Growing a business without focus can be a risky endeavor. It’s easy to lose loyal customers if what you do strays too far from what your brand says you do. I recently experienced this in my own neighborhood.
In my city, it’s rare to live within walking distance of a coffee shop. However, my family is fortunate to live just 350 feet from one. This particular family-owned shop has coffee and specialty drinks, as you would expect. It also serves great breakfast food and homemade desserts. It sells local art and goods. Several times a week, locals perform anything from jazz to spoken word for customers. Hell, it’s even connected to a juice bar owned by the same family. The thing is, it’s my least favorite coffee shop in the city.
Despite everything this place offers, I can’t get a cup of coffee the way I want it. Most coffee shops offer three roasts — light, medium and dark. That’s the sweet spot. Fewer than three exclude certain people; more overwhelm. When I’ve popped in lately and asked for a dark roast, I’m told only medium is available. Great news for those who are indifferent about coffee. Bad news for those seeking variety.
This has happened enough times to shatter my expectations and loyalty as a repeat patron. I feel as though my neighborhood coffee shop isn’t delivering on a promise. And the owners likely don’t see that.
Considering that customers have unique tastes, there’s no way a rigid selection can appeal to a wide audience. This is why a good bar stocks a variety of beers. Good luck getting my social circle to convene at a pub pouring strictly IPAs. It’s why a great taco joint serves different types of meat and vegetarian options for people who don’t eat meat.
In the case of my neighborhood coffeehouse, it has shifted away from its core product — coffee. A cup of joe is just another thing on the menu, served between orders of biscuits and gravy and 17 different specialty drinks. It’s hard to tell how this business wants to position itself. If it’s not going to be a specialty coffeehouse, the solution might be to call it a café or a diner. Such a simple change reconfigures customers’ expectations and more accurately reflects their experience.
If companies want customer loyalty, they need to be mindful of misleading branding and strive to deliver on their promises. If you’re in business, ask yourself how you can do this better. And definitely ask your customers. Everything your business does and says will affect their perception of you — one cup at a time.