By: Christine Clutton
We’ve all experienced it. The moody barista. He/She is probably wearing a cool hat, converse shoes (that they bought before Converse were cool), and a look of “seriously, how do you not know what S.O Guat ev 1500m means?” on their face. It’s intimidating. Sometimes frightening, even for me, a well read, well acquainted with the coffee world, barista.
Gives me goosebumps just thinking of all the times I’ve had to hear, “LATTE. LATTE AT THE BAR. ONCE AGAIN. LATTE.” yelled in a passive aggressive, get-this-shit-out-of-my-face manner.
It. Kills. My. Soul. BUT… I am guilty of doing this.
Seriously, I have felt frustrated at customers and had it come out in my customer service before.
I’ve had the bad days where my patience is shorter than normal and customers don’t seem to know where to order, how to order, or what coffee even is. The days when your co-worker has been texting his girlfriend instead of helping you. The days when your boss just gave you some not-so-good feedback and you have another three hours on shift. The days when you are trying to remember if you put almond or whole milk in that lactose intolerant girl’s drink who just left WHILE taking a new order and making a different one. Or the days when your credit card system is down and you have to do mental math in your brain.
[these are all situations that HAVE, in fact, happened to me].
Me after remembering I put whole milk in that lactose-intolerant girl's drink.
I’m not justifying this AT ALL. But, I am saying, I’ve been there. And I know the battle of having to constantly be “ON”. That’s why sometimes, baristas fight over doing the dishes. YES, the dishes. Because it allows us to disengage for a moment, do something repetitive that doesn’t require our full social attention, and gives us a chance to “reset” our brain.
I used to think that being a barista must be so easy and fun. It is fun, but I have learned the hard way, it is nowhere near easy.
Now, all that being said. I STILL hate when I, a co-worker, or the barista I’m ordering from, is a complete A HOLE to a customer or to me. OR, when the barista is just completely apathetic to your existence. You spend $5 on a cup of coffee, you deserve to have real-life interaction, a delicious drink, AND your name to be called out nicely or maybe….dare I say...have that order delivered to you.
I hope our industry (myself in my bad moments included) realizes that we are NOTHING without our customers. We are a bunch of over-caffeinated-cool-hat-wearing-humans with scales, coffee beans, and water.
Because I care so strongly about this, I wanted to provide a few mental thought processes and reminders I take myself through often. This part is for my baristas out there who read my our blog. BUT, I have a hunch that these SAME principles can be applied to whatever work life you beautiful non-baristas have as well. YOU create the work environment you are surrounded by. Be intentional with your existence at work and you’ll be happy with the results. Feel free to add your own tips below in the comment section, either related to the coffee industry, or any general advice for creating a positive work environment.
Don't Talk Smack (Or Trash) on People
Do not speak poorly about a customer (or a fellow co-worker) to anyone at work. Just don't.
Why? I am a big believer that what you say out loud impacts what you end up feeling. If you start complaining about a customer you will continue to feel that complaint longggg after the situation happened. It will potentially effect the next few transactions because your mind will still be focused on the previous customer. This draws your attention away from several well meaning, well paying customers, just because one customer gave you a hard time. Try to leave it behind as quickly as possible, re-group, and clear your brain.
Disclaimer: If a customer was offensive, disrespectful, misogynistic, or did something that requires the company to know about, that’s a different situation. That requires action.
Be A Human
Greet. Make eye contact. Find commonality. Keep conversations fresh.
Why? This keeps you engaged in the PEOPLE and not get bogged down by your “to-do list” in your head. By greeting, you are welcoming them into your “home”. By making eye contact, you’re engaging the customer, but also keeping YOU engaged in your main objective of caring for the customer. By finding commonalities, you find friends and long term regulars, and it also keeps your mind fresh and active so you don’t feel like a parrot two hours into an eight hour shift. Keep conversations different with each customer, tailor it to THEM and what they need. It will make them feel seen and engaged, and will help your mind be active and alert.
Remember Customers Are HumaN Too
Remember, the customer is almost NEVER there to upset you
It’s sometimes easy to blame the customer for your disposition or mood. When really, I have only met ONE customer in all my time as a barista that I believe was legitimately out to make me mad. (Pop-tart man I will never forget you….). If a customer does something that bothers you, acknowledge it internally, and remind yourself that the customer was not out to upset you. Shake it off and keep moving. Try to think about a positive customer interaction as quickly as possible to keep your brain in a happy state of mind.
The saying, “you are what you eat” should also extend to, “you are what you think.” If you think positive thoughts, I guarantee you will automatically be more positive. Sounds corny, but it corny things work.
Don't Try To Be Perfect
Good customer service doesn’t mean “perfect” customer service
Even on my best days, I am not aiming for “perfection”. Perfect customer service is fake and inauthentic. Think car salesman-type service. Not enjoyable by really anyone. It’s okay to be real with your customers. In fact, it’s good for building relationships. I want my personality to shine through in my service, both for myself and for the customer. If I had to “turn off” my personality for 8 hours I wouldn’t have any fun. When I get to keep my personality, including my imperfections, it’s better for my mood and my customer interactions.
Some of these sound easy, but in reality how often do you go through your workday and not hear something negative about a co-worker, a customer, or your boss? It happens ALL THE TIME. It sadly even "connects" people to complain about the boss together. I think that's total bull. Let's be different folks. Let's redefine our work place by changing OUR actions, dispositions, and conversations. People take notice because it's not the norm.
Cheers to going against the norm, for being a little wild, and for choosing not to be a bad-mood-barista.
Stay serving with smiles folks,