Letting Down-Time Devalue Your Business

A photo of a cup of coffee.

Image via Wikipedia

Imagine yourself; you are walking through the doors of that play you’ve been excited to see all week.  You’ve read rave reviews, read the story, and have high-expectations.  You take your seat, the theater lights dim, and the large red curtain with gold trim begins to rise.  Next, you see the actor appear on stage; dressed just as you had imagined.  Perfect costume, make-up, and stature.  You know this play so well.  The actor finishes his first paragraph of dialogue…. Then,  out of nowhere, the lights flash on with the curtain still up.  You hear the producer give feedback to the actor while stage-hands begin re-setting the stage.  Wait… WHAT?!  That was not what you expected! Are you at a rehearsal?  Nope, just another purchase where you didn’t get what you paid for.

What you’re about to read may seem like an extreme comparison, however this is exactly how I felt while visiting a well-known coffee chain with my mother this afternoon.

From my many experiences with this chain, lines are always out the door and the employees have their game-faces on in the mornings.  After all, it is their job to be bright, perky, and help us wake up; right?  Well, this afternoon I had a completely different experience.  Walking in, everything was normal.  We were politely greeted and we placed our order.  Once we picked-up our coffee and sat down everything changed.  To my left, an employee was tearing down promotional materials and constructing the new display.  This process involved cardboard boxes scattered everywhere and a very cluttered atmosphere.   In addition to this, behind me was a manager and an employee discussing the employee’s performance and duties.  WHAT?! Yes, that just happened.  It was the slower pace and downtime that led to the employees not taking things as seriously as they should have.  Let’s look at each of these:

First, the promotional materials.  As a business you have likely invested a large number of dollars into these items.  These materials have been designed for very specific reasons.  First, they are there to promote the product in an intriguing atmosphere.  Second, they are designed to create a consistent image across the company.  By having a consistent image, every customer knows exactly what they will be getting when they arrive at your store.  So what is wrong here?  By having employees take down and construct theses promotional items while customers are in the store, you are putting them in a construction zone and NOT the desired company atmosphere.  Or as in the examples above, you are not giving the full, expected performance.

Next, the employee review.  This one seems pretty obvious.  Why would you talk to an employee about their performance in a public place, in front of customers?  This one is mind-blowing, and to me would break every HR policy in the book!  Customers should not hear this, especially the one’s who just may be ordering a coffee from that same employee tomorrow!

While I understand the shop wasn’t very busy during the afternoon, it is NEVER OK to do either of these things around customers.  Why?  Simply, it destroys your brand image.  By taking the game-face off and letting the guard down the atmosphere changes entirely.  To a consumer, it shows that you just aren’t taking things seriously and that you just don’t care.  Why would a person want to spend money in an establishment that just doesn’t give a rip?  Instead of just providing adequate service, downtime, or a slower business period, is the perfect opportunity to give that little something extra and guarantee that the customer will be back for more.

The actions that I witnessed today should have been conducted “behind the scenes.”  It completely devalues a company’s image and “magic” of the atmosphere.  Customers don’t want to see what it takes to put the show on; they just want the flawless performance that they expected.  While the majority of the customers were in the morning,  the afternoon customers should have the same experience.  A different, and especially, “off” or negative experience will most likely deter a customer from coming back; especially if it just so happened to be their first experience with the business.

Consistency is KEY!