We all want to give a good experience to the customer with each interaction we have. A great service experience is really what drives people to be your loyal fans and is therefore the most important thing you can provide. Trouble is that when things really get moving, standards often slip. I think there are two reasons behind this.
“The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing” -Stephen Covey
I like this quote for its simplicity. It seems obvious but practicing the obvious is harder when there is a host of subtle distractions that call for our attention. You could be on bar finishing a set of 3 lattes when a tea timer is going off too long and you are wondering why the bar back is not getting it. Meanwhile, the customer whose drinks you’re making is trying to find the drink carriers and is angling to ask you but you haven’t noticed because your attention was on the peripherals of the bar. Multiply this x 100 and you have a typical busy shift. It may not be a huge hospitality fail but losing small opportunities to show customers they are your focus add up. To combat this you should make up your mind ahead of the shift that you will value the customer experience down to the very small details in tangible ways whenever you’re given the opportunity. I know I went for years behind the bar without sitting down and working out my values like this. Of course you may work for a shop where the value system is different. By all means you should hold the values of the place that pays for you to be a barista. If, however, you work in a place that allows you to make your own priorities or you are the one who sets those standards then you have the power to make the customer experience the priority for yourself and those who report to you. Once you’ve communicated with yourself and others what the priorities are you now need to practice it to make it a habit.
If you think about it, you know what to expect on a shift. You can envision the distractions, the circumstances, your tendencies etc. In order to make hospitality a priority during busy times you will need to have a personal and collective plan for all the demands the call for your attention, e.g. You know you will need to, at some point, do dishes or brew more coffee and sometimes that mean turning your back. But customers don’t stop needing your attention when you are busy with these things. You can plan to do both these things with your body slightly angled outward so you see customers coming or if that is impossible you can delegate to another staff member to be vigilant while you bust out the dishes or inventory etc. The key here is that you are being proactive and making a plan that puts a tangible value on the customer experience rather than simply sacrificing hospitality on the altar of personal efficiency. Planning out these little scenarios may seem daunting but if you take steps to identify them as they come up and codify your solutions you will be surprised at how easy hospitality during the rush can be.
Look, I can appreciate “Pity Tips” as much as the next barista (i.e. customer dismayed at how busy you are drops $5 in the jar to ease the pain). It’s nice for your pocket and in the moment is makes you feel nice… but it’s a sure sign you need to prioritize and plan your bar’s hospitality for the rush because you look like you need care rather than looking like you are prepared to offer care. Take time to discuss and determine what the top priority is during the shift (I suggest it should be customer experience). Next take those priorities and superimpose them over top the various types of shifts you know your bar will experience. What’s the plan to keep “The main thing the main thing”? Unless we are willing to do the work of creating a purposeful plan of execution for all the little things around the big picture, we are doomed to only preach hospitality but practice something else when the going gets tough.