How to Gain/Lose a customer in ten seconds

Customer service is extremely critical and requires attention to the smallest details. A customer service manager must realize that his job is more difficult than any other manager because he has to monitor his team very closely every day. He also has to know how to motivate his team and create a spirit that helps them delight your customers.

He also has to make sure he wins back any angry customer because of any mistake done by his team. The smallest actions can either help you gain customer loyalty or on the other hand drive your customers away. And as we all know, one angry customer can make you loose from 8 to 10 other potential customers. With a simple calculation make two customers only angry and you will automatically lose around 20 customers! That is a risk no one is ready to take.
Below I will mention some real life examples of how the smallest actions can make you Gain / Lose your customer and practically in a matter of seconds.

Bad Examples

I will start with the bad examples “How to lose a customer in ten seconds”

  1. chilis.jpgOnce I went to eat at Chili’s and my husband called for the waiter to come and take our order. As he was on his way to our table, the customer in the table next to us called for him, so he shifted to his table and got what he asked for first and then came back to us. When my husband commented that we called for him first so he was supposed to serve us first, his answer was ridiculous, he said:”he is already eating and he just wants something to complete his meal”. He did not even bother to apologize. Not only that, but in the same day they brought me the glass of juice I ordered in a glass with part of its tip broken. I took a picture of it to show it in the post!

  2. Starbucks again! I went there once and asked about the brewed coffee of the day. They wrote that it has ginger and orange flavor. I asked if it can be served without the orange and ginger flavor, and I took the most sarcastic look I ever saw in my life from the waiter and he laughed sarcastically and said: ”No, we do not add the flavor, the flavor is in the coffee beans itself” I felt he wanted to tell me: you are so ignorant. My husband asked for the shift manager and we told him what happened. He said we are sorry and gave me a paper to write my comments on the service and said that it will reach the café management. I am not sure if it will really reach them or not but I filled it anyway!

  3. I went once to Trianon in City Center. I can’t remember exactly the name of the platter, but it was a chocolate cake with Ice cream. Both I and my husband ordered the same thing and we asked for the ice cream scoop on it to be chocolate. They brought us the two plates with Vanilla ice cream!! And when we said we asked for chocolate ice cream, the waiter did not even bother to apologize and he did not even listen well, as he took one plate only and changed it and left the other!. Not only that but he brought me an unclean fork to eat with. And again when I asked him to change it, he did not apologize, he just took it and brought me another one. And I am sure he will not report the incident to the shift manager to make sure the responsible person gets punished.

Many examples and all boil down to one thing, it is very difficult to gain a customer but extremely easy to lose one!

Good Examples

Below on the other hand are a couple of good examples where employees served their customer very well.

  1. My husband was buying some things from a nearby pharmacy. He asked for a certain type of Cerelac for our child but they told him they ran out of it. The man in the pharmacy took our phone number and told my husband that he will call once he has it. Later at night, he called and said that he has it, but it was late so I asked him to bring it in the morning. I was sure they will not send it and I will have to call to ask for it. But the next day I was surprised to receive a phone call from the pharmacy asking if I still want it and whether to send it! I was so happy to find that there is someone in Egypt who understands the true meaning of customer service.

  2. badr_ayad.jpgI went to Starbucks once and wanted to understand the difference between the different types of coffee beans they sell to buy a packet for my mother. The waiter who served me was extremely helpful; he explained all types in details. He explained also the difference between the different ways of grinding. I told him I wanted it to be closest to the Turkish coffee people drink, so he recommended one type to me. Then he explained how he can grind it for me, the Turkish way to make it suitable for a Turkish cup of coffee. Even after I made up my mind and bought the coffee pack and he grinded it for me, he explained to me that it has to be kept in its pack to stay fresh. He showed me something like a button in the pack that works on sucking away the carbon dioxide from the pack to keep the coffee fresh. That was an extra step on his side, as I already bought the pack so he was not doing it to make me buy but he was serving me right. He was very helpful and answered all my questions without making me feel that I am asking too much. He made me feel that he loves his job and wants to make his customer happy so he does his best to please him. I was satisfied enough that I was interested to know his name and take his picture to put it here in the post.

It is really a matter of seconds and you can win or lose your customer.  Even if you make a mistake and make your customer angry, if you start with an apology before saying anything else it will make a lot of difference.  But if you start justifying your actions or act as if your customer is asking for too much, you will lose him.  

If you want to delight your customers and win their loyalty you have to do not only your best but go the extra mile.


