Perspective from a participant of the Technician Workflow and Customer Communication workshop at the Specialty Coffee Expo
By Kaleb Leach, Texas Coffee Traders
I wasn't sure what to expect when I signed up for the Technician Workflow and Customer Communication workshop at the Specialty Coffee Expo this year but I was really excited that the CTG had put together what could potentially be a prototype for future classes that might lead to accreditation for future techs within the SCA.
The workshop was instructed by CTG Executive Council member Rebecca McNelly and consisted of around 15 people from varying backgrounds. There were cafe owners, coffee roasters, people that were considering opening shops, and techs who currently work for service companies. It was eclectic mix of people all interested in the process of being a technician or working with tech companies.
The workshop centered around teaching techs how to provide good customer service. While this would seem like a no-brainer, what I can say from experience is that when I was learning how to be a tech I didn't have anyone to teach me the basics. Sure, I was taught how to use tools of the trade and the basics of coffee equipment repair, but learning how to communicate with the customer was left for me to learn myself. I was young and had limited experience in life. My ultimate goal as a coffee tech was to help customers when they were having issues, whether they were completely down or just having a minor problem. In the moment of repairing a broken machine, customers were really grateful and happy that they were back in business.
I often felt like the hero and while that was really gratifying, what I didn't realize was that there were things I was doing that caused issues for my customers. Showing up without notice added extra stress that could have been avoided, not explaining the cost of the call up front created an air of mistrust, and even though I thought I was dressed perfectly well, I didn't really look like a service provider and sometimes that made my customers second guess my professional expertise.
The following talking points are just a sample of the great information discussed in the workshop:
After working in the coffee technician field for the last 20 years, I’ve learned a lot of these techniques, good customer service, and protocol for how to have difficult conversations with customers, but these lessons were learned the hard way by falling down and picking myself back up. This workshop covered the basics of how to put in place very simple procedures that will save a new tech time, money, and heartache. It could have saved me years of hard lessons and it’s great for service companies or technicians just getting started.
- Over-communicate with your customer, don't expect that they will know anything about what your plan is or how you use your tech magic.
- Provide clear expectations. If you can't make it out the same day, say so. It's very difficult to tell a customer who is panicking that you can't help them right away even though you really want to. We are techs and all we want to do is help but you will make things worse if you don't show up. If you can't make it by the time you said you would, call before you are supposed to be there not after that time has passed.
- Make sure you are clear and legible on your work ticket so the customer can understand what it is you are doing and be clear about costs if you have to come back with parts.
- Get approval for any cost that go over what was communicated up front. Customers really don't like surprises when it comes to the bill.
I can see how this class could be a valuable entry level class towards a level one certification for coffee technicians just getting started. The education team did a great job putting it together, and Rebecca McNelly was an excellent instructor, leading the workshop and sharing her personal experience as an owner of a service company.
I’m looking forward to more workshops in the future!