When Coffee and Customer Service Go Hand in Hand


The rules of customer service have changed.

In the past, all you needed to create a good customer service experience was a friendly staff with a willingness to help — but those two attributes, on their own, simply won’t cut it anymore.

A 2010 report determined that 82% of people stop doing business with a company because they were unimpressed by the customer service. In many cases, the company wasn’t necessarily doing anything wrong, they just weren’t abiding by the new standards. They weren’t going above and beyond for their customers, and they weren’t creating a “wow” experience.

This got me thinking: What are the new rules of great customer service? And how can we implement them in our own business?

The answer came from one of the last places I expected …

I was a good 20 feet from the building, but I could already hear the music blaring from inside. “Turn down for what?!” the song repeatedly asked, and I blearily mumbled back, “turn down for morning.” Someone shouted from within, “Do you want another shot?” and the responding “woo” indicated that, yes, they did.

I experienced a sudden flashback to a party I once attended in college — a party that left most of my friends sleeping on the front lawn — but this wasn’t a party. It was a Dutch Bros. on a Sunday morning. And those shots they were handing out? Shots of espresso.

It’s not exactly what you’d expect from a coffee shop — most of them are known for their quiet, library like atmospheres (so coffee-goers can have a peaceful place to work on their screenplays), but Dutch Bros. is known for breaking the rules; for playing loud music on a Sunday morning (which serves as a key ingredient, in and of itself), for wearing clothes that make them appear like they’ve just raided the nearest Zumiez, PacSun, or other skateboarder-inspired emporium, and for treating even their oldest and most uptight customers like they would treat a friend they just met at the mall.

Dutch Bros. culture at a glance.

Dutch Bros. culture at a glance.

But it works.

On this particular Sunday, as I pulled up to the window and placed my order (the usual: a small “Annihilator,” blended), the girl on the other side asked me, as I knew she would, “So how is your day going so far?”

“It’s okay,” I replied, heeding the fact that I still had a bad case of bedhead and was half asleep, “I kind of have a headache though.” Which, in my mind meant, “Please just give me the coffee and let me leave.” However, the girl reacted like I had just told her I had no more than 30 minutes to live. She whipped around and yelled to her co-worker, “Make it a medium … extra whip! This girl doesn’t feel good.”

She then took the time to write “feel better, babe” on the lid of my cup, accompanied by a heart and a smiley face, before handing it through the window, refusing my money, and wishing me a better day.

Despite the fact that I arrived with a headache and a bad attitude, I left with a smile.

And this wasn’t an isolated incident. As I arrived at work on Monday morning and regaled my coworkers with tales of free Dutch Bros., many of them had similar stories to share. We cumulatively decided that it wasn’t so much their coffee that made them so popular — but their customer service. And a quick search online revealed that “good coffee, great customer service” has been the Dutch Bros. goal all along.

close-up view of roasted coffee beans in hand“At our core, Dutch Bros. is in the relationship business…and great coffee is simply our medium,” so sayeth their job application. “Smiles are given away freely every day and supplies are limitless.”

It’s that customer service experience that keeps coffee-lovers circulating through the Dutch Bros. parking lot each day — not the coffee. It’s the knowledge that they’ll leave the drive-through feeling a little bit better about themselves, and more optimistic about the day, that causes them to choose Dutch Bros. over Starbucks (which, arguably offers a better blend). But Dutch Bros. isn’t particularly worried about competing with Starbucks, or any other coffee house for that matter.

When it comes right down to it, Dutch Bros. isn’t competing in the coffee business at all, they’re competing in the people business — and they’re coming out on top.

In fact, they were recently ranked highest in customer satisfaction by J.D. Power and Associates — which found that “the specialty coffee retailer’s staff is more than twice as important to customers compared with the importance for the other factors that measure satisfaction.” Other factors such as … well, the coffee.

“Dutch Bros. Coffee has always focused more on people than the bottom line,” their website declares, “with a desire to transform lives rather than conduct transactions.

So how do they do it?

For one, they genuinely care.

It doesn’t matter what you tell them when they ask you about your day — they will find it fascinating. For the two minutes it takes to fill your order, and no matter how many cars are behind you in line, they will make you feel like you are the only other person in the world. They will go the extra mile to ensure that you leave their window with a smile plastered across your face, no matter howthe same old thinking and disappointing results, closed loop or grumpy or sleepy you were to start with, and no matter what the cost (which is usually no more than a free cup of coffee).

It’s all part of the “Dutch Creed” — Dutch Bros.’ version of the Optimist’s Creed — which encourages the baristas to “talk health, happiness, and prosperity … to look at the sunny side of everything … [and] to give every living creature you meet a smile.” If employees cannot live up to the Dutch Creed, both in and out of the coffee house, then they are not Dutch Bros. material.

