Topping off my coffee

The following is a stale idea for a post I jotted down in a few moments of silent rage a few years ago. It sounds like nitpicking, but I’m curious to see if anyone feels the same way. I attempt to shoehorn a customer service takeaway at the end.

When I have coffee that isn’t from an AeroPress1, I might add cream and sugar (usually two each). The ratio of coffee/cream/sugar is balanced to my liking. That means I’d only request more coffee at a restaurant if my mug is empty.

If the server tops it off when my mug is three quarters full, the ratio is skewed!

Instead of offering more coffee (my preference), some places begin pouring proactively.2 I find those interactions “rough”, mentally. I don’t interrupt when they’re already in the motion (they’re almost done anyway), so I bite my tongue and smile politely.

As they walk away, I’m thinking, “The ratio got skewed!”

Anyway. Here are my options if I’m not sitting in the middle of a room (the first is direct, the rest are passive):

  • Interrupt the server before the ratio-skewing liquid exits the larger vessel.
  • Keep the mug far from reach of the server, then relocate near the edge of the table when I’d like a refill.
  • Leave a napkin (or something) over my coffee mug to indicate I don’t want a refill.
  • Flip a coin to decide if I should add more cream and sugar, then hope for the best.

What would you do?

It’s “strange” (read: embarrassing) to read this post because this entire circumstance involves my personal preference. But, it might be a good takeaway for customer service: when in doubt, ask before taking action. I’ll appreciate that you’re attentive!

P.S. I promise I appreciate servers, even if they don’t ask before pouring. That’s still preferred over avoidance. 🙂


  1. e.g. Drip coffee at a restaurant or catered event. 
  2. If I’m mid-conversation with someone else, it’s likely that the server doesn’t want to be rude. I totally understand. 
Advertisements

Be like Uncle Leo

This evening, I returned from a brief trip to a popular discount store to buy a pack of candelabra light bulbs. Since it was Saturday around 19:30, it was packed. All cashiers had 4–10 people in each line. Self-checkout registers were in use, too.

When I was in line, there were two people ahead of me. The first person being rung up ended up requesting two transactions, and the cashier was fine with it. That took about six minutes.

The cashier greeted the person in front of me, and rung them up fairly quickly.

Now it was my turn. Before the cashier rung up item, a colleague started griping to her about something that occurred elsewhere in the store. It wasn’t directly related to work.

My biggest concern: she did not acknowledge me until she handed me the receipt. Sadness.

Takeaways

Greet each customer if they aren’t preoccupied, especially when working at a register. Even if it’s a repeat customer, it could be the first interaction with you.

It’s more difficult to gain a new customer than retain existing customers. We’re creatures of habit, and trying someplace new needs to be as welcoming as possible.1

People watch the way you treat other customers while waiting in line, and can see when they’re snubbed. (If they aren’t on their phone or talking with others, they’re more susceptible.)

If you don’t know an existing customer, treat them as a brand new customer, and strive for a great first impression. You have no idea:

  • If they’ve had rough experiences in the past at your store.
  • How much they’ve spent there.
  • About their influence with other family, friends, and colleagues.
  • If they’ll discuss their experience coherently somewhere on the internet. (For example, anyone can create a free blog or website at WordPress.com!)

Disclaimer: I’m a Happiness Engineer (Community Guardian) at Automattic, the people behind WordPress.com (W) and other fantastic services. 🙂


  1. I’m not a new customer, but this point is worth mentioning. 

We’ll do our best, but you can’t please everyone

I meant to post this insight from Marco Arment last year:

Some people will find things to complain about. […] You will never please everyone. You will never win that battle.

We’ll do our best in customer support, yet it’s inevitable that we’ll interact someone who is extremely upset with us.

Our patience and grace can win their hearts over; I’ve seen it many times, and we usually post it internally to remind ourselves why we carry on. (We call them “hugs”.) After a follow–up response, the customer apologizes for their crankiness, grateful for our help.

That’s why we’re some of the best in the industry. 🙂

In unfortunate and rare circumstances, when they’re angry and continue to berate us, it’s super helpful to know that we can regroup with our coworkers internally, analyze the situation, and decide that we can’t win ’em all.

“Can’t win ’em all? What does that mean?”

Our replies to that particular person will no longer help, and we close the email. If they show a change of heart and send a follow–up reply, we’re happy to revisit.

