Today’s interview is with Nick Barlow, who is in charge of Creative and Media for Small Batch Coffee – a Brighton based (and local to me) ‘Boutique Coffee Roaster’ who sell coffee online (retail and wholesale) and also operate 7 coffee shops/vans around Brighton, Sussex. Nick joins me today to talk about the Small Batch Coffee, their story, social media and how they have used it to serve their customers, solve their problems and build better relationships with them.
This interview follows on from my recent interview: Neuroscience, customer service and why we should always deliver and never over-promise – Interview with Dr. Jack Lewis – and is number one-hundred and seven in the series of interviews with authors and business leaders that are doing great things, helping businesses innovate, become more social and deliver better service.
Here are the highlights of my interview with Nick:
- Small Batch Coffee was started by Al Tomlins and Brad Jacobsen in 2006.
- In a crowded market, they stand out from the crowd for a number of reasons:
- One, they buy coffee from farmers they know and have visited in Mexico and then they import it, roast it and blend it themselves. From bean to cup, they know the complete provenance of their coffee.
- Two, they pride themselves on providing friendly service.
- Nick also believes that they have benefited from a change in consumer tastes and a growing interest in niche, quality providers. This is similar to the trends that Ilkley Brewery are benefiting from in the craft beer market. I spoke to Ilkley Brewey in a previous interview: Creating products that customers love – Interview with Chris Ives of Ilkley Brewery
- Another key to the Small Batch Coffee success story is customer service and the people that they employ.
- Although they pride themselves on having a culture of friendliness and service, much of that isn’t written down. It just tends happens through the sort of people that they recruit. Their culture gets passed on by their existing staff.
- Like many coffee retailers they do run a traditional, card-based loyalty programme. They have also seen a number of loyalty apps but none of them have been compelling enough for them to change or trial one.
- They believe that if they provide great service and great coffee from great people then that will earn them loyalty.
- Having grown the business with effectively no marketing budget, they have found social media to be indispensable to be able to engage with their customers and respond to queries and complaints.
- They don’t worry too much about any rules guiding how they respond. However, they have learned that the ‘tone’ and punctuation of the language you use on Twitter is extremely important and can be dangerous if, for example, you put an exclamation mark in the wrong place.
- However, if they are faced with a complaint or an issue, one practice they do do is ask people to email them directly. This allows them to take the issue offline but also gives the customer a better chance to provide a more detailed explanation of the issue at hand and they can provide a more detailed and appropriate response than they could in 140 characters.
- If someone has been motivated to complain then they probably feel strongly about what they are saying.
- Bad customer service spreads 15 times faster and further than good customer service.
- Social customer service is pretty straightforward really.
- Their main focus going forward is to further develop their wholesale and online business. Check out their online shop and their coffee subscription service. All coffee ordered comes with taster notes and information about the farms that the beans have come from.
- Check out their new film that they have just made that tells more of the story of the company, their farmers and their sourcing model.
Nick graduated with a degree in Contemporary History from the University of Sussex in 2004. Following that he spent 3 years with Life Water working in Design and Social Media before joining Small Batch Coffee. He describes his role on LinkedIn as Designer, head of marketing & social media…and occasional barista.