When Great Products can mask over Poor Service

Butlers Chocolates

Great Coffee - Not so great service

I found myself in the queue of Butlers Chocolate Coffee Shop for about the fifth time in the week for my ritual morning treat and I just decided that I had to leave and search the streets of Cork for another alternative outlet that might serve coffee as good because of what I witnessed the previous day(Cork Coffee Roasters on Bridge Street is a little too far away).

Unfortunately I didn’t find a better cup of coffee anywhere so I just have to try to solve my dilemma by blogging about my experience in the hope that Butlers might notice.

Butlers Chocolate Coffee Shops do great coffee but at times the customer service is just appalling (my social media contacts will have seen a zillion posts about this from me). Some of the staff are very friendly and some are really quite the opposite. I find this incredible – I go in there at least three or four times a week, I buy a few coffees each time and some of the regular staff would neither smile, make small talk or even make eye contact.

There is also a very definite policy of preparing the coffee for the customer and leaving it on the counter and then “shouting” out the order until the customer hears and collects. You could be in there on a quiet day, sitting having a chat while waiting for your coffee , just feet from the counter and the staff will still “shout” your order instead of popping it over to you – I must admit this drives me nuts!

This must be how the staff are trained and I feel it also probably lends itself to a culture whereby a “no smile” scenario is quite acceptable as well. I can see the logic around staff overhead but this policy needs to be applied with some intelligence and “cop on”.

Hilariously they recently introduced a new electronic loyalty card system called a “Happiness” card and for the few weeks around it’s introduction all the staff had t-shirts with “Happiness” written boldly across them. With the card you earn your usual one in ten coffees free but you also earn loyalty points – all designed to have you coming back. Now there’s a good promotional idea!

This week I witnessed the very worst customer service incident, which motivated me to eventually write – A woman with a young kid and a new born baby around her neck in a little sling ordered a low fat latte. She seemed under pressure as she sat down while waiting for her coffee – the “shout” duly followed by the staff member: “low fat latte” to be followed by an even louder and more impatient “low fat latte“.

The poor lady who was sitting down and a little under pressure with her toddler and baby responded “I’ll get it when I am ready“. At this stage practically every customer in the coffee shop had heard the awful interaction and were trying to figure out why none of the three staff on duty could make an exception and walk the few feet over to the woman with her coffee.

I was chatting with a buddy of mine and I was about to collect the coffee from the counter and bring it over to the woman only to be beaten to the punch by another customer.


The product is great so we keep going back but at some point a new coffee shop will open that will know the value of smiling and the even greater the value of bringing coffee down to a customer in extreme or not so extreme situations .. I look forward to it.

If you have a great product be careful not to create an opportunity for poor service to creep in.

Greg Canty is a partner of Fuzion

Tags: , , , , , , ,

30 Responses to “When Great Products can mask over Poor Service”

  1. Virginia Says:

    Thank God its not just me!! Its such a pity because the product is so good & the branding is strong. I believe they have the potential to be the Irish Starbucks and could be in every county in Ireland as well as abroad (they are already in London, New Zealand & Pakistan). If it was any other shop I would have stopped going there long ago but I too find myself returning again & again for the quality of the product. They outline on their website that applicants should be “friendly, outgoing and enthusiastic” in order to work there!

  2. Tina Says:

    I couldnt agree more with your observation and experience at Butlers. I also found it hilarious when they introduced the ‘happiness card’ In my visits I only ever receive a welcome smile and interaction from one lady and I reckon she may be the manager. It reminds me a bit of the ‘Betty Forde Clinic experience that you receive at some public establishments around the city, where staff go out of their way not to make eye contact in case they have to serve you a drink! Dont start me on customer service!

  3. Cheryl Says:

    I have to agree on this concept. One example is we buy Dell computer vs HP for this reason. HP does not provide a dedicated rep and does not provide the level of customer service to keep up with our growing company needs. Although HP computers are great, we go with Dell for the personal dedicated interaction…this is HUGE!! I think some businesses do not realize how important customer service really is. Without customers, there is no business. In your case they are lucky their product carrying them through. – thanks for sharing your experience –

  4. Andy O' Sullivan Says:

    Hi Greg, Another great blog! You should raise it with them I think. The whole Irish thing about never compaining but simply going elsewhere is wrong (althought I’m as guilty of this as anyone). If you like their products then you want to support them and you want them to do well even if they’re mucking it up. I have two personal incidents I can recall. One was where the food I got at a lunchbar was awful and I complained ( I had simply intended on never going back but thought the better of it and raised the issue with them). I got an unequivocal apology from the waitress and a full refund so I’ll now definately go back. The other was where I went to collect my car after a service and was shocked at the price and that some of the work actually hadn’t been done. In that case I obviously complained quite strongly (actually I think the service manager lost his job shortly afterwards so I clearly wasn’t the only one) but I never got a satisfactory apology and have never returned again. The dealer must have thought they dealt with the issue by removing the possible “weakest line” but this never translated to a satisfied customer.
    Car servicing is a good example because, I think, it highlights that brand loyalty is as much about the ongoing “experience” as the actual product. If a dealer gives you very good service at a reasonable cost, talks your through what they’ve done, returns your car cleaned with no surprises and follows up with a phone call to see if you were happy then you’ll more than likely buy your next car from them. Just think how you’d react if the coffee was average but the service was amazing with really lively staff? Would you keep going there? I think so….

