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Q&A with Brett Smith, CEO of Counter Culture Coffee

Counter Culture Coffee

Founded in 1994, Counter Culture Coffee is a wholesale coffee roaster, selling its specialty coffee to cafés, restaurants, grocery stores and to consumers online. Based in Durham, North Carolina, the company prides itself on its sustainable sourcing, its relationship with farmer partners, and its relationship with its customers nationwide.

Medallia sat down with CEO Brett Smith to discuss how the company invests in its customers’ experience through the Medallia Experience Cloud.

Q: Why did you decide to invest in a customer experience solution like Medallia’s?

A: As a company, we have always strived to engage consumers. We don’t operate retail shops ourselves, so our website is where we are closest to the end-user of our product. We wanted the chance to connect with them at a higher level.

Understanding our customer base was critical. We play in the specialty or premium brand space, with a consumer packaged product. It’s a vast market and it’s a market in which we want to continue building and have people understand and appreciate our brand. Having that customer experience (CX) was critical. There is a lot of great coffee out there, so we wanted to ensure that they are getting that great experience from us and our brand.

When implementing Medallia solutions, we hoped to understand our NPS®, but we also hoped to get valuable feedback from our customers on what we were doing well, and on what we could improve upon.

Q: How important is Experience Management for your online business?

A: While we’ve had an online presence for a number of years, it’s become a much larger part of our business. We view ourselves as predominantly direct to consumer, but we also have an online platform for our wholesale customers. So we have two venues where we are putting Medallia solutions into place, and are getting great feedback in return.

When implementing Medallia solutions we hoped to understand our NPS, but we also hoped to get valuable feedback from our customers on what we were doing well, and on what we could improve upon. We wanted to focus on the experience we could give our customers when they interact with our brand. Now, we have an opportunity to engage where we couldn’t before, beyond the reach of e-commerce, to continue building brand loyalists across the country.

Customer Relationship

Q: How has added visibility and ongoing feedback impacted Counter Culture Coffee’s customer relationships and overall business strategy?

A: Right off the bat, one of the things we learned wasn’t necessarily a surprise but it spoke volumes as to how important our website was to our business. We knew our website was slow, but Medallia reinforced that for us. It told us that our NPS was high, but frustration with our website was also high.

We had a window of significant loyalty with our customers, but that window would close, and that appreciation wouldn’t always be there if the website continued to be such a problem. We worked hard to improve our website’s speed and functionality, to meet customer expectations and improve their overall experience.

We also get complimentary feedback through the solution. Some customers will say they’ve been fans for years or will share what they appreciate about our company and our products. It helps us reinforce our marketing messages, through the trends in positive feedback we continue to see. It’s good to hear the good and good to hear the bad.

Q: What were some of the most surprising insights you learned after adopting Medallia’s solutions?

A: It is surprising the level that people appreciate what we do. We work hard with our producer partners — it’s critical for the long-term sustainability of what we are doing and how the industry is headed. Some of these insights about certain coffees, certain relationships with farmer partners, were a big affirmation of what we are doing. A reminder of how consumers really are paying attention to and knowledgeable about brands, to the product, and the company behind the product. For us, it’s not just coffee. It’s our company’s philosophy, our commitment to sustainability. As a company, we have to be authentic and mean what we say.

The feedback is so critical—whether it’s good or bad—and that has set us up on a path that gives us the confidence to go in directions we couldn’t have gone on before.

Q: Has your new means of customer interaction inspired you to test out other means of engagement in the future? If so, how?

A: Customers like to be heard, their voices are strong and meaningful and insightful. We started off on this journey thinking it would be great to get feedback, to understand our NPS, but as we continued, we were reminded how important it is when you’re building a brand. How important it is to provide that experience, to have something unique, something that meets the needs of a continuously, ever-demanding customer base.

We are converting our customer support into a CX team, with plans to invest in other resources like real-time chat. Over the next few months, we will finalize a new role in our company, a CX manager, and we will continue to finetune the experience we deliver to our customers.

We are in the early stages of this process, and our learning curve is very steep, but with the feedback we get, it enforces our reality of having to close that communication gap and make ourselves available for our customers. The feedback is so critical—whether it’s good or bad—and that has set us up on a path that gives us the confidence to go in directions we couldn’t have gone on before.


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