My coffee shop home closed in December.

I remember the day I realized the tragedy had taken place. I was rewarding myself for a good mornings work by taking Ellis, my daughter, on a coffee shop date. On the door hung a sign, “Closed until further notice, opening under new ownership soon.” Sad day. Since then I’ve been searching for a new coffee shop home.

This morning I wandered into Lakota, its local, close to work, open early, why not give it a whirl? I think I’ve found a winner I’m planning to return and try Lakota on as my new shop.

Here’s why.

They’ve got it going on. How do they get their customers to come back? My money is on rewarding customer loyalty. I noticed three great ways they reward their return customers.

  1. Culture. I like the person behind the counter. The person behind the counter let me know why I had to wait a minute to claim my cup of coffee. Good communication rocks. The other customers were nice to me. They made me feel welcome and want to come back.
  2. Rewards. Punch cards and pricing. The price is right. I got my mug refilled for just $1.16, if I bring a Lakota mug it’s just $0.70, that’s the same price as gas station coffee! They have punch cards for unbrewed coffee, treats and more.
  3. They have good coffee. Yup I know it’s crazy that this is the last thing on the list but let’s face it, even if the product is great your customers won’t come back if they don’t like you and your service. Until now the gas station is the most cost effective but my opportunity cost is rather high, their coffee isn’t that great.

Learn from Lakota.

Facilitate culture.

Customer loyalty programs are developed to generate residual business, right? Return customers equal more money. What if rewarding customer loyalty could bring you new customers? By gathering like individuals and retaining their business you can generate a business culture that gives back in the form of new business.

Under new ownership my old shop doesn’t open until 9 am now…so I tried going to a favorite restaurant for coffee, they changed their hours now and don’t open until 8. Is the world conspiring against me? What shop doesn’t open early so I can get my caffeine BEFORE I come to the office?

Back to the new coffee shop, they are open at 6 am! I was greeted by the barista who explained they were a bit busy, coffee was brewing and would be ready in a few. As I waited for the regular coffee to brew I bathed in the culture of the shop. The décor was relaxed and comfortable, art from local artists decorated the walls, but it wasn’t the décor that made me want to return, it was the people. Not just the people that work there, but the customers as well. I found myself thinking, “I wish I had brought my laptop so I could sit and work for awhile in this environment.” Now sitting at my desk, I really wish I had.

Everyone seemed happy to start their day in the same place. Two patrons asked me how I was doing, one older gentleman complimented me on my dress. Everyone smiled and no one seemed in a rush or frustrated while waiting for or preparing their drinks. That culture isn’t something one usually stumbles across at 6:50 am on a Thursday morning. It was a treat to experience, and I want to go back to that shop, make friends with the other patrons and share their calm energy first thing in the morning to start my day off right.

2.Reward the behaviors you like.

We’re all in a customer training program of sorts. When we employ the desired behaviors we need a treat to keep us coming back. Money is a fabulous motivator.

Promise presents tomorrow.

In my coffee shop hunt I often went to Panera to rack up points on my card so I can get a free cup of joe but I really want to support local business, hence I continued my search. The customer card is cool because I get a surprise when I use it, the barista tells me, “you’ve got a free coffee!” What a nice present, I like surprises so I don’t mind. I do think I would go more often if I KNEW I was going to get a free coffee instead of waiting for the surprise. I’m sure I could go online to check in on my reward status but who wants to login to yet another website to check? They could send an email alerting me of my status change, that would remedy the situation and bring me back though their doors.

My assessment here is if you don’t have stellar automated technology, run with the old stand by punch card. I can see the reward coming and get the gratification of seeing the punch take place, knowing I’m one more purchase closer to my present.

Give presents today.

The punch card challenge is in the structure, I want a reward now, I don’t want to wait until tomorrow. You need to keep customers coming back enough times to fill the punch card so they actually earn their rewards.

I have been trained on my coffee shop search to bring my own mug. By remembering my mug from home the coffee shop doesn’t have to provide me with a cup, no dishes for them, no cost for a to-go cup, and I save money. This system works in a similar fashion at all shops I’ve previously frequented. At first I thought it meant I had to purchase a logo mug, so I bought a very ugly gas station mug that seems to be the only one left in my cabinet on a regular basis. It turned out in most shops this is not the case, any mug will do and the cost break is the same…until now.

It’s a revolutionary idea (sarcasm). I was rewarded this morning for bringing in my own mug as usual. As I read the menu I realized if I purchased their mug I could save an additional $0.46! I am so in! I looked around and many of the other patrons brandished their logo mugs proudly, they were cute mugs in varying colors and styles. What a great branding exercise! Over 50% of those patrons filled their mugs and headed to work, where they’ll deposit their logo mug on their desk for co-workers to see and feel envy of their cute mug filled with tasty coffee.

The cup that sits on their desk day after day gets noticed. In our office no one uses a ceramic mug. We all use fun travel devices and water bottles. Josh has a blue glass cup, Marie a plastic Heidelburg cup, Stacy a gas station cup with lid and straw, Travis a huge lamberts mug. I think this ad specialty product may have a new place in my heart as an effective branding device.

3. The coffee is good.

This morning I enjoyed their product, a lot. It inspired this rambling and I loved every sip. The coffee condiments were displayed in a clean and neat fashion readily available for those of us who doctor our beverage. It was strong but not too strong and my heart is beating with love for my new found coffee home.
I will return for the coffee motivated by culture and rewards.

Having said all this…I wish that they would let me redesign their website and menus because I could really make them snazzy!

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