In my book Mastering Business Chaos I tell the story of My Cappuccino Epiphany experience in Milan a number of years ago (see excerpt below).
I had a second Cappuccino Epiphany yesterday evening – and, surprisingly, it occurred while passing through Phoenix’s Sky Harbor airport - in Terminal 4 (C Gate area) to be specific.
I was changing planes from LA on my way to Denver. I wanted a cup of coffee before boarding my flight I quickly sped past the Cartel Coffee Lab. However, in passing, it caught my eye as something different than a typical airport coffee shop that tries to create the illusion of something special.
Something about the Cartel Coffee Lab shop struck me as authentic. So, I backtracked to the shop to order a cappuccino - expecting a typical airport cappuccino in a typical to-go cup. However, I was in for a surprise experience.
The shop keeper asked a simple question – “Do you have just a few minutes to enjoy your cappuccino before heading to the gate?” He followed his question with “I could prepare a latte to-go, but not a cappuccino. A cappuccino needs to be properly prepared and served in a cappuccino cup and enjoyed in the moment – not in a rush.” Who asks questions like that in an airport coffee shop?
The question surprised me. I thought about it - and I did have a few minutes, but prior to his question, I was on-plan to quickly grab a cappuccino and rush to the gate. So, I was intrigued, and ordered my cappuccino under the strict rules specified by the shop keeper.
Satisfied that I was a worthy customer, he ground and pressed the espresso beans while frothing the milk. He then poured the espresso into the cappuccino cup and added the froth while expertly swirling the cup – reminiscent of a miner carefully panning for precious specs of gold.
He handed the carefully prepared beverage to me with the instructions to sit for a moment and enjoy the cappuccino before rushing to the gate. Then it happened – right there in Terminal 4 – my second cappuccino epiphany! Suddenly, I felt relaxed. I was able to power down and enjoy the moment. The shop keeper, noticing my change in stress and elevated mood, said “that is the customer experience that we are trying to achieve at the Cartel Coffee Lab“.
Now, I think that is very cool. My take away from the Cartel Coffee Lab experience is to take a few moments in an otherwise busy and chaotic day and enjoy a short but meaningful respite – perhaps while enjoying an authentic cappuccino.
So, next time you are passing through Phoenix’s Sky Harbor airport – take a few moments to enjoy the Cartel Coffee Lab experience. Let me know if you come away with a similar experience.
Copyright © 2010, James Proctor / London House Business
Chapter 8, Creating Customer Value, Pages 80-82
My Cappuccino Epiphany
It was a perfect April day in Milan. I was in Italy on business and I decided to tour Milan’s famous fashion district -Via della Spiga. Via della Spiga is reminiscent of Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, but in Milan. Via della Spiga is the authentic fashion district; Rodeo Drive is just a very sophisticated ”knock-off.”
I am not particularly haute couture-savvy. But the independent fashion design houses, couturiers, and boutiques that comprise the fashion district and the intense beehive of business activity swirling around the district intrigued me. A few hours later I was ready for a break. On a narrow side street I found a bistro where I could regroup and refresh myself.
The bistro was very small, with tiny tables very close together. Italians leaned over demitasse cups, talking and gesturing intensely. I ordered a cappuccino and an assortment of sandwiches. I sat down amidst the gentle music of foreign accents, the aroma of strong coffee and the distinct ambience of an Italian café. Across the street rose the majestic dome of a Gothic cathedral.
I savored my tiny cappuccino from a tiny cup and nibbled at the elegant tiny sandwiches. I engaged in conversation with table next to me, enjoying life right in the moment for a good 30-40 minutes.
And then it hit me, my Cappuccino Epiphany, a defining moment in life! At that very moment I absolutely connected at a visceral level with creating customer value!
There, in the shadow of Il Duomo, in the midst of this stunning moment, it became clear that the value of any product or service is subjectively determined from the customer’s point of view. “Value" is what something is worth, expressed in some form of currency, and what the customer is willing to pay for it. In this case the currency was Euros.
To me, in this location at that moment in time, the value was not in the quantity or size of the cappuccino and sandwiches. The value was in the customer experience - the taste, aroma and presentation - of the food and coffee, and most importantly to me - the ambiance of the experience.
Chatting over a cup of cappuccino was being “in the moment.” Just enjoying that bistro was a great life-experience. That is what I was really buying. The conversation, the perfectly prepared cappuccino, the exquisite sandwiches and the local ambiance of the culture mingled together to create a very valuable experience for me.
At home in the United States, I can go to the local Starbucks for a cappuccino. I can go to the local Dunkin’ Donuts, as well. Starbucks is really a combination of the American cultural tradition of “bigger is better,” “more is better,” and “faster is better,” fused with the ambience and quality of the experience of a café in Milan. The local Starbucks provides a relaxed atmosphere, conducive to conversation, over an espresso beverage.
I have classic American values in food and beverage. At my neighborhood Starbucks in Brentwood, I typically “super size” my cappuccino. I want it fast so I can bolt out the door to my next appointment and drink my super-sized cappuccino on the way. Sometimes, however, I choose to take my time, sit down and enjoy the music and the atmosphere. That is the Starbucks “fusion.”
Let’s take this example to another level and let’s look at the Dunkin’ Donuts experience in Westwood. I can go there for a cappuccino as well. I would argue that the cappuccino that I get at the Dunkin’ Donuts in Westwood is equivalent in taste and quality with the cappuccino I get at Starbucks in Brentwood.
However, the cappuccino that I pay $4.00 for at the Starbucks in Brentwood costs around $2.50 at Dunkin’ Donuts in Westwood. So, what is the difference between the $4 cappuccino at Starbucks and the $2.50 cappuccino at Dunkin’ Donuts? It’s a different ambiance, a different experience and $1.50. Dunkin’ Donuts smells like a donut store. It is finished with fluorescent lights and vinyl flooring. The person that takes my order also makes my cappuccino. They do not carry the title of “Barista.” Other than the ambiance and experience, to me, it’s a similar cup of cappuccino.
Let’s takes this example one step further. I often stop for a cup coffee at the 7/11 on Wilshire Boulevard on my way to the office. 7/11 is a great American experience. I can go in to a 7/11 store 24-hours a day, seven days a week. There I can choose from several different varieties of coffee that are freshly brewed, select from five sizes of coffee cups and choose from a wide range of flavored syrups. The stores are self-serve; I pour my own plain coffee into a super-sized coffee cup (I love America – bigger is better!). I quickly pay for it (faster is better!) and I am out of there. All this for $1.25, which to me is a great value!
Remember the discussion earlier in the book about applying information technology? Just because you can do something with technology, doesn’t mean you should be doing it. Now, combine that concept with the idea that value is in the eyes of the customer. There is a time and a place when the Starbucks, the Dunkin’ Donuts or the 7/11 are appropriate.
With this in mind, imagine 7/11 installing a cappuccino coffee bar manned by a barista wearing an Italian-looking apron and hat with a 7/11 logo. How many 7/11 customers want to stand around and order a latte or a cappuccino from the coffee bar and dwell in the ambiance between the hot dog machine and the Slurpees machine while their order is prepared by the 7/11 barista? Not me – and I am a big fan of 7/11!