Why does my neighbor drive 35 minutes for his coffee, driving past likely hundreds of other coffee joints?
A relationship (but not with a significant other).
The proprietors know him. They high five his kids and lovingly prepare each (expensive) cup. The shopfront is tiny. Maybe 150 square feet and overlooking a park and the Hudson River across from New York City.
He likes that Mod Cup isn’t a big chain, even though that means standing in line and waiting a few more minutes for a cup and a glass cold brew jug. That’s okay – it’s worth the tradeoff.
There is very little in the store that is mass produced to improve efficiency or streamline operations. It’s not that they are a backwater. They have four locations, their website is artistically and professionally designed, and they sell wholesale beans.
There is a resurgence of locally-owned stores, especially in urban areas, like this coffee joint, Mod Cup in Jersey City Heights, NJ.
Personal attention makes the difference for him and countless others. Contrast the slow death of big chain restaurants, like Subway (closing 1400 locations) and Papa John’s (closing 85 locations), where every word, ingredient, and slice is heavily contrived.
Suit-clad MBAs orchestrate food production techniques, streamlining operations, and customer interactions around conference tables in faraway headquarters. Large chains pride themselves on lean operations and maximum efficiency. Their operations and marketing departments would benefit from one of Mylo’s espressos and a chat about 1970s English punk bands.
This personal interaction is the single customer experience that streamlining and automation can never provide. While vanilla pleasant, the virtual bots, or even real people, aren’t connecting on a human level. They follow forced friendly scripts, prescribed from above, rather than dictated by their own in-the-moment emotions, quirky experiences or fleeting thoughts.
Even in our increasingly centralized, bottom-line driven world, product marketers and buyers should consider the human touch at retail. Individual store employees’ personalizing moments are still central to the customer experience. Why else would a guy drive past hundreds of other coffee places to get to Mod?