Jarter Jargon

To Give a Dog a Bone

Posted on: October 23, 2012

On a rainy day in Milwaukee, what else is there to do besides settling down in Alterra and do some studying?

I met up with my buddy Alec, and he told me about the thesis for a class presentation he was working on. Before I proceed, I have to tell you that Alec is absolutely obsessed with coffee. Not just drinking it, but literally, everything about it. Different co-ops, different roast styles, different prep methods, and he can make a mean latte with a perfect tulip in the foam.

Either way, he told me of a presentation at the 2012 Nordic Barista Cup (yes, it exists) by a man named Doug Zell, of Intelligentsia Coffee, on “Coffee Bars and the Evolution of Hospitality.” The premise is that way back when, the idea was that “the customer is always right.” Of course we all like to think that, but Doug had a different idea.

Doug’s idea is that customers should be treated like pets. Not in a derogatory sense but in the sense that there has to be the fostering of a relationship. Picture this: you come home, Fido meets you at the door, tail wagging. You greet him, petting him, telling him he’s a good boy. You reinforce healthy relationship habits to maintain that relationship with him. If you don’t, Fido will bite your hand and take a shit on your rug. And nobody wants that.

Take that same idea and apply it to brands, and you have a powerful tool to foster relationships with your audience. Of course customers have some control over the direction of your brand, but for the most part, the brands themselves need to hold the reins. At the same time, however, you don’t want it to get to the point where you have to bat customers on the head with a newspaper for bad behavior and try to reel them back in. You want to create brand loyalty and brand-customer synergy.

Let’s look at a recent example. Chic-fil-A was known as a wholesome brand. They are closed on Sundays, they call you ma’am and sir, and tell you each and every time how much of a pleasure it is to have served you. You come in, they scratch you behind the ears, and you wag your tail (and buy some delicious chicken). All was fine until last year when they donated a large amount of money to organizations that were opposed to gay rights.

That’s the equivalent of dangling a piece of bacon in front of a dog’s nose and then eating it in their face. Cue your dog biting your hand and crapping on your rug. At this point, Chic-fil-A tried to sweep the crap under the rug instead of clean it up outright.

Essentially, Doug was right. Customers not only expect an enjoyable experience when interacting with your brand, they also expect consistency. Again, your dog has no sense of time and is overly excited to see you whether it’s five minutes or five hours. We need to treat them as we would treat our furry companions, with warm respect. It only strengthens relationships and fosters brand loyalty. The customer might not always be right, but if you treat them wrong, you could end up in the dog house.

It’s a bit lengthy, but here is Doug’s 45 minute presentation.

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