Comparing Starbucks, Cilantro and Costa – Survey Results

Today I am launching the results of the survey comparing Starbucks, Cilantro and Costa.  The blog post I wrote about this comparison (dated 13-12-2007) received 526 views.  Out of the 526 readers only 23 answered the survey and the results were as follows:

I gave 4 points for every excellent, 3 for every very good, 2 for good, 1 for bad and zero for very bad.

As an overall result, Cilantro came in first place followed by Starbucks and finally Costa.  The overall score for each was:

1- Cilantro:
510/736 = 69%
2- Starbucks:
484/736 = 66%
3- Costa:
359/736 = 49%


As an overall score, all the results are pretty bad.  If you are a service provider and your customers give you a grade of 69% as an evaluation of your service, you should not be thrilled at all.  It could be impossible to reach 100% but definitely you should be working all the time to reach a minimum of 85% score.

The detailed results (per question) are as follows:
I must say though that I am not comfortable with the results because the number of people who answered the survey is very few compared to the number of people who actually read the post.  But nonetheless it is an indication of what people think of the service in those places.  I consider questions 2, 4, 5 and 8 as the most critical ones because based on them people will decide whether to go again to the same place or not. 

Question 1: Cleanliness of the place


Question 2: How friendly, prompt and professional the waiters are


Question 3: Quality of food and drinks


Question 4: Speed of service


Question 5: Quality and usability of take away utensils


Question 6: Working hours


Question 7: Environment


Question 8: Cost


How many companies and service providers in Egypt think of surveying their customers to know how they rate their service?
Frequent Questionnaires and Surveys are critical to the success of any company.  You must stay in touch with your customers.

Teams: A Formula for Success

A CEO explains how employees must have both incentives and training to make team-based management work correctly.

By: Donna Fenn


If you’re thinking of jumping onto the team-based-management bandwagon, first take heed of the lesson many chief executives have learned the hard way: you must give your employees a solid incentive for making teams work and teach them the skills they’ll need to earn those incentives.

Michael Dettmers, cofounder of Dettmers Industries, in Stuart, Fla., had enough foresight to do both. When he first decided to restructure his $3-million company, which makes seating and table products for private aircraft, Dettmers made an unusual proposal to employees: teams would be paid 25% of sales on the specific product they made, and they would distribute those revenues among their members as they saw fit. They would be responsible for hiring, scheduling, customer service, quality, and even their own cash flow. That first year, 1992, Dettmers tried the new system on just one team, promising employees that they wouldn’t earn less than they had the previous year. As it turned out, average annual wages increased, from $32,000 to $45,000. “Once people began to see that if they worked more effectively as a team they would make more money, they had enthusiasm for working in this new way, and they made a commitment to learning,” says Dettmers. The following year, four more teams were organized similarly.

Indeed, learning was critical to the new system’s success. Dettmers, who has a background in organizational design, developed his own training program to teach employees effective communication, team-building skills, and business processes. Employees were required to attend 13 hours of training every quarter for a full year. “I was kind of skeptical about how things would work out,” admits team leader Bill Platt. “But now I don’t think this ever would have worked if we hadn’t had that training.”

Dettmers supplemented the training with team coaching. “I spent about 25% of my time walking the shop floor, facilitating meetings, helping resolve disputes,” he recalls. He also made assessments of teams’ weaknesses, often suggesting that a particular team repeat a training session. Team leaders were required to put in even more training time, attending three-hour courses at a local community college on hiring, time management, and cash flow.

The training and coaching have paid off. Hourly local wages in comparable industries are $11 to $12; Dettmers employees make $13 to $20. And cycle times are down, says Platt, whose divan team now makes a single product in 80 hours, compared with 140 three years ago. “The quicker we can put out a job, the more money we make,” he says. “It gives you a sense of ownership.” That thinking has benefited the company as well. While labor costs have remained steady, sales were up 50% last year, and the company’s margins are at about 20% — twice the industry standard.

Comparing Starbucks, Cilantro and Costa

If you are a service provider all you care about is the quality of your service. If you are a coffee shop for example all you care about should be your quality of service. I thought of comparing three of the well known coffee shops here in Egypt regarding the quality of service: Costa, Cilantro and Starbucks.