  5. Sam Kidd Says:

    This is the reason I stopped going there and started going to Costa. The staff in the Costa I go to always seem happy and joke and chat to all the customers, plus the moment I go in they know what I drink and normally have it made before I even have time to pay.

    When you’re spending money everyday in the same shop the staff need to be friendly and I think it’s only right to feel like your business is appreciated.

    While I agree Butlers has a great product, it’s just not enough in my books. Service wins every time for me.

  6. Ian McDonald Says:

    Great blog Greg. It’s amazing how many businesses forget that customer service is the best and cheapest marketing tool! I think your article should go on their Facebook page! Let’s see if they are brave enough to leave it there, and to act on it by remedying their poor service.

  7. Greg Canty Says:

    Update guys ..

    Butlers rang me today and are taking the customer care issue very seriously & will look into it.

    Well done Butlers, Great Coffee & hopefully great service ..

  8. Mark Says:

    This blog only confirms my suspicions about us as a people. we complain and moan to each other about poor service or quality, but rarely complain to the business concerned. When I was retailing, I welcomed feedback from customers, as very often I would have been concentrating on just running the business and would have been unaware of shortcomings in serving the customers. When a business is successful, management often do not see the need to change – even if it means their customers are getting poor customer service. Ultimately, customers in general need to voice their complaints to the business involved in order for things to change. If they don’t know something is not right, how can they be expected to fix it.
    It might be worthwhile for Butler’s coffee shop to employ professional secret shoppers to evaluate their service and suggest remedial actions to improve things.

    For the record, I think the coffee in Insomnia is nicer.

    • Greg Canty Says:

      thanks for the great post Mark – you are right about the frustration about customers not complaining. However – if a customer complains often that can make their experience even worse … they are often there to relax and the last thing they want is the “tension” of an awkward moment.

      How do you spot poor service if the customer doesn’t complain (without the mystery shopper – we have done some of this in the past)? -that’s a tricky one !!

      Insomnia … I’ll check it out!

  9. Gary Forde Says:

    Thats great news Greg, I know one of the managers in there and she would be mortified to think that this happened. Glad you got a phone call and it seems that this will be resolved. Customer service wins out all the time in my books and it certainly seems that they have reacted positively to this event. Look forward to a further update during the week on your next visit(s).

    Shame that Cork Coffee Roasters is just too far away, best coffee house in Cork in my eyes!

  10. Liam Garvey Says:

    Customer service is usually down to a management issue. It is pointless having “Happiness” events when the staff are unmotivated and unhappy. I used to go into their Galway shop but stopped after months of blank looks when I went for my regular tea fixes.

    I now go to the “Chocolate Box” shop just down the street where the staff knew my name after a couple of visits and know my regular order when I go in the door.

    They even smile!

    Ourselves, we run a couple of small retail shops and I hope that we give a friendly and helpful sevice.

    Our business is tourist based and we feel it is important to give some “added value”. Visitors always get a bit of a chat and recommendations on places to see and things to do.

    If somebody takes the trouble to come into my shop they deserve my efforts to make them feel welcome and comfortable!

  11. Greg Coyne Says:

    There is a Starbucks over here in the states that I visit most often because of their staff. I only drink White Chocolate Mochas and will only eat scones from Starbucks, both can be had at ANY location worldwide it seems (I’ve had both in HK before). However the shop I frequent most has staff who are genuinely happy to see me, make and queue up my order as I stand in line to pay and have even comped me product when I’ve forgotten my wallet out in the car. I am happy to spend whatever they charge me because the experience is delightful. I also tip them extremely well based on the service.

  12. tara Says:

    I think the difficulty with some of these chains is the “corporate” approach to training. I was at a Starbucks in Sydney once and I still got the full “shout out” service, despite the fact that I was the only one in the shop! With the likes of Starbucks, I think that people are trained to give you the full on experience whether you are the only person or one of a hundred in the premises. And there must be no deviation from same. Generally as Irish people, we’re open and friendly but I think the corporate approach tries to force you through a process rather than allowing the individual to shine.

  13. Michelle Says:

    Thank god someone else feels the same about that place. I used to religiously get a coffee there every lunch and back when I was in night college, I would go before class as well. Same thing, I always found the coffee amazing but the service appalling. RUDE RUDE RUDE and it was not just me, there was a group of us and everyone had a similar negative story. I actually rang up one time and complained about a girl who worked in the one opposite Catham row. It was the rudest encounter i had ever had and after that I made it my business to go elsewhere. I applaud you Greg for this blog and bringing it to their intention. It is shocking how senior management (my complaint was over a manager) have no idea about the unprofessional unmannerly conduct of their staff.

    • Greg Canty Says:

      Thanks for the feedback Michelle – Butlers have contacted me and are very interested in the feedback. Assuming their interest is genuine this is a great opportunity for them to learn how to excel if feedback is embraced.


  14. Owen Says:

    I think Sam Kidd has the right idea. We, in this country, simply put up with this level of service and by doing so feed the monster. Butlers is not unique in this regard, or should I say the staff of Butlers. Quite often customer service policy is excellent, but falls down on implementation.

  15. Sunday Says:

    Bad customer service creates opportunities for new entrants into the industry knowing that many customers are waiting a new business to come.

    Sunday C

  16. person with most twitter followers Says:

    I go to see every day a few blogs and blogs to read content, except his blog offers quality based content.

  17. Make money from home Says:


    When Great Products can mask over Poor Service | Greg Canty Fuzion Blog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: