Coffee Bean Success Story: Take Action, Your Customers Are Ghosting

If you are a local business owner, you want unhappy customers to complain. In fact, you want all unhappy customers complaining directly to you and in droves.


Let’s muse on the alternative of an unhappy customer complaining about his poor experience—a regular customer enters his neighborhood coffee shop; he isn’t greeted upon arrival; the cashier isn’t friendly or engaging; his drink is prepared inaccurately; the time frame of his purchase isn’t timely, and when he finally sits down to enjoy the product, the wifi is shoddy and prevents his ability for basic internet perusing pleasures. Good grief, right?

Now, to cement this customer’s dissatisfaction—imagine this customer doesn’t complain. Imagine, in typical despondent customer fashion, the customer doesn’t express his poor experience with the business, and instead, he just leaves and never comes back.

This is customer erosion in its most common form and it happens every single day inside the establishments of local businesses everywhere.

Bye-Bye, John and Friends!

While the coffee shop likely knows him better than us—we know this customer pretty well at this point, so let’s give the man a name and call him John.

In the case of John, unfortunately his dissatisfaction won’t merely culminate in his eternal absence or despondence—far from it. Like most dissatisfied customers, John will share his poor experience with 16 people. Assuming John’s average ticket to his former coffee shop is $4.50 and he indulged his coffee fix 5 times weekly—this coffee shop just lost approximately $2,000 of John’s cash annually. At scale and within his direct social circle, this coffee shop loses $20,000 in potential revenue one the year once John’s 16 friends hear his news and choose not to give the coffee shop the opportunity of fostering the same frequency of coffee-seeking behavior that John exhibited.

Lastly, to add insult to injury for John’s former coffee spot—he sounds off on social media and his review deters 68% of people who see it from frequenting the coffee shop in the same addictive fashion as John. If you weren’t already thinking it, I'll summarize—SMB ownership plight is no joke!


Just recently, we partnered with Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, who is incredibly familiar with the phenomenon of customer erosion, retribution, and resolution. In fact, in all Manhattan Coffee Bean locations, staff is trained and coached to optimal service performance levels using the the transformational takeaways from the chart below:

In December 2015, we launched at Coffee Bean to give their operators a significantly higher chance of capturing customer feedback sentiment and quickly resolving complaints through our private and digital customer insights and experience management platform.  

In the two quarters since partnering, we have driven a 20% increase in Coffee Bean’s Total Quality Experience score (TQE) in 3 of the 5 stores that have been measured so far. To note, while TQE is a Coffee Bean specific term consisting of Service, Product, and Environment categories that comprise its overall score, the routine act of auditing multi-location businesses with the intent to measure guest experience is standard practice.

Through Tattle, the TQE increase of 20% most aptly correlates to a revenue increase of 20% quarter-over-quarter. Equally notable to the Coffee Bean team was the reduction of poor Yelp reviews, the profound affect of feedback on employee performance through staff trainings and commitment to improvement, and the surge in feedback volume compared to their previous paper and pen method. In all its glory, I present a visual image. 

We're almost there.

While Coffee Bean has caught on and capitalized on a largely ignored yet critical set of data—the feedback process for business owners remains incredibly antiquated, even among industry leaders who have yet to transition from a paper comment card process. As businesses wish to continue to evolve, transform, improving, and gain a strategic edge within their competitive set through data and insights, they remain vastly behind in the category of meaningful customer engagement that can drive their bottom line.

Sadly, much like the reality of the mid-80s when Denny’s popularized the paper comment card—today, if you are a business operator and have excess pen and paper available, you are surprisingly in-line with basic business standards, if you choose to distribute this prompt to customers for their feedback. Naturally, however, complications will inherently arise; such as, the prevailing victory of smartphone versus pen-to-paper reflex, proper escalation to management, timely collection and analysis of feedback data, accurate tracking of customer revenue attribution, customer feedback data fragmentation, and, perhaps the most important, the ability to seamlessly respond to customers when they tell you this is their last visit.

However, we are close and getting closer.

Opening the floodgates.

The prevailing reason why Coffee Bean New York was able to drive a 20% QoQ increase in TQE rating and sales is the same reason why unhappy customers complain; they want the following: 

  • To be heard                                                                                                                      
  • To be believed
  • Someone to see their side
  • Some type of fair settlement, some relief, something to make them happy
  • Their complaint to be settled easily and quickly
  • To talk to the least number of people
  • Someone to take responsibility

In response to these natural customer inclinations, Coffee Bean made contemporary communication a possibility and reaped the rewards.

Ultimately, much can be done to improve upon a business and it begins simply by engaging customers in a way that is meaningful to their experience before they walk back through the door and into the arms of lurking competitors.  

Words from our sponsor.

We have observed that when you offer an outlet (even paper), customers will engage—and if you offer this outlet through a contemporary medium, such as a smart phone, where customers spend their lives, they will provide you with 20-40x more feedback than paper and, thus, 20-40x more opportunity to recapture the ever-translucent ghost of customers past, along with their residual revenue. 

And because Coffee Bean can say it better than we ever could, a word from Manhattan Director of Operations, Claire Allen:

We have found that no matter how much money we sink into advertising or pushing specials, the one tried and true factor that will make or break our sustainability is how excellent our service, product, and environment is to the customer. We find ways to constantly assess these factors, but when we win here, we win, as everything else we do has proven to be of ancillary impact.”

Listen here.

Customers want to be heard and they want business owners to listen.  The benefits are conspicuously mutual, however, the onus falls on the merchant to begin the cycle of building a meaningful customer experience to reveal the customers that disappear from their location without forewarning. 

Alex Beltrani