Should all customers be treated the same, or should all different customers be treated differently?

We are very lucky in that the majority of our customers are regulars, or become regulars, but we also attract other customers, the occasional tourist who is looking for coffee, or the occasional lost tourist, or Antipodeans looking for coffee on their travels, or parents with buggies and little children etc etc. It is easy for a service person to simply to treat all customers the same, and of course it is fair and reasonable to do so, but this cannot and should not be the case.

Recognising the different types of customers and dealing with each one is such an important part of the service provided in any quality hospitality establishment. In our situation, this will most often be the person on service at the front end of the shop, the first person the customer sees in the door. It would be by using their amazing talent of peripheral vision that this person on service would recognise that a customer is approaching the shop, or walking in the door and they would do this often whilst serving other customers already in the queue. In their mind, they would already be breaking down the new customer into a certain category and preparing themselves to be able to assist them,  probably also acknowledging their entrance with a nod of the head, or a quick smile.

Once ready, they will break into the appropriate actions, words, gestures and processes that the specific category of customer requires. This is one of the true signals of a great service person or manager, it is why service people are just as valued as any other staff member in the business, it is why they are as important to your business as the chef, the kitchen hand and the barista. I often feel that a lot of talk within the specialty coffee industry just focusses on baristas. ‘What is the career path for a barista’ ‘ How do you look after your barista’ What training do you offer your barista’. I get a bit fed up with this. Does any one else work in your cafe?

In Kaffeine, each person is as important as each other, so when these questions are asked, I feel they should be asked to include all the categories of employees that work in specialty cafes. ‘What is the career path for a employees’ ‘ How do you look after your employees’ What training do you offer your employees’.

In some cases, a barista can go and hide behind the machine if they wish and just pull shots. A service person cannot hide. A service person is in the front line. They need to be talented, fast, clean, efficient, adaptable, empathetic, patient, understanding, helpful, sympathetic, fast, friendly, service focussed, clean, tidy, organised and hospitable. Simply being empathetic is a hard enough. Worst case is that eventually, a person’s empathy can run out and it is very hard to replenish.

So treating each customer according to their demographic is another vital component of a great service person or manager, as this will greatly enhance the overall experience of the customer, which is basically what all customers are looking for, a pleasant and enjoyable experience.

We recently did a staff training session to try to focus on this and highlight it.

We broke into four groups of four. Each group was given a category of either regular customers, a family with child in buggy, tourists with limited english skills and first time customers. No-one knew what the other groups had, it was their ‘secret’. They had to then talk amongst themselves about how they would deal with their secret, what might be important to think about. When ready, the leader of the group stood behind the counter and the rest of the group role played their secret category in front of everyone else. Then, the other groups had to guess what they were role playing. It was hilarious, great fun, but it also has a point where we really highlighted the differences. I know I certainly treat any customer with a buggy differently these days than I did before children of my own. Empathy big time.

Every customer that takes the time and effort to walk in the door is quiet simply there to have an overall pleasant experience, but as all people are different, they need to be treated differently too. The employees that can recognise this and act appropriately to the customers demographic are extremely valuable employees indeed.

Peter Dore-Smith
Kaffeine Ltd
66 Great Titchfield st.
15 Eastcastle st.


66 Great Titchfield St

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15 Eastcastle St

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