#55 – “We don’t need no education” – or why the desire to “educate” your customer is simply rude

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Me two years ago, preparing a public cupping in Café Unido, Panamá

Specialty community has some ideas that I wouldn’t say I agree with.


And “educating the customers” is definitely one of them.


Every time I hear from somebody in Specialty that our goal is to “educate the customers” I know with 100% of certainty that this person is not seeing the scene wide enough.


The goal of the barista is to make tasty drinks.


The goal of the green sourcer is to source the coffee according to the company politics.


The goal of the roaster is to roast quality coffee.


The goal of the manager of any type of business – is to make it function with the minimum problems, and give stable profit.


That’s it.


As with any other product or service.


Let’s take barista as an example.


There are many things he should know, many techniques, he should have skills, experience. Yes.


As anybody else who is doing any type of job. Specialty coffee is not so special in that regard, doesn’t matter what the name says.


Let’s imagine that you are buying cheese, for example, and, that’s important, you are not a cheese connoisseur. You would like to buy a nice cheese, good price/quality, something that feels satisfying, and goes well with your needs, and ideas how you want to eat it (with wine, on a bread, to use in cooking, in a salad, in a pizza, etc).


What would be you reaction if the cheese seller would start to “educate” you?  Telling you about cheese fermentation, telling you that the cheese you chose is crap, you should have chosen another one they have, French, with triple fermentation, because it tastes like mushrooms and has an amazing long lasting aftertaste…


You would be politely surprised because of that kind of approach, in the best case scenario. In the worst case scenario you would be pissed off. You just wanted a cheese. You didn’t order a lecture, especially from the person who behaves showing superiority, just because he knows more about cheeses than you.


You came to BUY something tasty. You didn’t come to be forcefully educated about the topic you don’t really care so much.


What would you expect from the seller? Probably asking about your needs. What kind of cheese you are looking for, how you plan to eat it, is it for cooking, is it to be paired with wine. Answering your questions, if you want to ask something about cheeses.


Although coffee is not cheese, the approach to service is expected to be exactly the same.


The idea of “educating” the customer is not only wrong, it is completely impolite. It is the same as answering the question you were not asked.


“Educating” the customer also gives to the people in coffee that idea of superiority, the feel that they possess some kind of sacred knowledge.


And your customer feels it. Feels that you put yourself superior. Feels that you put yourself in the position of the “teacher”.


And it doesn’t feel good. It doesn’t make him come back. Nobody likes to feel inferior, especially when it is your client who pays. He is a priori superior, or at least equal in that situation.


Yes, the knowledge should be shared, no doubt. But. Only when there is a request from the other side. Only then. When there is a question.


What you could focus on, instead of educating, is to wake up the curiosity. To wake up that desire to know more, to be asking questions.


You can make it in the different ways.


Making a really good cup of coffee, for example. It happens with me a lot. People come back to you to ask what it was. Then you get a response, then you have your chance to talk.


Or, for example, offering cuppings, offering open meetings, brew master classes. Something to establish the connection. But you focus on the needs of your customers. It means you should listen, listen very well what they have to say.

Why is it so important?


I know you love coffee. I know you like to talk about it.


But the majority of the people are just simply not into it. They are into other things. Talk coffee with those who want to talk about it at first place, and if you want to “educate”, educate those who are looking for it – and probably even for money.


But when it comes down to day-to-day service – make sure you remember – you are here to serve a damn good cup of coffee.

Published by liza maksimova

Q Grader. Roast Master. SCAE certified.

3 thoughts on “#55 – “We don’t need no education” – or why the desire to “educate” your customer is simply rude

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