Using Bestomer to Foster True Customer Connection: Q&A With Co-Founder Alex Barrett
We see a lot of faces at Coffeebar, and for a moment, each one represents a ticket that gets printed out, stuck on our espresso machine and fulfilled; a cap and an avocado toast for her, a cinnamon bun and a lavender latte for them. This is our craft, what we strive for excellence on every day in order to create something of joy and deliciousness to you, our customers, our “tickets.”
When establishing our values for Coffeebar, though, it occurred to us that in order to create the community haven that we envisioned, we should look beyond the “ticket” in front of us. The Coffeebar family, which all of our customers are a part of, is an ecosystem-- not a revolving door of tickets in and tickets out.
In this ecosystem, our relationships with our customers are what define us, what we value. With any great relationship, communication goes both ways. Most businesses come up against a challenge at this point-- they’re unclear how to hear from their customers. On the other side, customers see a barrier and are only motivated to give feedback if there’s an immediate problem to be solved or a survey to be taken (and who knows if anyone ever reads those).
In our story, this is where Bestomer comes in. Bestomer bridges this gap by giving customers a way, from their phones or from our cafes, to say “Hey Coffeebar!” and submit feedback, messages, ratings, and love notes, either anonymously or by creating an account. Bestomer is a system we’ve adopted so we’re able to hear from our customers, more transparently and more often.
John, our Chief Operating Officer, sat down with Bestomer co-founder Alex Barrett to discuss how the company came to be and to dive deeper on how their technology allows us at Coffeebar to foster true connections by putting the customer first.
Hi Alex! Let’s start at the beginning. What motivated you to start Bestomer with your co-founder Ben Cooper?
Alex: We live pretty active lifestyles and spend a lot of time outdoors. With that comes travel, gear purchases, visiting new places, dining out; the complete gamut of experiences, good and bad. Through all of this, we’ve discovered there are brands we love because they do a great job listening to their customers, and brands that, let’s just say, could do better.
Most companies use some form of CRM (Customer Relationship Management systems) to manage customer relationships; but there’s really no relationship to manage. They tell businesses things like customer habits, when to spam and survey customers, and how much revenue they might make from doing so, but they do very little to help the customer. Those CRMs weren’t built for customers, they only serve businesses.
Despite this, most businesses do want to better serve their customers, and they need ways to capture customer experiences so they can improve. It’s often challenging for businesses to get a clear picture of how they are doing, or what they need to do because they only hear from customers that are motivated enough (usually negatively) to go through the friction of telling a business about their experience.
John: I have a story that can perfectly illustrate this. I’ve been a passionate advocate for a certain brand and recently made a call to their customer service phone line. After a disappointing experience with both their team and their product, I cared enough to pick up the phone and share my thoughts on how this could be improved (my compulsive need to collaborate is also the reason my wife has stopped enjoying going out to dinner with me, but as an operations leader I can’t help myself, because I know how invaluable feedback can be).
Thirty minutes and approximately thirty introductory and set up questions later I was finally speaking with a person, but by then I was exhausted and had no desire to talk shop or leave feedback.
So often our surveys, secret-shops, feedback channels, or templated responses are transactional, hoping to achieve a quick resolution so we can, well, move on. However there’s a difference between proactive listening and soliciting information.
Proactive listening is relational and intentionally prioritizes the other over self.
The experience with the customer service call helped me realize how often guest feedback is structured and approached first from the needs and interests of the business, not the guest. So much of the process is executed on the business’ terms and within the framework they have deemed cost-efficient.
Alex: Exactly. At a certain point it became obvious to us that there was a massive opportunity to create an entirely new kind of CRM, built from the ground up to bring value to both sides by serving the customer first. Unlike surveys, we optimized our platform to make it easy for customers to be better served, feel closer to the brand and feel valued, all of which starts with better communication.
Relationships are two-way, conversational, and evolve fluidly, where both sides give and get value.
With Bestomer, Coffeebar is able to make it easy for customers to start conversations about what matters to them and quickly give value back by making customers feel heard, provide info, help, and even offer perks.
How did the Bestomer x Coffeebar relationship begin?
Alex: The first step in any relationship is you need to care, and Coffeebar has always stood out as a brand with great people behind it who care passionately about what they're doing and the community they support.
You feel less like a customer and more like a friend everytime you visit one of the stores.
The more time I spent in Coffeebar, the more it became obvious that they were a great team and fit for us.
John: I met Alex and Ben from Bestomer a few years back and was immediately intrigued by how they described their feedback tool. Essentially, they created an app designed for guests first, businesses second. We would be allowed to be a part of these conversations as a business, but this would always be on the guests’ terms and in the format they prefer.
Secondly, they talked very little about complaints & resolution, issue management and efficient response time. They did, on the other hand, talk a lot about having guest conversations, about listening without an agenda, and about developing community at any point of intersection. For example, they described how you could ask the folks over at Tahoe Donner which trails were open on that day and get an answer within minutes.
Alex: We found that by lowering the barrier to listening, we hear from a lot more customers, and often lots of good little things, that businesses can emphasize and further enhance customer experiences and relationships. Additionally, it helps employees hear the good side of things, which goes a long way and becomes a virtuous cycle.
John: Absolutely. True connection matters more to us at Coffeebar than efficient connectivity. Meaning, it’s not enough for us to simply make it easier for people to tell us what’s on their mind, or resolve what has already gone wrong.
We want to be connected in a meaningful way to both the intermittent challenges that do happen and the long-lasting relationship between our company and real people we consider family.
We’re authentically as interested in whether Caleb’s junior soccer team makes the playoffs as we are about getting his mom’s lavender latte pour right every time, and Bestomer helps us foster both.
What does the future of Bestomer look like to you in terms of the customer/business relationship?
Alex: We’re just scratching the surface of what can be done. We are the go-to platform for how customers engage businesses. We can say that because Bestomer was purpose-built for customers to easily get value.
Facebook is how people connect with friends and family socially; LinkedIn is where you connect professionally; Bestomer is where customers connect with businesses.
Conversationally, transactionally, and even all the boring stuff like warrantee info and product literature (i.e. instructions): it’s all in one place, it’s easy to use, and strengthens customer-to-business relationships and experiences.
So how does someone reading this get started?
John: As a Coffeebar customer, Bestomer gives you the option of leaving feedback anonymously (really) or to ask for a response, or spark a conversation or phone call. No need to get out of your jammies if you don’t want to; you can connect with us from your smartphone with the app, your home computer, or the Bestomer iPads we have at each store.
Alex: For business owners and managers, getting started is simple in our new web-app builder. It’s free to use and you can get up and running in a matter of minutes. There’s no coding and you can easily customize an engagement channel to brand as much (or as little) as you want.
Go to bestomer.com and click “Try It.” We’ll walk you through a few simple steps to have a live, published engagement channel. Once you’re happy with your channel you can add admins (to respond to your customers) and distribute your channel to customers using any combination of web invites, qr codes, and direct links.