Cream or Sugar?

“No, thank you. Black’s fine.”

I eat in restaurants several times a week. I order coffee with nearly every meal. And every one of those meals involves the “cream-or-sugar-no-thank-you-black’s-fine” exchange.

I’m a straight up, brew it strong, several cups a day, just inject it into my veins kind of coffee drinker. No flavors, no froth, no foam – just strong black coffee, and preferably from The Roasterie. That’s been my coffee drinking preference for more than three decades. I’m not going to change.

Yet every time, and I do mean EVERY time, my coffee comes

accompanied by a little silver or china pitcher bearing cream, or a small bowl teetering with plastic half and half packets!

Now it’s perfectly OK to ask me whether I want cream or sugar. But WHY do they even bother to ask me if they’re going to bring it anyway?

How many times a day do restaurants across the country literally pour pennies down the drain serving cream to customers who don’t want it? Not to mention what it costs them to buy the extra inventory of little pitchers they need to keep around the kitchen to serve the unwanted cream. Maybe it’s not enough of an extra expense to curdle the bottom line, but my point is this:

How often do companies decide to add to their customers’ experience, but end up offering them something they don’t want? For example, I have more return address labels than I’ll use in a lifetime, courtesy of my insurance agent who feels compelled to include them with every mailing he sends me. I don’t want them and I don’t need them. So, they get tossed in my recycling bin. He wastes money sending them to me, and I spend money for the recycling service. Who wins here?

The restaurants are doing at least one thing right: they’re asking whether I want the cream. They just aren’t listening to my answer. My insurance agent doesn’t even ask about the labels. They just arrive.

It’s always good to follow the rule of underpromising and overdelivering, but not if your customers don’t want what you’re delivering. Does your company waste money, and possibly even annoy your customers, by guessing wrong about what they want? Or, do you ASK your customers how you can better serve them, and then LISTEN to what they tell you?

Cream or sugar? Listen to what your customers are telling you, and your company will rise to the top.


About Smart Companies Thinking Bigger®

Kelly Scanlon is the owner and publisher of Thinking Bigger Business Media. She recently finished a term on the national board of directors of the National Association of Women Business Owners, and was the national chair from 2010-2011. An advocate for small business owners, Kelly sits on numerous boards and committees to advocate on behalf of small business owners. She has won several awards for her advocacy. Among them are the 2011 United Nations NGO Positive Peace Award on behalf of Kansas City area small business owners, the U.S. Small Business Administration's Region VII Women's Business Champion of the Year in 2009, and the Women in Business Advocate of the Year from the State of Kansas in 2006. In 2002, she won the SBA's Region VII Small Business Journalist of the Year Award (Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas). Whatever your business stage—aspiring, startup, established, mature—Thinking Bigger Business Media has the resources you need to grow to the next level. We are a resource organization dedicated to providing the strategic, "how-to" information small business owners need to become more productive and more profitable. We also provide information that helps owners connect with resources within the business community that can help them grow. We deliver that information through a variety of media products and other channels easily accessible to business owners.
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One Response to Cream or Sugar?

  1. You are dead on right with your examples in many restaurants…it is a penny business and those pennies are wasted in so many ways!

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