Tuesday 30 May 2017

So, how do you make a cup of coffee?

In my last blog, I discussed the queuing issue at low-cost supermarkets, and mentioned the difference between the way Starbucks and Caffe Nero make your coffee order.  Did you spot the difference the last time you were in?

As I mentioned before, if you wonder in without looking, you’ll come out a few minutes later with a coffee.  But if you study it, their working practices are very different.  Both work OK when under ‘low-load’, but during very busy times, one will fail, and the other continues to work smoothly.

Why am I writing about coffee shops on this blog? - because the same ‘queuing’ issues arises time and again in organisations of all shapes and sizes:
  • the passport office - does it really takes x weeks to process a passport?
  • the post office - why is there a queue at lunch time…?
  • service organisations - why are you really on hold? - again?

So, what’s the difference in the coffee shops?  And why is it important?

*** Spoiler Alert ***  You’ll never look at a coffee shop queue in the same way again ***

At Caffe Nero, a person takes you order, then also takes your payment, and they also make your drink - serving you food too if you’ve asked for it.  This is called “one piece flow” - take a customer’s order, and complete it.

At Starbucks, one person takes you order - writes it down, and passes it on.  Sometimes, another person takes your payment.  And a third person makes the drink.  Ever experienced a “lost” coffee when your’s doesn’t arrive? Or the conversation behind the counter when one person can’t remember the message?  Or the barista asks you what your order was again?  And then when it gets busy….  Hand-offs, waste work and re-work everywhere.

So, why does this matter?

If you’re in the coffee shop head office, you’ll never spot these issues, the profits roll in, and it all looks OK.  Not so, if you’re a customer.  It becomes a distinctly average experience.

And why I am writing about it here?

Well, it’s easy to spot the errors in a £3 cup of coffee, when you know where to look.
  • But what about when you’re asked to pay £130 for a new passport that takes weeks, and can be late?
  • Or on the phone to the bank / insurance co / mobile co / electricity company - again…!?
  • Or the paperwork for your new employee is taking a long time and they miss their first pay cheque?
  • Or when the £20,000 engineering work you’ve asked for is late or wrong?
Do you regard these as minor customer service issues? - or fundamentally missing the very purpose of your organisation?

These things matter.  Missed deadlines.  Poor customer service. We’ve all experienced it.

Do you know what’s happening at the sharp end of your business? Are customers of yours experiencing this, and you haven’t spotted it…?