I will focus on the following points regarding the quality of service in my comparison:

  1. Cleanliness of the place.
  2. How friendly, prompt and professional the waiters are.
  3. Quality of food and drinks.
  4. Speed of service.
  5. Quality & usability of the take away utensils.
  6. Their working hours.
  7. Environment.
  8. Cost

Let us take the above points one by one:

  1. Cleanliness of the place.
    • I think all are very good in that regards.
  2. How friendly, prompt and professional the waiters are.
    • Cilantro would rate the highest in this regards. They are always smiling and friendly and they execute your special requests promptly. What is more important also is that they listen! They let you finish what you are saying and then comment if any.
    • After Cilantro comes Starbucks, they are not friendly at all. Most of the time you can not figure out what they are saying, they never smile and they would not care if they spilled your drink, they will give you the mug dripping!! (it happened to me). They also do not listen. Once I asked them to heat my cheese croissant an extra amount of time than they usually do. After he did heat it, I asked: “did you heat it extra?” I got a weird answer, “It is ready”, the waiter said!!… This meant only one thing to me; it is as if he told me “shut-up”. But they are fast. They will not make you wait forever for your order.
    • The last is Costa, most of the time waiters are not concentrating, they are very slow and they forget what you ordered sometimes. In many cases you have to check on your order several times until you get it. Once I asked for a hot egg sandwich, I got it cold! So I told the waiter it is cold. The first answer was, “no it is heated” ….frustrating!!
  3. Quality of food and drinks
    • Starbucks is the best when it comes to quality of drinks. I have not tried their food though so I can not judge (except for the cheese croissant and it is delicious). In Cappuccino for example, Starbucks is the only one who gets right. The right amount and flavor of coffee with the right amount of milk. I never get it too strong and never too much milk.
    • Costa comes second in the quality of drinks (but food wise Cilantro is better).
    • Cilantro comes third in the quality of drinks (but in food Quality rates higher than Costa). Cilantro’s coffee is too strong; maybe they are rare on milk. I do not know but I stopped drinking coffee at Cilantro. But they have nice varieties of food, whether desserts or breakfast and lunch foods. And they do something very annoying if you ask for a delivery; they only fill half the cup!! But you pay for a full cup.
  4. Speed of service.
    (I am not comparing in peak times. The comparison is based on the time when they have a reasonable amount of customers)

    • Starbucks. When I go there whether to stay or take away I do not feel that I waited at all for my order. I just order, pay, pick-up and go.
    • Cilantro. Here I feel that I waited sometime especially if I am staying. Not an annoying interval of time but I feel it.
    • Costa. I can take a nap until I get what I ordered!!
  5. Quality & usability of the take away utensils
    • When I order take away drinks from Starbucks I know I am safe. The cup is holding itself well. It is not easily twisted; its lid is well closed. I know I will not spill on myself if I am in a moving car or walking on foot. They also provide the hard-cardboard cover to protect your hands from the hot drink automatically without you having to ask for it.
    • Cilantro rates second. The quality of the cup is less than Starbucks’s (it is not as hard) and the lid is not as tight. But they did something new and nice, you can lock and un-lock the lid. I do not think they have the hard-cardboard cover. Actually I do not know as they never gave it to me.
    • Costa is a disaster in this respect. The cups get twisted and squeezed very easily and lid flies away and you suddenly find the very hot drink all over your clothes. And again they do not give you the hard-cardboard.
  6. Working hours.
    • Starbucks is the smartest; they open 6:00a.m. So they get most of the customers who need an early breakfast before they go to work.
    • Costa opens early as well but they provide only one waiter who is trying to wake up most of the time so the service is very slow.
    • Cilantro is not intelligent in that matter. They do not open before 8:30a.m. or 9:00 sometimes (Abbas el Akkad branch). So they miss all the possible customers who could pass by before going to work.
  7. Environment:
    • Starbucks again is the best because it is a smoke-free place. Smoking is completely prohibited in Starbucks which shows that they care for your health as their customer. It is also wise because it will make you able to stay longer to finish some work or chat with your friends and in either case you might order more than once.
    • Cilantro and Costa are the same in that matter, it is very difficult to sit and enjoy your drink. Although there is a section for smokers and a section for non-smokers, but the two sections are right beside each other and you will suffer from the smoke and want to leave quickly.
  8. Cost:
    • Costa and Cilantro are nearly close in that matter and relatively ok (could be cheaper of course)
    • Starbucks is very expensive.

Very small issues matter when it comes to customer service. Here in Egypt we are very weak in that matter. I am sure chains like Starbucks and Costa outside Egypt will never serve the way they do here because they will have strong management watching their backs. We need the firm manager who would not settle for less than perfect when comes to serving customers. Especially when you have lots of competitors, you have to excel to attract more customers.

How about you give me your opinion? Answer the survey below to compare the three coffee shops. I will give the survey one week and then I will publish the result to see how most of us rate those coffee shops.