Do you give out free coffee?

Last week, Costa Coffee put all of their express vending machines on free vend. It prompted a huge surge in attention on social media, as some outlets decided not to participate in the celebration which was to mark International Coffee Day.

There was discussion too about why Costa would make this move, when surely they want to encourage people into their coffee shops?

If you give the decision some thought though, it was a really good move. 

Yes, Costa have their high street coffee shops, but that isn’t where they will make their profits. The machines, where there are minimal overheads, are where that will come from. They are also where the most customer resistance is.

How often do you think about coffee from a machine and, in your mind, have some kind of reaction akin to ‘Yuck’?  I know I do!

The challenge for Costa is in getting all of us who have this type of reaction to overcome it, and actually taste the product. We might assume it’s going to taste awful, but most of us who actually taste it would probably be pleasantly surprised!

Putting the machines on free vend, and giving us the chance to taste the coffee at no risk is the best opportunity for Costa to over come that reluctance. 

The reality is that the machine coffee could actually be better than the coffee shop output.

How come?

Because it’s been standardised, and prepared by a machine, not a Barista. Every human will have an off day, but a machine is far more reliable.

If you can overcome our reluctance to try the machine coffee, we should find it far more consistent across different machines and different days than our local coffee shop. I know Chris and I have a preferred location for our Costa Hot Chocolate, because the guys make it how we like it. Another store, that is actually closer to us, don’t quite make it the same. So far we haven’t worked out the difference, but it’s just slightly off. THAT is the consistency that you can get from a machine!

So, do you give ‘free coffee’ from your business?

Are you using generosity to overcome your customers’ reluctance or wariness?

I mentioned in an earlier post that Jo Fairley recommended exactly that approach, having been so successful with it when setting up Green & Blacks. Hopefully, seeing Costa taking the same approach will be proof, if it were needed, that generosity can pay off!

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