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Building customer loyalty in three minutes a day

September 13, 2016

Six Beans Coffee Company is a family business–even though its two co-founders aren’t technically related. Brian Nicklason and Nick Pappas’s grandparents knew one another. Their parents grew up together in the same small community. Brian and Nick have been friends their whole lives. They’re so close that Nicklason says he can’t remember them ever having an argument. The business they now own together, Six Beans, is named for their children—they each have three.

The family atmosphere carries through the whole business. Nicklason is the company’s CEO, and his wife is the COO. She runs the front-of-house operations and sets the tone for the customer service. “What sets our business apart is we have great coffee, we have great drinks, and super-friendly service,” Nicklason says.

That warm, friendly service is delivered through a drive-through window. “We are more tailored to the commuter, the busy professional, moms, teachers—people who have stuff to do but still want really good coffee,” Nicklason says. It’s been a popular concept so far, and the drive-thru model cuts costs compared to a traditional retail space, but it does mean that the typical transaction lasts less than three minutes.

That’s not much time to create a relationship. And yet Six Beans has had great success signing customers up for its loyalty program and turning drive-thru consumers into regulars. Here are four tips for building customer loyalty in just a few minutes a day:

  1. Make it easy. At a drive-thru window, speed is of the essence. Six Beans uses Clover Rewards, a free app available to Clover merchants on the App Market. Clover Rewards keeps things easy for staff and customers alike. It’s integrated into the Clover POS system, so it’s simple and fast for staff to call up a customer’s account without keeping them waiting at the window. On the customer side, it’s app-based—all the customer has to do is download an app and check in with each purchase to earn and redeem perks almost instantly. There’s no plastic card for the customer to lose, and the transaction is seamless every time.
  1. Keep reminding customers of the option. Six Beans prints a notice about its rewards on every Clover receipt, and baristas mention the loyalty program to every customer. That means that even though staff doesn’t have much time with each customer, each customer still hears about the rewards option each time they come through. The information on the receipt makes it easy for customers to download the app at their convenience, and then credit the customer for their last transaction towards earning free perks.
  1. Be flexible. For most customers, the Clover Rewards app–called Perka on the customer side—is easy to use. It’s right there on their smartphones, at their fingertips, every time they come in. But there are some customers, mainly older folks, who aren’t comfortable using an app. “Not everybody is as tech-savvy as we’d like,” Nicklason says. Six Beans allows customers who prefer a low-tech solution to simply keep their receipts and show them at the window to claim their rewards.
  1. Be prepared for success. Six Beans has had its rewards program in place since day one. Nicklason crunched the numbers on the program before opening, but uptake has been even stronger than he planned for. The program is set up so customers get a free drink after buying 10, and there are other levels beyond that—25 drinks gets you a free muffin, and so on. “We’ve given out probably close to a thousand cups of coffee using it,” Nicklason says, but because the coffee business enjoys comfortable margins, the customer loyalty program is still good for business. “We give out more than I expected,” Nicklason said, “but that means we’re selling more than I had expected, too.” (Nicklason’s experience is actually quite typical for merchants with active rewards programs. As a recent University of Chicago study indicates, loyalty programs tend to increase purchases by 20% or more.)

Nicklason is happy with the way Clover Rewards and Perka are building customer loyalty for Six Beans—even in the short interactions required in a drive-thru operation. “Perka is a great choice,” he adds. “It’s simple, and you can manage the expense of your rewards. I would definitely recommend giving it a try.”