Instead of calling a customer by their drink order to receive it, it's more personable to ask for their name. And who doesn't like to hear their name?

In your experience, do customers offer their real name or say a "coffee name" (to make it easier to pronounce or be cute)? Or does this mainly occur at large franchises?

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I actually think that this practice is mostly contrived. You might as well tell the customer, "I only care to ask you your name in an attempt to make you feel like I really care about you."

I strive to give an excellent experience both in product and in service. I know the name of a larger percentage of our customers. I know their names because I've introduced myself after seeing them a few times in a short period of time.

Don't make up some crap about the reason behind the practice. If a company really cared about learning names, they would train their employees about how to introduce themselves. If the only reason you're asking for their name is to make it easier to distinguish their order from amongst the crowd, then tell them that. Don't dance around in an attempt to make the company seem like they care for anything more than the bottom dollar.
Completely agree. That's the best part about our job, to meet customers and genuinely get to know their names and them.

Jeremiah Perrine said:
I actually think that this practice is mostly contrived. You might as well tell the customer, "I only care to ask you your name in an attempt to make you feel like I really care about you."

I strive to give an excellent experience both in product and in service. I know the name of a larger percentage of our customers. I know their names because I've introduced myself after seeing them a few times in a short period of time.

Don't make up some crap about the reason behind the practice. If a company really cared about learning names, they would train their employees about how to introduce themselves. If the only reason you're asking for their name is to make it easier to distinguish their order from amongst the crowd, then tell them that. Don't dance around in an attempt to make the company seem like they care for anything more than the bottom dollar.
I'm a manager at a very high volume cafe in Reno, NV. I've found that asking for people's names is not only more personable, but also prevents people from impatiently grabbing the wrong drink. Say, if two people consecutively order a 16 ounce Latte, it can get confusing when the latter person grabs the drink not intended for them. It also allows for the barista to be more efficient, as they don't have to deal with remaking drinks after somebody accidentally picks up and tastes the wrong drink.
Yes, in addition to being less confusing, it is nicer to put the customer's name on their ticket. It also helps jog the busy barista's memory... I'm pretty good with customer's names, but sometimes it takes a while (or sometimes I just blank) and I hate not remembering their names, especially for customers that I know.

We've built a reputation for being the coffee shop that knows your name, so we do introduce ourselves and make a serious effort to remember the customers' names. People really appreciate it.

I've not run across many coffee aliases.

Jeremiah Perrine said:
I actually think that this practice is mostly contrived. You might as well tell the customer, "I only care to ask you your name in an attempt to make you feel like I really care about you."

I strive to give an excellent experience both in product and in service. I know the name of a larger percentage of our customers. I know their names because I've introduced myself after seeing them a few times in a short period of time.

Don't make up some crap about the reason behind the practice. If a company really cared about learning names, they would train their employees about how to introduce themselves. If the only reason you're asking for their name is to make it easier to distinguish their order from amongst the crowd, then tell them that. Don't dance around in an attempt to make the company seem like they care for anything more than the bottom dollar.

OK, that's pretty harsh.

Making your customer feel welcome in your shop is a good thing - it makes everyone's experience better. Its part of good customer service. I see nothing wrong with the practice of asking their name with the sole intention of making them feel more welcome.

My 2 cents.
It's obviously not going to work in every shop (actually, it won't work in most shops) but I like the concept of the person who greets the customer taking them through the whole process.

You take their order away from the register. Fast food chains were the ones who started the concept of taking the order in front of the register. We have a hard enough time being compared to the fast food company of our industry without making it feel even more like a fast food joint.

You talk about the drink you are creating for them while you are creating it. If they aren't familiar with your shop you talk about your coffee model in general. If they are familiar you talk about what you are getting off of the espresso/coffee that they are drinking that day. The milk is really sweet today, the chocolate is really popping on the 'spro, the fruit is more forward today... whatever.

