Saturday, May 08, 2004

Note for Employee's Training Manual 

If you ask a customer for their name, use it. Use it at least once. Use it more often if necessary. But don't ask for their name on an order, then call out what the ordered item was instead of the customer's name.

What was the point in getting the customer's name if it wasn't going to be used?

I mention this because this morning I had to go to the Post Office to get a box and decided - for the first time ever - to get a coffee at Starbuck's - just to see what everyone was raving about. If we're going to be intimately involved in the coffee business, we need to know our competition, and Starbuck's is just that.

So, I enter. The place is crowded. Not with people, with stuff. There's a free-standing shelf blocking the way into the order line filled with Tazo Teas and candies. It stands about 5 feet high, so short people like me can't see around it.

Walking around that, I see the cramped order area - two cash registers placed with less than 15 inches of customer order space between them. Towering over one register is a bakery case with croissants in it, and beneath the register is a case of bottled drinks. To make it seem even more cramped, the sugars and such for the cooffees is three feet behind the cutomer when they face the dual registers. Only 2-3 people can stand comfortably in line. Then, for some reason, into what little floor space there was at the order counter, they placed a round table with a sample coffee urn and tiny sample cups there. Then there's the door to the restrooms, partially blocked by a shelf-case filled with coffee mugs for sale. The remaining order area, where customers can actually stand to place orders, is less than 3 square feet.

Service was prompt, but it was disconcerting to be asked "What size?" before I'd even said what I'd like to drink, and then, still before I could give my order, the cashier demanded my name. He wrote it on the cup and handed it off to someone else - before knowing what to fill it with. Then, finally, he asked what I wanted to drink.

By then, I was wondering if it was such a good idea to visit. And wondering if the coffee would be worth the $3.00 for a small cup of coffee.

Once the order was placed, there was nowhere to wait for the coffee. The pick-up counter had shelves around it filled with things for sale, mugs, T-shirts, coffee coasters, and the like. Short as I am, I couldn't reach the pick-up counter through all of that.

In waiting for the coffee to be poured, I suppose I could have taken one of the tables - the seating area was spacious. But all the tables were full, and I thought it would be rude to tower over a full table. So I kind of hovered on the door side of the shelves, moving out of the way whenever another customer entered, assuring them I wasn't in line.

Like I said, the customer seating area was spacious. The tables were widely spaced apart. Keeping in theme with their counter crowding, they could have easily added another 8-9 tables with chairs.

Or they could have moved the sugar area into the customer seating area with no loss of seating space, and a much better flow of customer orders. They could have even placed the shelves of merchandise in the middle of the seating area, possibly even on a line from the door without making it feel crowded. So why did they make the order area so cramped? There was plenty of room to spread things out a bit. More room would have made it feel more welcoming.

When my order was finally ready - after 3 people who ordered after me got theirs - they didn't call my name. They quietly announced the contents of the cup after setting it on the counter between the registers, not the pick-up counter (which I couldn't reach anyway). Well - others could have ordered the same thing, so I had no idea it was my order. Finally, I got back in line and asked if it would be ready soon, since people behind me had their drinks. Those people were apparently regulars, because when their drinks were ready, the counter person (not the cashier) looked around the room for them and gestured to them it was ready. I was told, rather curtly, that my coffee had been ready for some time, and they pointed to the cooling cup of coffee on the counter.

I was brazen enough to ask how I could possibly have known it was my order since they never called my name.

His excuse, "I couldn't read my handwriting."

No. If you are going to ask my name and put it on the container, then you must have the courtesy to use my name when the order is ready.

How was I to know it was my order when there were a dozen other people inside that could have ordered the same thing?

Cracked Cauldron employees will not give an unpleasant experience to our customers, even in something as minor as this.

And we will design the order counters so they don't appear cramped. They may, depending on the location, have to be cramped, but there are little tricks to make the space seem more open. We will use them.

And if we need to get a customer's name for any reason, we will use it at least once.

That's simple common courtesy.

And the coffee? Well, it was not bad. At least it wasn't burnt-tasting. But it wasn't worth $3.00 or the hassles I had getting it.

I'm going to presume it was this way only at this particular free-standing Starbuck's because I've seen Starbuck's kiosks in other places that had much less cramped order areas. I may try one of them to see if the name experience is repeated. If it is, that's a definite thing about which to complain.

And about which to warn and train our own employees against doing.

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