The importance of how we say things

By ayr October 21, 2016


I took this picture of the whiteboard in my office. We were talking about language at our weekly staff meeting.

We have 290 employees. And we’re understaffed. When we fix our staffing issues that’s 340 people making Clover a daily reality. Next year this time it’s likely to be over 700.

We’re building community. But not just with our customers, with our employees. I grew up in a town of 1200 people. Clover is on it’s way to feeling like a small town to me. And we serve up to 10,000 people per day. That’s a decent sized town.

I’m learning a lot about what it takes to make Clover the place we know it can be. Language is way more important than I appreciated at the start. The words we use define us.

I realized recently that the way we were talking about tasting was impacting how we approached tasting. Without going into it in detail we want tasting to be a one on one personal experience. But we kept fighting the urge for it to devolve to a pretzel-in-the-mall type experience.

I’ve tried writing new policies. Training folks. We did a video. We’ve tried to create no space on the counter for a row of sample cups. Still I found employees lining up samples like at a mall.

Then the other week I had inspiration. What if we rebrand “sampling”? What if we start calling it “tasting”? And I tried it. And it worked. Stuck the first time.

So now we’ll be talking about tasting.

The other thing we noticed: staff had stopped referring to coffee by it’s proper name and had started calling it by the code on the ordering system. I feel like this is leading to less familiarity with the specifics of each beautiful coffee. So we’re fixing that. No more calling coffee “C1.”


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