Put the drink (that you just knowingly explained as you were crafting it) into their hands. Look them in the eye and ask them to taste it before they do anything else. Do they like it? Do they get something different than you? How does it compare to ______'s?

Oh... yeah... the money part... well that's down here (and you head to the register).

Like I said, it's not going to work for most shops, but when it can work it's amazing. Your baristas all need to have very similar technique because multiple people are using the grinder/machine etc. Then again, your baristas should have really similar techniques anyway, I suppose. There is also the whole "more than one hand in the register" thing that a lot of shops try to avoid, so that makes the model not work for some people...

...but at the end of the day if you can pull off that system I think it's pretty great.

-bry
The reasons most baristas don't want to ask for their customers names:

1 - Laziness
2 - Insecurity
3 - Pretentiousness

This subject is a pet peeve of mine. Baristas should be asking for their customers names. This covers several aspects: customer service, familiarity and profitability. There seems to be some sort of tide that baristas don't want to know who their customers are - until they're "cool enough", or perhaps the barista only wants to get to know those people they feel most comfortable. Understandable , since it's human nature - but this is a service environment and we're here to serve, regardless of your disposition.

Nothing says to me "Lazy, slacker, pretentious, hipster barista dickhead" than the barista slinging coffee and yelling out: "THERE'S A LARGE CAPP ON THE BAR!"

Somehow, baristas think this is better than: "Terry, you're drink is ready."

So much for elegance in our ranks.

And it's time for baristas to start respecting the "bottom dollar." For as much as you might want slinging coffee to be about something holistic and pretentious, the "bottom line" is the bottom line. You're job is as much about taking care of the customer as it is about maximizing profitability for the company. It seems to me that baristas forget that without profitability there is no company and they're out of a job. Yes, profitability is Number One.

Without profit, no business is sustainable.

Or perhaps you'd like to volunteer your 40 hours a week at the cafe? What's that? No, I didn't think so.

An old friend of mine used to run a cigar shop. He said hello, introduced himself and asked for the name of every person that came into his shop. He welcomed them and created community by simply asking for everyone's name. The shop was wildly successful in no small part to his efforts. Finally the day came when he had to move out of state and the owners hired a new manager. One who was aloof, standoffish and didn't bother to engage his customers. That shop closed a year later.

An extreme example? Yes. But one that illustrates the importance of getting to know your customers.
Jay, I hear you, but isn't there a middle area between "cap on the bar!" and "here you go, Terry"? Perhaps it's just my personality, but I feel odd when someone I don't know uses my first name in a familiar way. You can be polite, gracious and hospitable to a first time customer without addressing them by name.

I know you're keen on the parallels between fine dining and coffee service--I can't imagine a server at a top-flight restaurant asking me for my name. But what you will get is a pleasant demeanor, information and courteous service.

When I go to a place a second or third time, and the server/proprietor recognizes me in some way--the tone of their voice, a head nod, etc.--I'm very appreciative, and we're on our way to creating real community. If they want to introduce themselves, I'll be happy to return the favor.
This is where I was going.
Sorry if my first post was harsh, I just got home from 12hours at my shop. I was ready for bed.

I was referring to my previous job as a manager for a larger coffee company. The district manager came in and told me that she wanted to see us 'engage' with the customers more and a good way to do that would be to put names on the cups. "Make them feel at home. Plus, it will make it easier to distinguish drinks during peak hours!"

The store was in an airport. Between 4:30-730am we were doing 165 transactions in a half hour. We're not going to see many of these people ever again. Asking them for their names often pissed them off and I know that they felt it was contrived.

What made me the maddest was that she failed to see that we did know the names of the people that flew in and out multiple times a week. We knew their drinks, where they were headed, when they'd be back.

At my shop, We know most of our people and use the approach that Matt is speaking of. We want it to be natural. I introduce my self multiple times a day and often times, it works.