Also, they’re incredibly efficient.

It might feel like you’ve spent ten minutes chatting with your barista, but it’s really only been two. And while you’re busy engaging in one of the most genuine conversations you’ve had all week, there’s a barista in the background, pouring you the perfect cuppa joe.

Speed is one of their core values, and it shows. Despite the fact that there’s probably five cars ahead of you each time you pull up to a Dutch Bros., you’re in and out in less than five minutes. And if you happen to get stuck at the tail end of a longer line, a barista will run (or skate or skip) out the backdoor to get your order. Can you think of any other place that’s so eager to help?

Last but not least, they’re contagiously happy.

Dutch Bros. has created a brand that people are genuinely happy to be working for. And if you thought their customers were brand advocates (how many times have you seen the Dutch Mafia sticker on the back of someone’s car?), it’s nothing compared to their employees. Their passion for the company translates into a passion to do right by the company — which is why you’re guaranteed to never meet a grumpy Dutch Bros. barista.

But that brand passion is lived from the top down. Dutch Bros. was founded by the Boersma brothers in Grants Pass, Oregon. They were big believers in the power of customer service and only awarded franchises to long-term employees who displayed the same customer service skills.

This helped the Boersma brothers ensure that each and every location (of which they now have more than 200) would be owned and operated under the same values and guidelines. Whether you’re in Grants Pass or Sacramento, your Dutch Bros experience will have that same friendly feel.

In fact, on a recent episode of Undercover Boss, Travis Boersma visited various Dutch Bros. locations across the midwest (undercover, of course) to ensure that the Dutch Bros. values he instilled were truly being lived by his employees. What he found were some seriously passionate people with an unshakeable loyalty to the company. Watch the emotional episode here and see for yourself the power of an authentic leader.

What can you learn?

Not every company can get away with playing AC/DC on a loop and enforcing a nonexistent dress code, but there are a few things you can learn from the Boersman brothers.

  1. Give a damn.

In business, as in life, nearly every situation comes down to practicing the golden rule, “do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” In this case, care about your customers and they’ll care about you.

This is pretty near and dear to our hearts here at The Newsletter Pro — in fact, it’s one of our core values — and we consider ourselves a “relationship business” above all else, even marketing, so we can side with Dutch Bros. in that aspect. Like them, we do our best to ensure that every interaction we have with our clients ends with a smile. We go above and beyond to guarantee their happiness, and sometimes, we even send them a free cup of coffee (among other surprise gifts).

We want them to know that they’re far more to us than just a transaction — and if you show your clients the same courtesy, you’ll be well on your way to creating a business relationship that lasts for life.

  1. Keep the customer experience in mind.

No matter how friendly their baristas might be, no one would take the time to go to Dutch Bros. if it always took more than five or ten minutes to get through the line, or if the end result was a sloppily made, overpriced cup of coffee. And the same goes for your business. You can have the best customer service in town, but if your product or service isn’t user-friendly, valuable, or efficient, you’re not going to see a lot of business.

Put yourself in your customer’s shoes and walk through the entire process. Does the transaction take too long to complete? Are the instructions clear? Does your product serve your clients’ needs? Is your customer service team eager and willing to help?

  1. Build your brand.

Both in the coffee business and in the people business, Dutch Bros. has an incredibly recognizable brand. And I’m not just talking about that windmill thing that appears on the front of their coffee cups, I’m talking about the perception of Dutch Bros. that pops into your mind when you hear someone say they’re going to grab a Caramelizer. I’m talking about the upbeat music, the hip baristas, and the exceptional customer service.

But Dutch Bros. didn’t pull that brand perception out of thin air. The Boersman brothers worked hard to develop the Dutch Bros. brand — and they did it by always practicing what they preached and leading by example. As this article so neatly states, “Dutch Bros. has been successful because their brand is consistent, their brand promise is true, and their customers are telling the same story as their team.”

The result? While their customers are passionate about the coffee, their employees (a.k.a. brand ambassadors) are passionate about the company they work for. And studies show that companies with high employee engagement level have 3.9 times the earning per share compared to their competitors. Plus, you have to admit, all that word-of-mouth marketing isn’t bad for business.

When it comes to your brand, remember to keep it consistent, authentic, and true. Your customers can spot a phoney brand from a mile away, so make sure it’s something you and your employees can get behind 100%. And if you can’t follow through on your brand promise, your customers won’t follow through with you.

The 3 Pillars of Brand Building

Dutch Bros. may not deliver coffee (yet), but they know how to deliver an outstanding customer service — and that, more so than their product, has been the key to their success.

What do you do to show your customers they are the heart of your business? Share in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you!

–Article Courtesy of Myranda Mondry

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