The Betty Philips Coffee Shop

Let me tell you the story of the Betty Philips Coffee Shop. This shop is just off Main Street and has fairly good foot traffic going by. From the outside it looks like a coffee shop – inside it looks like a coffee shop should. There are tables and chairs, a solid counter and several coffee machines with lots of pots. There is even a shiny espresso machine.

Folks who work at the shop are called baristas. They actually have quite a few baristas, and (as you know) baristas need training. All the baristas are required to take some basic training so that they at least know the basics of making coffee. And some of the baristas take more extensive training – some even specialize in training other baristas.

As with folk everywhere, the baristas vary in their talents and strengths. Some are really good at managing the till – making sure the pennies and dollars add up. Others keep an eye on inventory – ensuring there are always plenty of coffee cups and sugar packets in stock. Most are pretty good at making coffee. A few even excel at it. All in all, a solid team.

All would seem right for success. However, the customer experience does vary. I will get back to that later.

First, let’s think about coffee. What makes a great cup of coffee?

Of course you need the right coffee beans – light roasted, dark roasted – from Columbia or from Costa Rica. The flavours and varieties can vary. The quality of the water can also affect the taste and aroma of coffee – fresh clean water is usually required. You obviously need a machine to heat your water and combine it with the coffee grounds. But you need to make sure the coffee machines are cleaned regularly and well maintained.

The length of time the water stays in contact with the grounds can also vary the taste of the coffee.

So the quality and the taste of the coffee can vary greatly before you even add cream and sugar or even flavour shots. Thus, each barista’s approach can have an effect on the flavour of the coffee and the customer experience.

So we come back to the customer experience:

Some customers come in and receive a good cup of coffee. They may receive the coffee they ordered. Others come in and get a bad cup of coffee. Others don’t even get coffee. They are given tea – even though the customer asked for coffee! Overall, most of the coffee is good and as a result they have a steady supply of customers and some regulars.

Now, I mentioned the varied talents of the team of baristas – some are really good at talking to the customers and they noticed a few things. Well, it turns out that despite being in a fairly good location, the business is not growing.

Some of the baristas said they should advertise more or lower the price of their coffee – low prices and aggressive marketing will bring in the masses, right?

But other baristas started waiting outside the door and asking their customers about their coffee when they were leaving the shop and asking if they would be back. Know what they learned? One third of the customers who entered the shop indicated they would not be back. The reason? They did not receive the cup of coffee they were expecting. Some others in the shop indicated occasionally they received a bad cup, but mostly enjoyed the experience and would continue to frequent the shop. A few others loved the coffee and would not think of getting a cup anywhere else.

So many of the baristas started talking about the situation and wanted to change the coffee shop so that business would grow. They reviewed the comments they had received from their customers. They talked to baristas from other shops – from around the world, including Ireland and Australia. And so they came up with an idea: let’s ask our customers what kind of coffee each would like and how each customer would like the coffee prepared.

The idea was shared with all the baristas: let’s give all our customers the product and experience they expect.

Let’s give all our customers the product and experience they expect.

Well, most baristas thought this was a great approach – something many of them did already. Some had wanted to take that approach for some time. Others hadn’t really thought about it before, but believed it made sense.

However, there was a few that didn’t like the idea. They felt they knew how to make coffee and made darn good coffee, so why would they change? They knew what the customer wanted.

There were also some who worried about the coffee cups. Which coffee cups were they to use? They were certain the customer experience was largely based on the cup they used, and not so much on the coffee inside the cup.

Times were a changing at Betty Philips…

But now I hope everyone knows I am taking about Scouts Canada and our move to The Canadian Path. We were like the coffee shop – some regular customers, some occasional customers and some who know the brand but haven’t given it a try. Like the coffee shop, we are losing close to a third of our customers each year. That is why we needed to examine our operation and ask our customers what they thought. What did they tell us? They wanted more say in their program and they wanted more adventures. They wanted what they expected they would get when joining Scouts Canada.

So (much like the baristas down at BP Coffee), we listened to our customers – the youth and their parents. We talked to other Scout organizations around the world. We also engaged hundreds of volunteers and staff across the country.

So now we have our Canadian Path – a revitalized program complete with exciting resources for youth and Scouters. There’s lots of new material to explore online at

Back to my coffee story:

Well, business is looking up for BP Coffee. Things are being done differently. The baristas are now devoted to giving the customer what he/she wants. In fact, the baristas have learned it is actually best when the customer makes his/her own coffee. The baristas are there to help guide, facilitate and (most importantly) make sure the customers don’t get burned. The customers are getting the coffee they came for.



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