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Customer Engagement is the Missing Piece

Updated: Dec 21, 2021

This past week, I visited a few specialty coffee shops. Some major reasons I have for frequenting a café include staff, their hospitality, behavior, and culture. This is why I’ve always had the interest in observing the behavior of the staff—from the Barista inside the bar to the Managers, and to the ones out on the floor.

There’s a lot of talent inside the bar, no doubt, but a disconnect between the customers and the staff has been a common theme. There was simply minimal to zero engagement. It’s very transactional—customer orders, customer pays, barista prepares the drink, and customer gets the drink. I would understand minimal engagement during peak hours, but not during lean hours.

I feel strongly about engaging customers, so if this is something you feel your coffee shop can improve on, here are some tips.

Enthusiasm Makes a Difference

Ever been to a gathering of Family or Friends, and as soon as you arrive, everyone greets you with enthusiasm? Feels good, right? Be excited for your customers as well. Greet. Give a big smile. Be energetic. Be Kind. You can set the mood as soon as a customer walks in. Take advantage of this.

Get to Know Your Customers.

When asking, I don’t mean about their personal life. Instead, ask for their name, ask about what they do, ask about their day, ask about their safety during the typhoon, anything that would show genuine concern for them. If they respond, it would be a great opportunity to speak words of encouragement. Be the café that makes people happy. You never know, a little encouragement can go a long way, especially boosted by caffeine.

Engage Liberally.

Customer engagement is good, only if it’s not limited to the select few. Customers that frequent the place can become friends with the staff. But this can sometimes hinder opportunities to engage others. Learn to limit how long you engage one customer. Yes, we get that you’re friends with some, but give time for new and less frequent customers as well.

Engage Customers, not Colleagues.

I see this a lot, baristas that just talk amongst themselves and neglecting customers. Of course you need to talk to co-workers if it’s productive for the shop, but leave the story telling outside working hours. Focus on taking care and making your customers happy.

Engage People, not Devices

Have a storage area where the staff can keep their things, including their mobile devices. Keep it away from the staff during shifts. Assign the manager to have one working phone the store can use for work and emergencies, and at an area that’s invisible to customers. Refrain from using phones during shifts and especially, inside the coffee bar.

Setting these rules can help in establishing a customer-focused vibe inside the café. The focus is the customer—to engage them, to provide excellent service, and to make them a really good cup of coffee. Cafés are part of the hospitality industry, so let’s make it our initiative to bring back the hospitality in our cafes.

If you think you could use some help getting your crew to engage more, send us a note HERE and let's schedule a chat over coffee.

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