Thought Leadership + Practical Advice

IN FRAME – Quava Espresso


IN FRAME articles feature businesses that stand out to us as having something special when it comes to their customer. Be it customer service, outstanding overall experience or simply unique in their DNA, we celebrate them – IN FRAME.

Quava Espresso – A True Coffee Experience 

Coffee, glorious coffee.

Didn’t a little red-haired orphan once sing about coffee?

As you know, we are a bit coffee mad at Customer Frame.

Along with a healthy dose of passion, it is the lifeblood of our business. It keeps us going as we burn the midnight oil to meet deadlines, or to help us get through a leisurely(!) 100km bike ride on a Saturday morning.

Coffee shops are a dime a dozen these days. Talk about market saturation. Differentiation is a tough gig. How does one choose their coffee hit provider? By roaster? Location? Atmosphere? Loyalty program? Seating? Parking? Signage? Brand? Referral? Coffee machine? (true, our resident barista Peter judges by the type of coffee machine)… you get our point…

Cue Quava Espresso And Owner Quentin Cunningham

Quentin tells us a little about his business approach, and his view on those creatures we call customers…

Customers are everything

Without customers, there is no business. You can’t pay your bills. You can’t live. They are the reason we as business owners have anything at all. They are why we do what we do. Without them, we have nothing.

Traditional sales is so passe

It’s not about pushing a message or a product onto a customer. They come to your place to spend time. They choose you over others. As business owners, we need to respect that. Most people don’t like to be sold to anymore.

I don’t like to let my customers down.

As a typical small business owner, there’s just me. I have family and life responsibilities. And when I’m called upon – when my family needs me – the business has to wait. But I don’t take this lightly. To not open makes me feel bad. I feel like I’m letting my customers down. They rely on me and I never forget that.

Start with a vision

My vision when I opened Quava was to build ‘a small but potent espresso bar driven by passion, personality and 20 years of experience’. Vision is crucial to know where you want to go. But I don’t let it overwhelm me or get caught up in doing things right and perfect. I live and breathe my vision every day, and that’s what matters.

The best advice I was ever given

was from an old colleague of mine. He taught me the acronym ‘CARE’. ‘Customers Are Really Everything’. He taught me that you can’t move forward without customers. I’ve never forgotten it.

I’m lucky 

I make coffee. I should be the second thing you think about in the morning, after you kiss your wife. I’m a necessity in life. People need me. They seek me out. So then it’s up to me get it right.

My biggest challenge is my own perfectionism

I’m a total perfectionist. Self-confessed. I used to get emotional at the coffee machine if something went wrong, if I messed up. But then I realised that it was affecting my customers – they took my frustration as a reflection on them. My meltdowns were FOR them, not BECAUSE of them. I couldn’t let that energy transfer onto my customers. So, I changed.

Surround yourself with good people

I’ve been lucky to be surrounded by great people along the way. I’ve worked in fantastically successful businesses. And I’ve soaked up all the learnings. I’ve taken it all on-board. It’s part of the reason I am where I am today. Always learn from those around you – good or bad, just learn.

You have to back yourself

I now intuitively know when I’m doing things right. And when I’m not. You have to believe in what you stand for and you have to live it. You’ll know if you’re on the right track or not, if you just stop and listen.

We’ve forgotten that

At the end of the day, people are people. We don’t need to overcomplicate our businesses with systems and rules and restrictions. Just remember the customer and their needs. I really do take my business personally and I treat my customers personally too. And it seems to work.

[Quentin seems to know most of his customers and their stories. He speaks personally to everyone who orders a coffee while we chat. He interacts genuinely and warmly. And his customers respond. When I point this out, he continues…]

Sentiment is what holds us together

I’m a romantic at heart. People like to have a chat. People like to take the time. They like to share themselves and I’m so lucky (there’s that word again!) to be able to have that interaction with them and share their stories.

I don’t believe in advertising 

At the beginning, I had people (kindly) offer to write articles for me, to promote my business, but I wanted to take my time, to grow organically. I wanted to start small, to feel my way through the early days. I believe in making good coffee. The aim has always been to grow the business one coffee at a time. And I’m doing just that. And it works for me.

Perfection is not real

Consistency and reliability are. Customers don’t expect perfection every time. They expect consistency and they expect reliability. Reliability is the key to small business.

Once they trust you, they’re yours 

Then you have a relationship. And once you have a relationship, it is really only you who can break it. But if you’re consistent and reliable – remember, not always perfect – then you’ll be ok.

Always have an intention to do your best

You must have an intention to do your best every time. When I have an unhappy customer, I try not to take it personally. You just have to do your best with each customer. And realise that there are just some people that you’re not going to turn around. Interact and be friendly, but don’t try to fix it. You just don’t know the weight that people carry. Anything could have happened to them that day. It’s not about you. You have to remember that.

A Chinese lady serving in a Valley restaurant taught me a valuable lesson 

I walked in for lunch and started talking to her, asking her how her day was. When she didn’t respond, I asked again. She curtly turned to me and said ‘just because you want to talk, doesn’t mean I do!’. And she was right. I learned then and there that I can only do what I can. The rest is up to the other person. And you just have to respect that.

Be in tune with your customers

That’s your job. You have to pick each customer and interact with them accordingly. Some will be dazzled by my humour, others will want to be left alone. And that’s ok. It’s up to me to work that out and deliver on it. That’s my job. That, and to make exceptional coffee, of course.

And make exceptional coffee, he certainly does… thank you Quentin, for spending some time with us to share your wisdom on all things customer. See you for one of those amazing double shot cappuccinos soon…

Sueanne Carr CUSTOMER FRAME Co-founder Superhero

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