March | April 2018
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I was recently staying at a boutique hotel where they had packets of coffee in the room from a local roaster I know and respect.
Being realistic, I was not expecting a Cup of Excellence, hand-poured experience; however, I was also not expecting an undrinkable cup of sour brown water. The coffee was undrinkable, not due to the coffee itself (although it was a bit stale), but because the in-room brewer probably hadn’t been cleaned since, well, ever. In-room hotel coffee can be a great way for a roaster to not only increase sales volume, but also a great way to introduce your brand to a large range of people who likely would not have discovered it on their own. I am fairly sure this introduction was not the vision this particular roaster had in mind.
This experience triggered something I’ve been thinking about since: How often are you a customer of your customers? When you are able to have that experience, do you try to approach it from a mindset of one of their customers? This is not a trivial task, as our business is not driven by website hits or large data analytics. Ours is an experience-based business, and experiencing something takes time. I understand, as my subscribers number in the thousands across the globe, it is difficult for me the share their unique experiences. Social media, email and phone calls cannot themselves let me experience my customers’ experiences. I and my staff have to make an effort to meet people face to face. Origin trips with roasters, roaster competition events, industry conferences and cuppings take time and effort to attend; however, every minute spent with our customers is worth the hours it takes to arrange and participate in these events.
People care about connections with other people. It shows you value those connections when you take the time (and expense) to reach out to form and strengthen those relationships. This is true not only for your end customers, but also in your partnerships throughout the supply chain. I have a wonderful set of partners publishing Roast magazine in multiple languages across the world. Beyond Skype meetings, I find reasons to meet each one of these partners in person. These partnerships could not be successful without mutual trust. Because we meet in person, exchange gifts, share meals and, many times, a lot of laughs, we each know that when a critical need or problem arises, we can trust each other to work it out.
Although it is not possible to have a deep, personal relationship with each of your customers, suppliers and partners, it is critical to get out of the office or out from behind the roaster and try to live the experience they have of you and your product.