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Making Things Better: It Always Starts With You

grumpy-cafe-baristaMindful customer service

I frequent a local café. It’s very close to my home, the coffee is good and the prices are fair. The service, though, is… meh. Sometimes worse than meh. A lot of the staff are 20-something hipsters with a busier-than-thou attitude. Too hip to muster up a sincere smile or engage in jovial small talk. I usually leave feeling indifferent about the place. I’m not the only one – this cafe gets decidedly mediocre reviews on social media sites.

I’m writing this post a few minutes after I entered the place, having just had a little encounter that epitomizes the customer experience. As I approached the entrance I noticed that one of the main managers of the cafe was a couple of feet ahead of me, about to open the door. He made no eye contact, pushed open the door and held it for a second or two for me to pass through as almost any other human being would do; a basic bare minimum level of politeness. But he’s the manager of the place! I’m a regular customer! It certainly wouldn’t have killed him to say “Hi, how you doing?” And then he could have held open the door for me to enter *ahead of him.* He could have added a “good to see you* and I would have been over the moon. It might seem a little obsequious and subservient by hipster standards but most customers would find it charming. And people like me, born long ago, in the 1960s, would see it as just decent hospitable behavior. I don’t think our perspective is entirely irrelevant; I’d guess at least half the patrons of this cafe were born in the 1960s or earlier.

If your business is not quite as successful as you think it deserves to be, before you go around diagnosing the problem as being caused by this or that employee or this or that external factor, look in the mirror first. Oh, did I mention that the owner of this cafe is usually absent but when he’s around he often look grumpy and is minimally communicative. Pro tip: If you’re a pronounced introvert, don’t go into a business that’s built around social connection. It doesn’t matter how passionate you are about coffee, or beer or wine or whatever if you’re not even more passionate about making people happy.

Making things better – it starts with you. Is your behavior excellent and exemplary at all times. If not, what can you do on a continuous, sustainable basis to improve? And are you regularly seeking out frank feedback and courageous constructive criticism?

Mindful customer service