Category Archives: Human nature

It’s All About The Experience

Coffee is my indulgence, drug and generally makes me happy. Just the smell of coffee is enough to change my mood. Che and I often joke that should we ever own a coffee shop, we’ll have permanently roasting beans at the entrance to entice customers in.

This isn’t cheating at all – perfume counters do it all the time, spraying expensive scents to entice customers to buy. It is also very interesting that said perfume counters are always to be found at entrances to stores. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

Anyway, back to the coffee shop thread. With my love of coffee, it is natural for me to think of establishing my own shop. I would be happy all the time, not to mention just a tad hyper.

Peter Baskerville, who’s founded many coffee shops writes about 12 secrets to a successful coffee shop. He gives advice on what food to sell (not too much variety), the layout of the barista station (close to the cash register so the barista can hear the orders come in and get a head start on the order), and to get the best machine with the best coffee.

The secret is to consistently serve the finest espresso. He says that “espresso coffee is one of those rare products where consistent 100% quality matters“. I can vouch for this, having tasted some bad espresso and some simply divine.

The most eye-opening point he makes is that “coffee shops, like restaurants, are much more a people/service business than they are a goods/transactional one”.

Which is the same point that Cole Schafer makes in his article How to run the best coffee shop in the world.

He mentions 10 points, from knowing all your customers by name, to serving a good cup of coffee to never taking your customers for granted. He ends off by saying – “understand that you aren’t in the coffee business –– you’re in the people business“.

In my last travels, I got pretty tired of being ripped off for a cup of coffee. It’s shocking that so-called local coffee shops will treat customers badly, charge an arm and a leg for coffee and a sandwich and are unsympathetic towards a traveller who doesn’t have small change. It got to the point that I dreaded going into a coffee shop, which didn’t do much for my mood, and which eventually drove me into a Starbucks.

Why? Because I knew I was going to get a friendly face and a consistent experience. So even though I lost the ‘local feel’, I felt treated like a valued customer, someone with a name, a person. Whether I’m in Amsterdam, Lisbon or Atlanta, especially in areas of high transit, I will seek out a Starbucks because the emotional overhead of trying local in some locales is just too high.

In his article, E is for Experience, entrepreneur, Roche Mamabolo writes of a similar experience to the one I had recently, and goes onto write about the  Starbucks experience and says “from products and store fronts to your own personality, people want a real experience.” It’s about “a joyous smiling waiter that is interested in your name instantly becomes your friend.”

Like any business, running a coffee shop is about people, “more than words, slogans and tag-lines, what your customers cherish is how you make them feel“. And customers never forget how you make them feel.

So to all coffee shop owners out there, remember that your business is about people and the experience that will keep us coming back for more. So, a small glass of coffee liqueur with my cappuccino is fine, but if it’s slapped down on the table without care then no amount of zing I might get from the alcohol and the coffee-induced-happy-state will compel me to return.

Right, so, I’m not punting Starbucks, I’m not getting paid by them to write this (I’m not even linking to their website), I just want to make that clear.


If push comes to shove and other things

Buzzword Bingo (also known by its more earthier name of Bullshit Bingo) is a game people play in meetings presumably to while away the time. It’ s a grid of a specific size, for example 5 by 6 blocks. Each block contains a word or phrase that is used all the time.

They then listen out for when these words are used and cross-out the corresponding block. The first person to complete their grid then shouts “Bullshit Bingo” to the utter surprise of all those not playing the game (and ostensibly the ones using the bingo phrases). Have you ever heard these:

  • first to market
  • drop the ball
  • back to the drawing board
  • if push comes to shove
  • at the end of the day
  • the bottom line is
  • low hanging fruit
  • level the playing field
  • over the pond
  • braindump
  • think out of the box

Have you ever caught yourself saying them? I know I use those phrases on occasion.

I’ve noticed subtle shifts lately from combative-speak to more collaborative-speak, such as:

  • provide the space for
  • having the mind space
  • it’s cultural (referring to organisational culture)
  • deep dive
  • this needs to be facilitated
  • synergy

There’s a space-time aspect to this type of language. Some time ago there was no talk in the corporate world of “work-life balance”, or the more recent “work-life integration”.  It’s omnipresent. Until the next idea hits the ether.

To the outsider these can come across as pretentious because it is used to create and denote a clique of people and further used to maintain that “cliquiness” keeping those who don’t belong out.

These are nothing more than cliches – language shortcuts that also fulfill a real, albeit unstated, purpose. They make communication faster. If a group of people expresses ideas and actions in the same way they will understand each other better, there will be less misunderstandings and potentially tasks will get done faster.

I read a research study during my psychology student days which concluded that couples and families (and one can trans-contextualise this to any grouping of people) that speak the same language co-exist more harmoniously and stay together longer.

This may seem obvious to some but I am not referring here to English, Xhosa or Chinese for example. I am referring to the language that characterises a belongingness or identification to a particular group. I like to refer to these as “language shortcuts”.

Some people hate it and others don’t know how to speak in any other way. The truth is that we all have some version of modular speak that characterises us as being part of a group. And all humans need to be part of something bigger than themselves don’t they?

Perhaps it’s not as irritating or pretentious as that highlighted by the various bullshit bingo games and it can be very useful.

I see it as having an existential aspect to it. Marketers use it every day to sell products. Sports coaches use it to generate insular team spirit. Organisations actively drive it internally to create and maintain a culture that will support its vision and mission.


Because it ensures longevity of the brand, team or organisation.

Interestingly, by the very action of playing the buzzword bingo, that group of people is characterising themselves as being part of a separate group to those not playing the game. So they are perpetuating the very thing that they are making fun of.

It’s so subconscious that we don’t even know we are doing it. It’s part of the human psyche.