Cream & Sugar

Recently, I met a client/friend, or perhaps friend/client for “coffee.” Coffee is in quotes because I rarely drink it; I ordered iced tea.

Here’s what went down.

Robert asked for a coffee, with a little room for cream.

The barista dude said “We only provide milk products for our lattes and cappuccinos. Our brewed coffee is made to order and served black.”

Robert: “So you don’t put cream in the coffee, but I can put in my own cream?”

Barista dude: “No sir, we only provide milk products for our lattes and cappuccinos. If you want milk or sugar, we recommend one of our lattes or cappuccinos.”

Robert: “So if I put milk in my brewed coffee, what happens? You call the coffee police?”

Barista dude: “We don’t provide milk products.”

Robert: “Okie-doke. I’ll have a cup of ice water, please.”

The incident ordering the coffee led to an interchange between me and some mysterious person at the shop. I was shocked by how doggedly he or she pursued me when I gave feedback. At some point I just wanted to say, “dude, it is just coffee…”

Following is the (unbelievable) dialog, edited slightly for clarity.

Them: “We craft all of our beverages to order and do not add any additives to our brewed coffees. Please let your attorney friend Mr. Robert who already complained on review sites know our policy of making the best product and sharing our passion and love for quality won’t change.”

Me: “He was not asking you to add anything, only to have the opportunity to do it himself. So it’s customer service be damned then. Good to know.”

Them: “Horrible idea of insisting we craft the beverage for someone, instead of just more of the same. You’re a court reporter and he is an attorney correct?”

Me: “Incorrect. I think you are better off stopping this conversation. You keep digging yourself in deeper. I’ll just add, give the customer what they want…”

Them: “Plenty of places with sub par product for your future meetings. I would refund your friend but he didn’t buy anything because he couldn’t get his way, then ran to write reviews. With all due respect, open your own place and present what you see fit.”

Me: “What the heck, I hope you are the owner of this project, because if you are employee, you need to be fired for your horrible customer service skills.”

Because my friend is good natured, the incident has become humorous to us, and many people are following the story on Facebook. This owner has been published saying basically that his brew is so special no one should modify it. He says he wants customers to “step out of their comfort zone” and try the coffee on his terms. That’s all well and good for him, I suppose.

This incident made me ponder why would any business owner not allow the customer to have a little cream and sugar? Not that everyone serves coffee; we don’t. But, if a customer asks for some accommodation, why not? Our cream and sugar is the little things we offer our clients, such as help with a Powerpoint to be used at a mock trial. Our client this week needed a little help on the fly – no problem, even though he is not paying directly for that help, why not? It makes the process go smoother and leads to a happier client than if we said “no” or “only if you pay us extra.” So, two points from this post, give the customer what he/she wants – as long as there is no harm; we don’t let clients add anything to their “coffee” that would be bad research or bad advice. And, a little sugar and cream can make a big difference in client satisfaction, whatever form those things might take! Satisfied clients will be back for more “coffee”; unsatisfied ones won’t. Needless to say, there is a coffee shop in Ft. Lauderdale to which I won’t return. Not that they will miss me, but now, instead of 1 dissatisfied customer, they have dozens of people who won’t go there, all for the want of a little cream.

Readers of David’s and my posts often remark to me that they wonder when, or if, we will ever deplete our supply of topics about which to write. I believe this is highly doubtful, due to the colorful lives we live and our unique ways of looking at the world around us. Who would have thought, when we began our blogs many years ago, that David would initiate one about coffee? David’s experience with his friend, Robert, seemed unbelievably hilarious to me, that is, until I considered the ramifications of the absence of customer service, not to mention rudeness, that permeates our society. To be scolded by someone who is in a customer service role is, in my opinion, inexcusable, particularly when the activity for which one is being scolded is asking cream for one’s coffee. I liken David’s friend’s experience to my recent experience with Magnus’ computer vendor who dared to scold me for sending a strongly worded email after waiting several days for a response to several other emails and phone calls. I reacted to my scolding by a person, for whom I am the customer, like Robert De Niro in Taxi Driver: “You talking to me?”. David and I do not operate our business the same way as some people evidently operate theirs. When our clients ask for our help, we say, “Yes! We are thrilled to help you!” even when their request is out of the norm. We are responsive, professional, and happy to provide the cream and sugar when requested. Whether one is in the business of selling coffee, computer technology support, or trial consulting services, one must never lose sight of who is the customer and who is in the position of customer support and service. I prefer iced latte, with cinnamon, and I prefer to be appreciated and respected by those I’m paying to help me. Is that too much to ask?

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