Slower Is Better for Younger Coffee Drinkers

“Once about speed—sloshed into a paper cup and gulped on the ride to work—quick coffee now signals cheap coffee and not what customers want,” The Wall Street Journal reports. “More coffee shops are betting that a wait of four minutes or more is desirable … Coffee shops are weighing costs and revenues of slower service by evaluating employees behind the counter, longer brew times, and how that effects prices and lines.”

“Consumers in their 20s and 30s who grew up around Starbucks and coffee culture’s bolder flavors are helping drive the slower service, says Spencer Turer, vice president of Coffee Analysts, a coffee consulting firm in Burlington, Vt.” He comments: “That conversation with the barista is a key part of the experience.”

“The extra minutes also provide time for the smell and sounds of coffee which add to how consumers perceive their coffee, says Charles Spence, professor of experimental psychology at the University of Oxford, who also researches consumers’ sensory perceptions for food companies … The complex aroma and flavor of coffee comes from about 40 individual chemical compounds, he says.”

“’The sounds of grinding, dripping, spluttering, those are all meaningful,’ he says, and play a role in how the consumer perceives both the flavor and quality.”

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Customer Service Declines When The Economy Improves

Quartz: “Consumers are more unhappy with customer service at department and discount stores than ever. According to the University of Michigan’s American Customer Satisfaction Index, satisfaction is at its lowest level since 2008, falling during the last year by 3.8%. Consumers are griping about store cleanliness and slow checkout lines, specifically.”

“Of the bigger companies, the steepest decline in satisfaction—an 8% drop—went to Macy’s … While an improving housing market increased competition between Lowe’s and Home Depot, both groups saw drops of 9% and 4%, respectively. Among supermarkets, Whole Foods took a 10% hit, knocking its ranking below Trader Joe’s, Kroger and Meijer.”

“The relatively buoyant economy is partly to blame. After 2008, competition for consumer dollars intensified, prompting discounts and better service. Employees fearful of losing their jobs stayed motivated to work hard pleasing shoppers. Then, things got better.”

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Jolly Roger Telephone: A Cure for Telemarketers

The Washington Post: “A Los Angeles man with an unusual passion for phone systems created a new robotic answering service that wastes telemarketers’ time. Roger Anderson started the Jolly Roger Telephone, which lets users start a three-way call with the service so they can listen gleefully as the bot rambles on. It’s designed to provide entertainment and empowerment for everyone who has grown weary of the phone calls. Its first question of the telemarketers is often, ‘Is this a real person?'”

“Anderson experimented with different personalities for his robot before deciding that an odd man who just woke up from a nap worked best. For instance, the robot burned time by telling the telemarketer they sound like a former high school classmate, rambling on about needing coffee or asking them to start over again.”

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Working on the (Supply) Chain Gang

“For many companies, competing both online and at the mall can mean trading fat profit margins for more customers—at least for now,” reports The Wall Street Journal. “Fashion retailer DSW Inc. has given shoppers the option of placing online orders for out-of-stock items without leaving its stores. And, the chain is both fulfilling online orders and accepting returns at its growing number of locations.”

“The company is betting those efforts will pay off by increasing customer loyalty even though they aren’t adding to profits in the near term, said Roger Rawlins, who oversaw DSW’s omnichannel strategy before recently becoming CEO. He said customers who buy DSW products through multiple channels spend two or three times as much as those who shop exclusively in its stores or online only.”

“The strategy ‘ultimately allows you to grab additional market share, and then as we learn through using all these capabilities, we hopefully should be tweaking to be able to generate incremental profitability,’ Mr. Rawlins said.”

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Shipping Is Never Fast (or Cheap) Enough

The Wall Street Journal: “More than nine of 10 shoppers said they considered ‘same day,’ ‘next day’ and ‘two day’ delivery to be ‘fast,’ according to consulting firm Deloitte’s 2015 holiday survey of some 4,000 shoppers. At three to four days, only 63% called it ‘fast,’ and just 18% of shoppers considered five to seven days ‘fast’.”

“And customers for the most part are no longer willing to pay extra for expedited delivery. Shoppers on average said they would pay at most just $5.10 for same-day service, in the Deloitte survey. A quarter of shoppers said they wouldn’t expect to pay anything at all.”

However, absorbing the shipping may be worth it to some online retailers because it can reduce the return rate: “When you go to a store, you have that wonderful delight of carrying the bag down the street,” says David Maddocks, chief marketing officer of Cole Haan. “Online, after you click, you have to wait. And during that time you can fall out of love.”

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Going Mental At The Car Rental

Customers can have very different car-rental experiences at Payless and Budget even though both are owned and run by Avis Budget Group, according to The New York Times. David Segal, writing in the newspaper’s “Haggler” column, relays two high-contrast anecdotes. The first, involving Payless, is the story of a 50-minute wait and then driving off in a “filthy” car only after arm-twisting a supervisor to get any car at all.

Filing a complaint afterwards via Twitter yielded no response, an email resulted only in a bounced message, and an online service-desk inexplicably pronounced the issue “closed.” An apology was received and a full refund promised only because The Times intervened.

Meanwhile, a Budget customer who was given “a car smaller than the one he reserved” didn’t have to make a fuss or ask for anything. He simply described his bad experience in a routine customer-satisfaction survey. The next day, he received an email with an apology and promise of a refund check for the price difference. In other words: “One part of this company is taking care of consumers; the other is ignoring them. The secret to good service is no secret to the Avis Budget Group. It is just a secret that nobody bothered to share with Payless.”

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