Morning Joe, Cha, Brew, Java, Cuppa ….

This chap is in fact a continent away from me and is part of the reason we so rarely see each other, but you see this chap is just the best and he always lifts my spirits and for that I hold him in my highest esteem.

This chap, whose name I don’t know works at the Costa Coffee in Terminal 4, Heathrow Arrivals, the one right opposite and he is just the best!

Why do I say that?  Well as you may know the UK isn’t known for its high level of customer service, although we are attempting to improve and airports generally don’t garner much in the way of customer loyalty because its customers are the ultimate transient clientele.

My flights into Heathrow arrive anywhere from 6.30am to 9.30am, typically on a week day and during this last year or so I’ve had reason to travel to the UK more than usual.  On this last trip I saw my chap again, this time for tea.  He smiled, looked at me and then served me my tea.  I had asked for the largest “cup” of tea, so gasping was I, he gave me their largest and then before handing it to me, he showed me the container and asked “is that enough room for your milk?”

It was about 7.30amish I was feeling quite ghastly, tired and in desperate need of hot tea and I always like quite a bit of milk in my tea.  There was a small queue behind me as another flight disembarked and honestly I just felt so warm and fuzzy.  That he’d had the wherewithal to stop and check, that he wasn’t rushed, that he cared!

And I remembered as I thanked him and pushed my overloaded trolley through the other diners and off to meet my sister, that I had experienced similar thought and kindness from this same chap on my previous visits.  I cannot tell you the difference it made that day and previous days from being cranky, tired and a little less than perky to still a tired, less than bright eyed, bushy tailed kinda gal, but one whose attitude was serene, calm and generally a lot more pleasant – and I owe it to my chap, my barista, my tea titan, my lovely Costa Coffee server.

I am not aware that the particular coffee company has an outstanding customer service record like say, of Virgin Atlantic and I think his approach just comes from being a nice man I am not sure, but I would certainly bottle it if I could.

Why am I sharing this?  A number of reasons.  I designed our dressing gowns to ensure they looked wonderful, but perhaps more importantly felt superb, because feeling good inside dictates how we look on the outside.  It also dictates how we interact with other people and how important that is!  The second reason is because of the significant difference my chap’s had on me at one of the worst times of the day and perhaps herein lies the difference between customer service and shall we say, customer comprehension.

It seems to me that customer service consists of going through a routine, a set of processes, a formula that is expected and is generally well received.  The customer walks away feeling just fine.  Fine.  Fine is a word my eleven year old nephew uses when I ask him how he is, fine is a word I used as a response to my best friends, when they’d ask how my soon to be ex-beau of 6 months was.  Fine is a word used when the weather is neither very bad or nor very good, it’s very ………..arbitrary

Not wanting to digress too much here, but it’s a bit of a shame for the word fine, because it can also mean exquisite, something of quality ie fine robes & dressing gowns!!

However, these days we use it to mean ok, just all right and much “good” customer service is in fact that, just fine, not bad, not good, just fine.

Customer comprehension, however I think really takes the empathy quota to new levels, it’s almost about trying to feel what your customer is experiencing.  An appreciation of all the factors that make up their interaction with you.  It’s about opening oneself to another dimension of being in that person’s skin and not just in his/her shoes. 

Is this hard?  Hell yes and especially when you may only have a few minutes to try and achieve this.  I am not sure if this would even be considered profitable by some companies for fear of their employees taking too long or worse being too creepy!  However as you see, I’ve not mentioned my chap’s name in this post, I’ve mentioned Costa Coffee’s about eight times so far, so how can allowing your employees to act as fully engaged human beings, not be a good strategy?

I’d be interested to hear any exceptionally considerate experiences you’ve had and I keep my chap at Costa Coffee as a constant reminder of what customer comprehension is all about and how we might improve as a company.  Meantime, I’d like to suggest they promote him to a role where he can spread his customer comprehension skills, but then who will cosset me next time I fly into Heathrow feeling like rubbish?

With my best wishes – Sophie

Look Gorgeous, Feel Fabulous

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