I get my take-away coffee from a busy little laneway café. It’s good coffee, served by two diligent and friendly characters called Roy and Gus. There is a casual familiarity. When it’s quiet (which is rare) they are happy to chat. When it’s busy (mostly) they give a knowing nod to acknowledge your presence, mentally log your order and get on with what they do best. They know their customers’ routines and orders. When a new customer comes in, they ask their name, write it and the order on the paper cup and the newbie is seamlessly integrated into the system. You are only ever a new customer once. It’s a system that works.
You receive a little inclusiveness when you buy the coffee.
In recent weeks something changed. Actually, six months ago something changed. New owners took over. Early on the new owners wisely understood that that Roy and Gus knew their thing and let them get on with it, while they made other adjustments to food menus and ordering processes. They installed a nifty ticket system.
But ‘intelligent’ job design has befallen my baristas. Firstly, Gus is gone. That makes me sad.
Has he been replaced by a better model? Well, no. In fact coffee making is now a three person job.
Here is the improved process.
- The customer gives their name and order to the person on the cash register, who also writes down every name and order on every cup, every time.
- The cups are stacked up for the coffee maker to retrieve.
- The coffee maker now twists around awkwardly to retrieve the cups from a bench behind him and then completes half of the coffee making process. This is still Roy, who, by the way, looks miserable. You see Roy doesn’t get to enjoy the simple pleasure of task completion and customer interaction.
- Once he has ground the beans and dispensed the coffee, Roy hands the coffee cup to a third person, the milk curator, who heats and froths the milk, completes the coffee and then yells out the name of the customer, who dutifully comes forward, collects their coffee and gets out of the way as efficiently as possible.
The utter stupidity of the change was reinforced to me today. I popped in at lunchtime to grab a coffee. The new process played out right in front of me. That I happened to be the only person in the café didn’t deter the milk dispensing customer fulfilment officer. Only two feet away from me, she turned with my coffee and bellowed out my name, as if calling the roll in a noisy classroom. Roy just sighed.
All up the process takes about the same time but is now more labour intensive. The human touch has disappeared even though there are now more humans involved.
When contemplating changes to roles or processes the first test should always be to understand the impact on the customer. Stand in their shoes. Don’t imagine or guess what the customer experience is – experience it for yourself.
There are many aspects of running a business that are really difficult. This isn’t one of them.