“You can’t please everyone.” We all know this, but this phrase takes on a whole new meaning when you have your own business, and it’s not really a fun lesson to learn. As coffee shop owners, we thrive in providing a tasty experience others can enjoy and leave with a smile. But the reality is… not everyone will, and you often realize this in the form of a bad review *gasp*.
It’s a terrible feeling; seeing the notification and reading it with concern, dread, apology, defense, and your own questions. Some reviews you just don’t know how to take in or respond. It’s hard reading a bad review, and it’s also hard reading bad reviews from your industry peers and other businesses. Sometimes you know what you could’ve done better, or what happened. Sometimes it’s called for, as we’re human, and we all make mistakes. But sometimes you do your best to give everyone a good experience, and it just falls short.
Before you beat yourself up, remember that it’s not about the reviews. Remember not to take things too personally. Remember not to get distracted from loving your work and customers, because you can’t please everyone! And here are some reasons why:
1. You’re not what people expect. It’s true that preset expectations often lead to disappointment. If a new customer has known coffee to be a certain way for most of their life, or has a pre-set expectation in mind as they walk in, they will be shocked and offended that you might not have it, or even have a different take. They’re simply used to something else. You don’t do dark roast? You don’t serve their favorite brand of chai? You don’t offer grande frappuccinos? Where are all the outlets? It should taste this way, or be served with a lid and straw! Oh the look of disappointment. Or the feigned “it’s fine,” while they leave and express their offense to the interwebs. People will come in with different expectations! We can only hope to bridge the gap to our way of doing things with a sincere smile and good customer service, whether or not that will be enough.
2. Not everyone likes the same things. Wow. Revolutionary right? We’re not all robots? The beauty of the free market, and simply the diverse coffee scene in a place like Denver is that everyone likes different things. There are shops I personally don’t like how they do certain things, but I appreciate that they can do it how they like. And others do like it. Which is why they go. And they’re not going to change what they’re about for people like me. Which is why I go to my favorites. So keep being you, and people that get you will come, and those that don’t will find a shop where they can feel more at home and be a better fit for their needs. You can’t take their personal preference personally, and can’t meet everyone’s preferences.
3. You’re too different. And weird. When you have a different take on coffee, and a coffee experience– which, hopefully you do, otherwise you wouldn’t have opened your own place– there’s a cost to that, like the letdown expectations. There’s a risk in being different, and unique and creative, but you already decided that the reward will be greater than the risk. But there will be people who aren’t used to it! One of the most obvious “weird” drinks we have is our coffee lemonade. Someone asked me about that the other day, and after explaining it’s a new trend in Sweden and hot coffee shops in New York on an Arnold Palmer, shocking at first but then super addicting, she didn’t care. “That sounds gross!” she said. LOL. Okay. I don’t know what to say to that. Lucky for us, a lot of people do like our weirdness, and for those who don’t, most of our menu is a good fit. But again, don’t take personal preferences personally.
4. You like, no LOVE to create and experiment. You’re not just too different, you make the coffee experience a completely different thing altogether! Not everyone will get that. You’re here to create a culture, to be different. To push the boundaries, to have fun. To be out of the box and play with flavor, with culture. Expect odd responses. But you have your own drumbeat to march by! Whenever you do anything, there will be people that don’t approve. At the end of the day, it is about your customers, but that doesn’t mean every [probable] customer. Continue doing you for YOUR customers!
5. You will have off moments. It could just be one of those off moments. Equipment could break, or a disturbance happen to mess up the flow of things. A misunderstanding could occur, or a lack of communication– no one’s fault in particular. The customer could be having an off moment, and any of the above reasons or something entirely different could make them be feeling uncomfortable. It’s a bummer when that leaves people with a bad experience; especially when you didn’t know about it. We’ve asked people about specific things in our shop to have them say, “it’s good, thanks!” and read about the opposite later. As an owner, you really desire that everyone leaves happy, especially if you can easily help it. But we can only learn from those little misunderstandings as they come.
You will make mistakes. These reasons you will not always please everyone doesn’t excuse the fact that we still need to bridge the gap and do our best. Sometimes bad feedback does come from dropping the ball. Whether you messed up or neglected something, it happens. And in this case, it’s all about responding with graciousness (which I am learning)! Ask people how their drinks are while they’re there and before they leave. Read their face and body language to make sure they’re comfortable and they don’t feel awkward for whatever reason. Listen to feedback and ways to improve. These will help minimize the misunderstandings that can happen. I realize many times it is because a customer is difficult, but that sounds like a post for later.
It’s easy to read someone’s negative opinion and take it personally. It makes a difference to respond with a mindset of desiring to improve and to fix the issue. Sometimes I feel like responding like the soup nazi in a rage of others not understanding your passionate take on the coffee experience, “No [coffee] for you! Get out!” But it’s important to see the best in those who walk in, and not accuse them of “not getting it,” even though they might not. Come at it with an approach of problem solving, customer-focus, wanting to understand and to meed their needs. Come to their level versus expecting them to come to yours. And this takes it back to everyday real life, one person at a time, so don’t get stuck in review land.
But other times you just need to let it go, because it may not have come from a mistake, rather from different expectations and simply just that you can’t please everyone! When you know you’re being you and are doing your best, or when circumstances are out of your control and it’s just one of those things, it’s okay to accept the reality that not everyone will get your shop. Not everyone will like your shop. Not everyone will have a great experience and give amazing feedback. And if you stick true to yourself and your target market, this is okay. These reasons aren’t an excuse to write off a customer or a bad review, which you can deal with in your own ways. But on the other hand, realizing these reasons will give you peace of mind instead of agonizing over this inevitable truth: you can’t please everyone.