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Service Expectations for Coffee Technicians: Common Customer Complaints

espresso service

Customers expect a lot from their service experience. They expect a solid, working piece of equipment. They want call centers and resources. They want service delivered when promised by service techs equipped to diagnose and repair the work as stated.

Satisfied customers create more customers by promoting a tech’s good work to their entire network. If you are a service company that has a national contract you are most likely dependent on local service partners to meet your service needs.

Service can go bad quickly, that same experience can and will affect your business’ reputation. Loss of sales due to bad service can affect both costs and future sales and people have a greater tendency to report bad experiences than good ones. The bad experiences are the ones that hit social media.

I have a unique perspective. In my earlier career managing cafes, I had a lot of companies perform service for me. I experienced a lot of the issues listed below, then I pivoted to a new career as a tech and service manager and saw the other side. Over the years I’ve built a list of the most common complaints customers make. This list comes from listening to my network of customers and listening to service managers tell their stories of what they see.

Embarrassing as it may be, here are the top reasons that customers don’t like techs: 

Unprofessional Field Technicians

A tech showed up in the café I was running in Santa Cruz to repair my old Pavoni. The technician looked and sounded knowledgeable. After several hours on location, my opinion quickly changed. While he was working, He took several phone calls from other technicians, stepped off-site to have two half-hour calls, and then he split his pants. No joke. This required a trip to a store 25 minutes away to purchase pants.

He then contacted his office to close out the call and proceeded to have an argument with his dispatch team related to the fact that he did not have all the parts to fix the machine. He communicated to me that dispatch would order parts and they would be out by Friday. Three weeks later, they finally returned after a hell-raising call from me. I was billed for everything and had to spend hours arguing over the invoice. The first key to success with a field tech is hiring properly, vetting, and training.

Remember, your service techs represent you in the field and they are often the only interaction with the customer.

Non-Specific or Vague Appointment Date and Time

Non-operating equipment is a money sink. There is also the potential damage to the customer (cafe owner)’s business when they must turn away their own customers. The best way to manage this is to set a time in a two-hour period, and if the tech is not going to make it, communicate with the customer as soon as you know the ETA is changing. Communicate proactively, not reactively. 

Late or No-Show for an Appointment

There is nothing more irritating for your customer than standing there telling their customer that the machine is down. Setting your customer’s expectations that the tech will be on-site at the time they promised then being late or not showing up at all will damage your credibility. Keeping your commitments is as important as sending out a well-trained tech.

Field Techs Who Can’t Fix the Issue

If a customer is already irritated to have to wait on a field technician, and more so when they show up late, heads explode when the tech cannot fix the issue once they finally arrive. I once had a service partner who sent an HVAC tech to an espresso repair job.

Send the right tech for the right job.

If you can’t, say no. You’ll do less damage to your reputation by saying no then by sending out the wrong person for the job. 

No Parts/Wrong Parts

I was told this story from a café owner.

The espresso machine was down when the tech arrived on-site and spent three hours taking the machine apart, putting it back together, and then telling them they did not have the right parts to repair the equipment. The tech told the customer that dispatch would call them for a credit card to order the parts and they would call him when they arrived.

This could have been resolved by training dispatch to accurately communicate the equipment make and model as well as what the symptom was to the tech, and see if the tech could determine in advance if they had the parts.  Another solution for a longstanding customer is to provide a required carry list of what you carry in your vans and why.  If the issue of not having the part comes up, the customer was told in advance what you carry. 

Broken Equipment

The most commonly-commented field service issue is having an issue at all. Every customer I talked to cited this as one of their key complaints. How many times have we heard this? “Well I had it fixed three months ago, why do I need to repair it again?” or the classic, “I’m sure my staff cleans it every day.”

The customer is frustrated, and there is a solid chance that it’s not your fault, but that customer needs to vent their frustration someplace and most commonly it will be with your tech.

Most of these problems can be solved by two things: proactive communication and empathy. You can’t train a customer to see the tech’s point of view. Train your tech on proactive communication, customer perception, and empathy. This is what will take them to the next level.  A tech who arrives on-site and assures the customer that they understand what the customer is going through and is there to help will put you miles ahead.

[This article is appearing as part of an unpaid editorial collaboration between DCN and the Coffee Technicians Guild. It was originally published in the CTG blog and is republished here with permission. The Coffee Technicians Guild (CTG) is an official trade guild of the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) dedicated to supporting the coffee industry through the development of professional technicians.]