For what it’s worth, I assure you we do as much as we can before we get to that point.

If this interests you, we’d love for you to work with us, especially since we always need Happiness Engineers. 🙂

I just want ice cream (a review of Mother Moo Creamery)

I’ve visited Mother Moo Creamery in Sierra Madre twice. While each visit brought spoonfuls of goodness to my mouth, it was overshadowed with bouts of service inconsistency and mathematical error.

The first visit was good. I ordered two scoops (cinnamon and chocolate) and got a heaping bowl which seemed to contain four scoops. Awesome.

After I paid and received my change, I realized that the employee had only broken my $20 (two fives and one ten). I ate my ice cream inside and waited until the other customers left before informing her of the error and paying.

The kicker: she didn’t seem to realize what she did wrong, even after I explained.

My second visit was yesterday afternoon. A lone employee was cutting strawberries, and a few customers enjoyed their ice cream at the tables. My girlfriend ordered two scoops in a waffle cone, and she was charged $3.50. I ordered two scoops in a bowl (cup?), and was charged $3.50.

One (or two) scoops from Mother Moo Creamery

I glared at the tiny cup size, clarifying that I’d ordered two scoops (cinnamon and coffee chocolate). I could technically see two scoops, but we told her that a two scoop order in the past has been much bigger — big enough to fit in a paper bowl.

Nope. We were mistaken. The employee insisted their sizes were smaller than most places.

I stared at the paper menu on their wall, and noticed the “official” pricing of their products:

  • 1 scoop (with an tiny drawing of one scoop): $3.50
  • 2 scoops (with a tiny drawing of two scoops): $4.75
  • Waffle cone substitution: $1.00 extra

The employee seemed unfazed, so I gave her a five dollar bill, expecting 25 cents in change. But, I received $1.50 in change.

By her logic, I ordered one scoop?

My girlfriend should’ve been charged $5.75, and I should’ve been charged $4.75.

I shouldn’t be confused at an ice cream shop. If I’m compelled to write a blog post about your customer service, your employees need to be retrained on your item costs, serving sizes, and pricing.

I’m not complaining as a disgruntled customer, but as someone who wants your business to flourish. Since this business is still new, I’d rather give them a chance to make things right for future transactions. Consistency.

I want to enjoy ice cream, not argue about correct portion sizes and arithmetic errors.

Additional notes:

Review: Kingston Technology ValueRAM warranty replacement

One of my two Kingston ValueRAM 2GB sticks seemed to be causing blue screens in Windows XP. After running with one stick of memory for almost a month, I concluded the other was defective.[1. I separately tested both sticks of memory with Memtest86+ 1.70 (via Ultimate Boot CD 4.11). But, the latest version of Memtest86+ is 4.00. I was five versions behind. Maybe if used that version, it might’ve definitively found errors. Oh well.]

I requested RMA service with the cross ship option (just for kicks).

Time line:

  • 3/22/2010 8:04 PM – Requested RMA number
  • 3/26/2010 1:33 PM – RMA request processed
  • 3/26/2010 4:34 PM – Memory shipped via UPS Ground from Anaheim
  • 3/29/2010 11:40 AM – Memory delivered

Summary:

  • It took three business days for my RMA request to be approved (the RMA page said it’d take two business days).
  • Kingston Technology shipped my memory locally, so that only took one business day.
  • I didn’t need proof of purchase/receipt since Kingston’s ValueRAM has a lifetime warranty.
  • The new memory stick is a bit shorter.

Other than the extra day waiting for my RMA request, the whole process was painless. If I went with standard replacement, it’d take a few more days waiting for them to receive my defective memory. I didn’t mind the temporary hold on my credit card.

I think it’s safe to say that you can be confident when buying Kingston Technology system memory.

AeroPress customer support rocks

A few weeks ago, the rubber stopper on my AeroPress started to come off easily when removing the plunger from the chamber. It didn’t affect its operation – it was just annoying.

So, I emailed Aerobie received a very quick reply that they’d send a replacement seal.

A few business days later, I received it in the mail, removed the old one, and popped on the new one. Perfect!

I’m so stoked with awesome customer support like that, especially since they didn’t bug me about a receipt.[1. It’s probably inexpensive anyway, but still.]

I’ve had the AeroPress since March 2007 – over a year and a half now. It still works perfectly.

[amtap amazon:asin=B000GXZ2GS]