Friday, December 11, 2009

The Telltale Coffee

Yesterday I came up with the single greatest indicator of how any company truly functions. I believe it can be applied across the board to any company, any industry, any size.

It's coffee.

More specifically, it's the coffee supply, be it in a pot, a carafe, or an airpot.

How can this be, you ask? How can a simple liquid in a simple container tell me everything I need to know about a company?

It's how often it gets filled.

Think about it. What did you learn in kindergarten (I mean, other than naptime is at 1:00)? The lessons that were reinforced at home: If you use something, put it back. If you make a mess, clean it up. Treat others as you would be treated.

But this rule apparently does not apply to coffee.

Think about it: how many times have either come to a coffee dispenser or simply watched one and found that it was empty? What was the reaction of the user - did they stop and make another pot, or did they just continue down the line of coffee dispensers (finding them all empty), shrug their shoulders in disgust, and walk on?

More often than not, they walked on. Because making coffee is not something that "important" people do - and by default, most people in their mind are "important".

If people will not do the simplest of tasks (coffee, filter, water, button) - especially after they use up the last bit - they communicate both that their needs, wants, and goals are primary and that service which may not directly benefit themselves is not a critical issue.

Too simplistic, you argue? My response is simply to look at the business or place of employ: where is the focus of the employees? Is it on service - both to customers and fellow workers - or is it merely those things which will advance first the individual involved and then the company, with fellow employees or customers being last (yes, "service" can be included in here, but it's not sincere)?

Watch carefully. And then go look to their coffee pots.


  1. This is indicative of the fact that most employees don't view their co-workers as internal customers. Being in sales we have both external and internal customers. So many times the relationships with our internal customers and how we get along with them are often times just as and sometimes more important than our external or "real" customers.

  2. This is so true! I work with chemists for goodness sake - I can't understand out why they won't/can't figure out how to brew a pot of coffee with instructions staring them in the face!

  3. It's not the inability to brew the coffee, it's the will to do it. That's someone else's job - you know, the person lower on the totem pole.

    Oddly enough Otis, the reality is you hear a great deal about all customers nowadays in non-sales industries, both internal and external. The problem is many people don't see internal customers as relevant as external customers. I think it has something to do with the fact that an external customer is a single unit, while internal customers are often viewed in terms of the corporate hierarchy.


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