Matt B said:
Jay, I hear you, but isn't there a middle area between "cap on the bar!" and "here you go, Terry"? Perhaps it's just my personality, but I feel odd when someone I don't know uses my first name in a familiar way. You can be polite, gracious and hospitable to a first time customer without addressing them by name.

I know you're keen on the parallels between fine dining and coffee service--I can't imagine a server at a top-flight restaurant asking me for my name. But what you will get is a pleasant demeanor, information and courteous service.

When I go to a place a second or third time, and the server/proprietor recognizes me in some way--the tone of their voice, a head nod, etc.--I'm very appreciative, and we're on our way to creating real community. If they want to introduce themselves, I'll be happy to return the favor.
It makes sense this won't work for every type of cafe. It also depends on the location you're in. Here in the south, specifically NC where I live, it's practically a natural thing to greet and get to know customers.

Whether you ask for names or not, there is no excuse to not give the best and genuine customer service. You just have to figure out how to offer the best customer service accordingly for your cafe.
Every cafe I've worked at, we were not allowed to talk to customers if we were on bar. Chatting about the drinks and getting to know customers apparently made serving go slower. There just has to be a balance of chatting and pushing drinks out at a good speed.

Bryan Wray said:
It's obviously not going to work in every shop (actually, it won't work in most shops) but I like the concept of the person who greets the customer taking them through the whole process.

You take their order away from the register. Fast food chains were the ones who started the concept of taking the order in front of the register. We have a hard enough time being compared to the fast food company of our industry without making it feel even more like a fast food joint.

You talk about the drink you are creating for them while you are creating it. If they aren't familiar with your shop you talk about your coffee model in general. If they are familiar you talk about what you are getting off of the espresso/coffee that they are drinking that day. The milk is really sweet today, the chocolate is really popping on the 'spro, the fruit is more forward today... whatever.

Put the drink (that you just knowingly explained as you were crafting it) into their hands. Look them in the eye and ask them to taste it before they do anything else. Do they like it? Do they get something different than you? How does it compare to ______'s?

Oh... yeah... the money part... well that's down here (and you head to the register).

Like I said, it's not going to work for most shops, but when it can work it's amazing. Your baristas all need to have very similar technique because multiple people are using the grinder/machine etc. Then again, your baristas should have really similar techniques anyway, I suppose. There is also the whole "more than one hand in the register" thing that a lot of shops try to avoid, so that makes the model not work for some people...

...but at the end of the day if you can pull off that system I think it's pretty great.

-bry
Matt B said:
I know you're keen on the parallels between fine dining and coffee service--I can't imagine a server at a top-flight restaurant asking me for my name. But what you will get is a pleasant demeanor, information and courteous service.

Interesting observation, but its also true that a fine dining waiter or waitress never needs to get your attention to let you know that your meal is ready. They will, however, generally introduce themselves. Then there's the host/hostess... don't they ask for a name? Can you imagine hearing them say "Lady in the red sweater, party of 3, your table is now ready".

Do you feel uncomfortable giving the host/hostess at the restaurant your name? How about the person that takes your takeout order over the phone?

I agree that it is weird when a complete stranger acts as though they know you well. However, it is possible to use someone's name in a polite and courteous way without being fake and chummy. That's what's being suggested here.
Next time you guys go abroad, step into a (non american owned chain) coffeshop or cafe, order a drink and notice that they are very likely to NOT ask for your name. Lovelly isn't it? :-)

You guys have simply copied a highly specialized and standardized workflow from the big coffechains and fastfood restaurants. A process where you often need 3 people to take an order, produce the coffee and serve it, disconnecting the customer at the point of order and therby creating a need to reconnect the customer with the correct drink using a name or number. You could easily just replace "Name" with "Number". Just an extension of what Ford's then revolutionary way of producing cars.

Using or not using names is not about whether you actually care about the customer or his/hers name. If you really care about the customer: make sure you stay with the customer throughout the process and have one Barista handling the whole process.

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