Imagine getting a letter from a local cafe telling you how bad a customer you have been in accessing their service without spending enough to cover the costs incurred. Surely this wouldn’t happen! The customer is always right, right?

Well not according to an independent coffee shop owner in Surrey who complained by letter to a group of 17 customers who stayed in the café for more than 3 hours but only spent £55 between them. The letter complained the overall spend equated to less than £1.07 per head per hour – not a sustainable level of income to cover overheads according to the café owner.
A clear example of one customer or set of customers hogging the resources when others need access. When the customer posted a copy of the letter on Facebook, interestingly there were mixed responses for and against the café owner. One respondent said, ‘next time just meet in each other’s house if they can’t afford to pay!’

So, who is right? Should the cafe owner who is a new
start up have ‘invested’ in these customers as future potential for advocacy and higher spend by being nice? Or should he have set out terms of his expected spend at the time of booking? Or was he right to behave as he did?
This is another instance of how our social world magnifies what would have remained a private and local affair to be featured in a national daily newspaper. And it did make me think about the very worn and wearied topic of customer data and its ownership. The shift from private conversations and respect of privacy to everything being in the public and social domain has done much to eradicate our trust with others and how our data and personal information is used. It’s easy to become cynical that this is for the worse rather than the better.
However, a story in The Times this week talked about the impact of Uber – again a brand that has had lots of positive and negative press; its once shining halo might have slipped a little. Regardless, it has been a real conduit for change in customer and worker experience. Drivers no longer worry about some customers skipping their fare, electronic payment ensures they don’t miss out. Where previously they had to queue for work, now they can self-manage their workload. For customers, you can time via GPS to almost the second when your car will arrive; gone is the long, cold and miserable queuing at a taxi rank.
Whilst the balance of favour has gone against the companies who store and profit from our personal details, it is worth remembering what we have gained from using digital technology as well as what we have lost. The 24/7 surveillance of our physical and online lives can make us uncomfortable, but it also makes it more difficult for those with less good intentions to misbehave. A complex blend of
life changing convenience which can leave a nasty aftertaste if we don’t take time to understand what we are doing.
Our forthcoming Future of CX Forum being hosted by Sky on 16 April is the much-heralded setting known for unravelling and helping to solve some of these conundrums. Click here to learn more about the programme and register to attend.
In the meantime, if you can’t be good at least be careful - especially in those coffee shops!

Enjoy your weekend and here’s hoping for Spring to finally arrive!