By Samuel Gurel, CEO, Greenhouse Coffee.
Excellent coffee is an experience. I think the four pillars of any good coffee shop are location, service, environment and product. You can’t have just one. When people come to Greenhouse Coffee, they want an overall experience – which is another way of saying they want a combination of all four things.
At Greenhouse Coffee, I think we have the product down. We are the place for coffee aficionados. We’ve been able to do this because of our certified training program. We offer technical training for baristas through the Specialty Coffee Association of Europe and the Specialty Coffee Association of America.
As far as the other three pillars, we do an amazing job at remodeling and getting the environment right. We are expanding our locations through our franchising model. We are growing leaps and bounds in the customer service side as well.
I am not my market.
Getting the customer experience right has come with some important lessons learned. First, I am not my market. I don’t fit the demographic that I’m trying to market to, which is young professional Chinese people, mainly women. And I’m an American male. So it doesn’t matter what I want.
The second biggest lesson I’ve learned is related. It’s that our emphasis on authenticity in our products is kind of a goofy idea. When it comes to our baked goods, for example, it can be easy to get hung up on wanting to make our cinnamon rolls the same way that my grandmother used to make them. To me, that’s making an authentic cinnamon roll. But you know what? It doesn’t really matter how I narrowly define it. If the customer wants it with less sugar, then the customer is right. Learning that lesson was extremely hard, but it was directly related to our success.
I’ve seen a lot of other foreign entrepreneurs get hung up on this idea of what an authentic product is. It’s easy to think you are the customer and so you make what you like. That only works if you are the same as you’re demographic. You have to have a good enough relationship with someone to tell them, “Don’t tell me what you think I want to hear, but tell me what you really think.” That’s especially true for us working in Asia.
The customer experience is everything in a business like ours.
This article is part of a series about Greenhouse Coffee.
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