We're using that blend to brew our espresso right now. Same roast date even. I like it a lot, it's pulling awesome right now. Would you like a shot on the house?"
Hell yes!

The interaction was quick. The shot cost the cafe almost nothing. The attention and questions she offered were free. The experience was something I won't forget. Guess where I'll buy my next bag?

I was reminded of our kind of service. These small, thoughtful extra miles are what we do really well. They're not easy to invent on the spot, customized for every different customer, but they don't have to be. It was obvious that she'd offered people shots for buying a bag of coffee before. She had her own system that let her give service that felt fresh and personal and not contrived at all.

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