Garrulous: Given to excessive and often trivial or rambling talk; tiresomely talkative, especially on trivial matters.
Specialty Coffee has come a long way from the times when most aspired to be like Starbucks to now when most aspire to be most unlike Starbucks, but I believe companies may be better served taking a peek at what Big Green is doing right. Like it or not, Starbucks is still growing and is having an even bigger impact on coffee perceptions and customer expectations. Starbucks focuses very well on their customers wants and is constantly probing for the right formulae. Howard Schulz (Starbucks CEO) speaks with a very clear voice on satisfying expectations, delivering value and delighting their patrons. Starbucks achieves this by focusing solely on the customer.
Concurrent to this Specialty Coffee has been engaged in an exercise of self-indulgent narcissism that is completely removed from the customer experience and has more to do with gazing in the mirror than looking at the customer. Whether it is the proliferation of new and trivial competitions where contestants are encouraged to elucidate their solitary experiences and the judges stand in as proxies for real customers, or an effort to elevate the barista so far above mere counter service that they fail to serve effectively, the result is the same, an industry so engaged with itself that they've disengaged from the customers.
Very recently a twitter thread appeared in my timeline (re-tweeted by someone I admire and follow) concerning the inconsequential but fashionable topic of cold brew, leveraging standards and protocols that a lab would have a difficult time reproducing. The impression that the garrulous participants (two former Board Members of the Specialty Coffee Association of America) were clearly debating not so the customers might have a better experience, but so their audience might be impressed with their staggering mastery of all things trivial was not lost on the re-tweeter. These exchanges happen every day among the leaders of the Specialty Coffee Industry and are hard to miss given the disproportionate number of times these threads appear in SCAA publications and their social media feeds thereby securing the Associations implicit nod of approval.
Presently we portray an industry that has moved from taking twitter shots of latte art to examining nonsense in minute detail and fetishizing exotic coffees and preparation techniques in the hope of gaining affirmation from our peers instead of our customers. We have completely failed to understand that it’s the customers experience that matters, not the barista’s and that a great conversation over average coffee at Starbucks is better than a great coffee and a performance at (insert café name here). We don’t get it, but Starbucks does.
Here’s hoping that current and future SCAA Leadership and Executive Council positions are populated with people who act like customers, not competitors.
*Drop Dead Garrulous is (what I think) a clever play on words and not a desire that anyone die or be otherwise harmed as a result of my post.