Same Brand Disparate and Desperate Service

We had such distinctly different experiences at Java Coffee House this past weekend that left us rather perplexed.

The Java Coffee House brand has become quite a formidable brand in Kenya in the past few years. It leads the way in brand standardization and providing customers with a similar experience irrespective of the outlet one visits, in terms of menu items, ambiance, service delivery, billing and presentation.

Even with the current outlets popping up on the sidewalks and at Petrol stations, the Java experience is just the Java experience and that’s what keeps customers coming.

So much so is this that menu customizations are not part of the service protocol. I was advised recently that to get a customized vegetarian version of their famous Quesadilla or to tweak the inputs or presentation would call for the proposal to be sent to quality control for entry in to the menu to then be put out to all units for offer to ensure uniformity.

So with this level of standardization and quality control, what has happened to the service offered by the people that form the brand? Is a brand the environment and physical tangible attributes or is the brand the people that work there?

On Friday afternoon we were at Java Hurlingham at the Shell Petrol station for a work meeting and a fabulous, attentive and very pleasant waitstaff called Wilkins took service to a different level when he offered to squat and fix our power cables into the sockets under the seats that we had trouble reaching. All this with a smile. We were blown away by his patience and acts of service.

On Saturday night we went out to dinner at Java Junction and the waitstaff Jane was what I can only call a ‘case study’ of how not to treat your customers including application of Nil By Mouth treatment to us after raising concern about the length of time our orders were taking. She took to plonking our meals on the table and pointing with her fingers to indicate where the items we requested for were.

What Creates this Disparity?

It is my observation that very often when brands expand, staff that have been in the system for some time, get posted to the new outlets to extend the brand culture there and new staff get absorbed in the original units. What then needs to be done to ensure the new staff get accultured to the brand’s way of doing things?

We unanimously concluded that Jane must have been new at the job for her way was clearly not the ‘Java Way’. Team leaders and those who hold the brand strategy in custody need to be very sensitive about how the people that work for the brand represent the brand. The brand’s interface is largely through staff interactions and communication with customers is right up there on the Richter scale.

I challenge all brands out here, no matter the size or nature, to have a standardized code of conduct and response to different customer situations. A simulation drill needs to be prepared and practiced ahead of time where every imaginable customer conflict situation is role played in advance and the respondents prepare in readiness to execute with patience and reassurance.

Customer’s love order and predictability. They thrive in these environments. It takes only one out-of-order situation to have customers doubt a brand and the cost of reacquisition of lost customers can bring the house down.
Let’s proceed to define our customer service standards then apply them uniformly across all customer touch points.