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How To Business

How To Business


FLEET COFFEE CO. - Austin, Texas

On a recent weekend trip to the Lone Star State’s greatest (IMO) town, I made sure to revisit Fleet Coffee.

Fleet Coffee is where—during a South By Southwest conference several years ago—I discovered their “ET” (an Espresso & Tonic drink). It was a total game changer for my love of coffee drinks.

My son now lives in Austin, so we have a great excuse to spend family weekends there with my wife and I coming from the East Coast and our daughter from the West Coast. So that means I'll have many more opportunities to visit Fleet.

On my last visit, I ordered the ET and was told that it had been changed a bit and is now served with grapefruit (it used to be lime). “Was that was OK?” I replied that it was certainly okay with me, as I imagine that these skilled taste creators made the change for good reason. My son, wanting to try this drink, asked if they could do it without the grapefruit (he is not a fan) and was told (nicely!) that they could not remove that flavor. He was disappointed, but not upset, as the barista was very respectful in her comments. The rest of us ordered, while he chose not to order anything.

As we waited outside, they brought our drinks out, but asked us to please wait for a minute. The barista then returned with a drink and handed it to my son, saying, “We made this one [an ET] for you with strawberry instead. We hope you like it!”

I have no direct knowledge as to why this occurred, but I’m sure it was a quick decision, realizing that “sorry, we can't do that” was not the answer they really wanted to give. While we were not upset and offered no complaints that they couldn’t make him a different version, they took it upon themselves to do so anyway… and at no charge.

To me, this a perfect example of a business making a quick and concise change of course. They realized that it was a disappointment, could make a change, and immediately did.

I believe that this could work in any business. While many things are beyond the control of the person in direct contact with the customer, the effort to please them (the customer) never is. And, more importantly, no matter the last thing told to a customer, there is always an opportunity to rethink and re-do that last action.

Even if they literally could not have made him a different version of the drink, they likely would, upon fast consideration, have brought him something to let him and us know that they valued us as customers. Because that’s the type of business that Fleet Coffee is.

So the next time you have to say “no” to a customer or client, start thinking right away about what you can offer as an alternative. It is a great habit to be sure you have. Thanks again, Fleet Coffee—I’ll see you next time I’m in Austin. That’s for certain.



By: Mark Pontz

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