Size Matters

Every transaction we make as consumers is a conversation, a to and fro of needs/wants, verses products/services/experiences . These conversations are ENDLESSLY analysed by the companies/shops which host them, and decisions which impact the customers are made based on this analysis. So, when buying coffee, either a cup or beans, what message are we sending, and what do we want?

Firstly I think we need to consider what coffee companies use to measure customer satisfaction, and how effective these methods are. The obvious benefit that smaller independent places have is that decision makers can personally gauge the experience their customers are having, getting a really good idea of the feel of the shop, and how well their vision is being received. Unfortunately for the bigger companies this personal evaluation of their operations is just not practical, especially for the guys responsible for making the strategic calls. This means two things; 1. Bigger companies, for the most part, rely on accounting numbers and staff observations to evaluate store performance and customer satisfaction, and 2. Customers have way fewer tools with which to communicate their needs, therefore their message is communicated only by voting with their feet, that is either buying coffee or not. In essence a Binary vote. Independent shops however tend to have smaller numbers, that is, fewer instances of customer interaction comparatively, which often leads to statistical variances to look like trends – leading to statistical info being less useful in the immediate decision making process, but still fine for longer term analysis after the variance has corrected itself.

I’ll add here that this generalisation is somewhat incremental, some bigger operators have a better mix of feedback and metrics than I’ve mentioned and some smaller guys have the opposite, however on the whole it comes down to this; larger coffee companies are less able to gather relevant and detailed information about what their customers want than smaller operators who can interact with and listen to customers needs and wants.

Now, what to say as a customer? In my ideal coffee shop there would be a distinct absence of the following gag-encouraging adornments often seen infecting coffee joints…

  • Awkward grinder mounted up tamps
  • Gravy jugs used to froth anything more than 1L of milk at a time
  • 16 oz cups
  • CD displays or merchandising of annoying unrelated products obviously intended to boost the average sale
  • Cold drinks that the people involved with getting coffee to the masses have to get distracted by

The list could go on and on, believe me. The point of all this though, is that without effective avenues of feedback there is NO WAY I could voice any of these concerns with a binary, to purchase or not to purchase vote. More important than moaning about silly stuff as above though is the need to voice constructive stuff to our coffee places. Personally I’d die happy if I never, ever drank Gj’s coffee again, and as specialty coffee grows more people are thinking the same thing – coffee can be and is much better than we had previously thought.

So we need to be able to cultivate vibrant coffee culture in our areas, by stimulating and growing great new shops, and encouraging their owners to work together to increase their collective market share. I find it interesting to see which companies feel threatened by strong competition and which ones see the potential for mutual growth. I know this has been flogged on the net over the last few months but for anyone who hasn’t seen Gwylym Davies’ ‘disloyalty card‘ check it out – a perfect example of how competitors can work together and build their reputation as a group, bloody visionary.

Next time you see an advertisement for a coffee place, read it carefully to see if it knocks or rubbishes its competition, see what observations you can make and leave your findings in the comments here.

Cheers,

Nic

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    One Response to “Size Matters”

    1. Roger Says:

      There is no doubt that large multi nationals dumb down the consumer, and lessen quality and choice along with the price. Look at all those poor puppies driving around in Hyundi Excels. Most of them can be seen parked outside Gj’s coffee outlets in Melb. It is a big demographic, that paid a pittance, desperate, will drink anything, caffeine addict! More power to them, Brother!!

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